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Rally Oz to host title battle
Two drivers can win the world rally title this weekend, although six are in contention overall
1 Nov 2001
By JUSTIN LACY
THE stage is set for a thrilling Telstra Rally Australia this weekend, with six drivers vying for the world rally championship and two with a chance of claiming the title at this event.
Only seven points separates the top four drivers, although each of the top six has a theoretical chance of winning the title.
And with 20 points up for grabs in the final two rounds the pressure is on everyone to perform.
Ford's Colin McRae and Mitsubishi's Tommi Makinen share the lead in the drivers' championship with 40 points each, while Subaru's Richard Burns is in third place with 34 points, just one point ahead of Ford's Carlos Sainz.
Peugeot's Harri Rovanpera is also a chance, but a rank outsider with 27 points to his credit, while French tarmac specialist Gilles Panizzi is at even longer odds with a tally of 22 points.
But if either McRae or Makinen can win this event and have the other not score any points, then the 2001 world championship will be decided in their favour.
Burns and Sainz have to win this weekend if they are to remain in contention heading into the final round, the Rally of Great Britain.
Another factor in the equation is Sainz is the only one of the four main contenders who is yet to win Rally Australia, although he has finished second on three occasions.
Also adding to the tension is the fact that Sainz, McRae and Makinen are all still sitting on 23-career world rally wins each and the first driver to next stand on top of the podium will become the most successful driver in the history of world rally.
The manufacturers' crown is also still up for grabs, with Ford, Peugeot and Mitsubishi set to fight it out for championship honours over the final two rounds.
The five competing works teams have released their points scoring nominations, which are as follows: * denotes nominated driver/co-driver pairings Team Peugeot Total
car 1 Marcus Gronholm - Timo Rautiainen*
car 2 Didier Auriol - Denis Giraudet
car 16 Harri Rovanpera - Risto Pietilainen*
car 23 Gilles Panizzi - Hervé Panizzi Ford Motor Co Ltd
car 3 Carlos Sainz - Luis Moya*
car 4 Colin McRae - Nicky Grist*
car 17 François Delecour - Daniel Grataloup Subaru World Rally Team
car 5 Richard Burns - Robert Reid*
car 6 Petter Solberg - Philip Mills*
car 18 Arai Toshihiro - Glenn McNeall Marlboro Mitsubishi Ralliart
car 7 Tommi Makinen - Timo Hantunen*
car 8 Freddy Loix - Sven Smeets* Hyundai Castrol World Rally Team
car 9 Kenneth Eriksson - Staffan Parmander*
car 10 Alister McRae - David Senior* Key data for this weekend:
- 14th Rally Australia
- 13th round of the World Rally Championship
- 1402.77km of which 396.77km are competitive
- 21 special stages
- 80 competitors from more than 15 nations
- Podium in 2000 - Gronholm/Burns/Delecour Television coverage:
Sunday - Channel Ten, 1.00pm-5.00pm
Sainz, whose existing two-year contract with the team ends in December, has agreed to a new one-year deal, while Martin has signed an agreement with the squad as the third driver to contest all 14 rounds of the championship.
Francois Delecour, the team's current third driver, has been released from his contract and his final rally will be this weekend's Rally Australia.
Delecour comes across from the Ford works team, while McRae has spent the last two seasons with Hyundai developing the Accent world rally car.
Delecour and McRae will be the permanently nominated manufacturer entries for every round of next year's world championship.
1 Makinen (FIN) 40 points
2 C McRae (GB) 40
3 Burns (GB) 34
4 Sainz (ESP) 33
5 Rovanpera (FIN) 27
6 Panizzi (FRA) 22
7 Auriol (FRA) 19
8 Gronholm (FIN) 16
9 Delecour (FRA) 15
10 Solberg (NOR) 11 MANUFACTURERS' CHAMPIONSHIP
1 Ford 83 points
2 Peugeot 76
3 Mitsubishi 67
4 Subaru 55
5 Skoda 15
6 Hyundai 13
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