The Scotsman triumphs at the Acropolis Rally for fifth time

Colin McRae won his fifth Acropolis Rally title yesterday, dominating the grueling Greek race despite never winning a special stage. The 33-year-old Scotsman and co-driver Nicky Grist clocked a total of 4 hours, 27 minutes, and 43.8 seconds with their Ford Focus RS WRC 02 after 16 special stages in the three-day race. Marcus Gronholm, the international rally championship leader, came 24.5 seconds behind McRae in second place with his Peugeot 206 WRC. The Finn won three of the day’s special stages. The Spaniard Carlos Sainz, McRae’s Ford teammate, was third. McRae’s win rescued his international ranking, taking him from seventh to third place, level with France’s Gilles Panizzi on 20 points. Gronholm remains the leader with 37 points, ahead of second-placed Sainz with 23. Before Greece, the Scotsman’s best finish was third in last month’s Argentine Rally. McRae won the Acropolis Rally in 1996, 1998, 2000 and 2001. England’s Richard Burns, who began yesterday’s competition second behind McRae, retired in the day’s first race with damaged rear suspension. Burns, who switched from Subaru to Peugeot this year, saw his ranking drop from third to fifth, staying at 19 points. Other high-ranking drivers also succumbed to the harrowing boulder-strewn dirt tracks and heat of central Greece. France’s Panizzi and his Peugeot 206 WRC dropped from second, after retiring in the 14th special stage with transmission problems. And four-time world champion Tommi Makinen dropped out Friday after losing a wheel. The Finn, who has never won the Greek race, fell from fifth place to seventh. One of Saturday’s special stages was canceled for safety reasons. The Acropolis Rally is the seventh of 14 races that make up the World Rally Championship. After a symbolic start on Thursday at the foot of the ancient Acropolis in Athens, the three-day race in central Greece covered 391.50 kilometers (243 miles) of rough gravel and dirt, out of a total of 1,197.85 kilometers (744 miles), including liaison stages. The drivers’ next international competition is the Safari Rally in Kenya on July 11-14.

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