WRC silly season gathers speed

The World Rally Championship merry-go-round of driver transfers is approaching full speed as key players Tommi Makinen and Colin McRae firm up their options for 2001. Both are considering offers to move to the ever-improving Peugeot team, from Mitsubishi and Ford respectively

WRC silly season gathers speed

Makkinen's management has rubbished speculation that the four-time world champion is to move to the French squad, although the Finn is said to have been deeply dissatisfied with this year's Mitsubishi. His dissatisfaction culminated in a voluntary retirement in New Zealand after handling problems.

McRae meanwhile has the opposite problem, in that in order to join Peugeot he would not only have to take the difficult decision to leave the increasingly competitive M-Sport-run Ford team, but also accept a pay cut. Suggestions that Peugeot are unhindered by budget restrictions would appear to be wide of the mark as the £2.6 million offer to McRae, is £700,000 less than the Scot currently receives annually from Ford.

Peugeot will of course be mindful of not unsettling current number one Marcus Gronholm, who comes relatively cheap at only £1 million.

Despite the pressure on McRae to make a decision on his berth for next year, the number of runners has at least been reduced to a two-horse race, for Subaru has now given up any hope of securing the services of the 1995 world champion. Once Richard Burns had been confirmed by Prodrive, the emphasis switched from attempting to lure McRae to looking at other prospective partners for Burns next year.

"As soon as we secured the services of Richard, we pulled back from going for Colin," said Prodrive chairman David Richards.

Subaru's current discussions are rumoured to centre around Burns' present team mate Juha Kankkunen's desire for a flexible 10-rally contract, due to his dislike of asphalt events. With only a handful of asphalt events on the calendar, an asphalt specialist is needed to fill a gap too small to attract a big name but possibly too big for an untried youngster.

"The Juha Kankkunen situation hasn't been sorted out yet," said Richards. "I know David Lapworth (Prodrive technical Director) has some ideas on the matter and he is in discussions with Juha."

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