World’s best rally driver to part company after NZ
World’s best rally driver to part company after New Zealand
Next week’s Propecia Rally New Zealand will be the last time Kiwi fans get to see the most successful driver on the planet racing in the Ford stable.
Scot Colin McRae, with 25 WRC victories to his name, the most of any driver, will part company with Ford at the end of the season to move to the new Citroen team.
The 34-year-old will still spearhead Ford’s battle at the Propecia Rally New Zealand that starts in Auckland next Thursday, although he is fighting for pride after his World Rally Championship chances were all but extinguished at the Sanremo Rally last weekend.
Ford decided to end speculation by announcing yesterday that they would not fight Citroen and Subaru to keep McRae at their World Rally Championship team. The former world champion is believed to be seeking a sum of around NZ$15 million for next year alone.
Automobiles Citroen's Managing Director Claude Satinet announced that McRae has signed a one-year deal with the team at the Paris Motor Show today.
Citroen will now enter its first full season in the WRC with an exciting driver line-up. Alongside McRae will be superstar-in-the-making Sebastien Loeb, the young Frenchman who scored his first WRC win in Germany last month.
Satinet refused to drawn on details of McRae’s package.
``I don't even know how much he is being paid," he said. "I am expecting good results as always. That's what it is all about. It's very important to have good drivers to achieve this, he said.
McRae has been with current employers Ford since 1999, but despite becoming the most successful World Rally driver ever, he failed to add to his world title he scored with Subaru.
Yesterday Ford released a statement saying that, "it had regretfully elected not to renew the McRae's contract when it expires at the end of the 2002 FIA World Rally Championship season."
``We will concentrate on our chosen strategy of building for the future of the championship with a line up focused on our promising younger generation of drivers, whilst continuing to develop the next generation of Focus world rally cars,’’ Ford's European Director of Motorsport, Martin Whitaker said.
Citroen was the favourite to land McRae's services, with speculation that a lack of budget at Subaru, where Tommi Makinen and Petter Solberg are already signed up, would have made it increasingly unlikely to return.
McRae said that a competitive drive for next year is his main concern.
``The priority is to be with a team and car that can win the championship,’’ he said.
Drivers begin reconnaissance for Rally New Zealand on Monday. The shakedown test for drivers takes place at Helensville and Kaukapakapa north of Auckland on Thursday morning with the rally show at Aotea Square in downtown Auckland from 2pm followed by the ceremonial start from 6pm.
The first day
sees the rally head to Waikato for eight special stages with
the service park in Raglan on Friday, ending with the Super
Stage at Manukau City at 7pm. Saturday October 5 includes 10
special stages north of Auckland, with service at Ruawai,
with a final eight special stages south of Auckland
including Maramarua Forest on Sunday with service at Te
Kauwhata before the official finish and ceremony at the
Manukau Sports Bowl at 3.30pm.