Rally Australia news round-up

Mitsubishi has confirmed today (Wednesday) that Tommi Makinen and Freddy Loix will lead its 2001 attack.

Rally Australia news round-up

While Makinen's place in the team was only threatened by a late summer approach from Peugeot, Loix can consider himself very lucky that the Ralliart team needs the Marlboro money that he brings. The Belgian driver has had another lacklustre season with the squad and most expected him to be dumped next season. However it emerged in August that he would stay and this now has been confirmed.

Mitsubishi has also said that a modified version of the Lancer Evolution will appear from the season opener at Monte Carlo. At the 2001 Rally San Remo the team will run its first World Rally Car, based on the all-new Mitsubishi Lancer.

Andrew Cowan, who is now Chairman of Ralliart Europe, also confirmed Mitsubishi's commitment to its customer Group A and GpN programmes.

Toni Gardemeister will leave SEAT at the end of this year and join Ford alongside Colin McRae and Carlos Sainz. Details of his programme are expected to be announced prior to the Rally GB later this month. Ironically, his appointment comes after Ford motorsport boss Martin Whitaker again spoke out against teams bringing in specialist drivers. In Wednesday's pre-rally press conference, Whitaker called for teams to nominate two drivers at the beginning of the year and stick with them for the duration. While it is unlikely that Ford would nominate the young Finn over its current star drivers in 2001, his experience of some events (notably Rally Finland) could play a crucial role next year.

Colin McRae celebrates his 100th World Championship Rally start in Australia. The Scot was given a cake and a gold plaque to celebrate the achievement of becoming only the eighth driver to rack up 100 starts. "I didn't realise I was that old!" he joked.

Marcus Gronholm had a close escape on Monday when he was taking part in a television 'photo opportunity' with Australia's Network 10. The World Championship leader was to be given a surfing lesson on Perth's Cottesloe Beach. But the surfing idea was scrapped once it became known that, just a few minutes before the interview began, a man had been attacked and killed by a 4.5 metre White Pointer shark at the northern end of the same beach.

Australian driver Michael Guest should be using Rally Australia to promote himself into a drive for 2001 following the collapse of his development programme with Hyundai after two seasons of the three-year deal. However, these plans got off to an embarrassing start when he stuffed his Accent WRC into a tree within minutes of starting the official pre-event shakedown. Guest has struggled to shake off his reputation of crashing stupidly and this did nothing to assist the cause.

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