1 R BURNS / R REID: SUBARU IMPREZA
2 J KANKKUNEN / J REPO: SUBARU IMPREZA
3 D AURIOL / D GIRAUDET: SEAT CORDOBA
4 C SAINZ / L MOYA: FORD FOCUS
5 P SOLBERG / P MILLS: FORD FOCUS
6 T ARAI / R FREEMAN: SUBARU IMPREZA
7 A SCHWARZ / M HIEMER: SKODA OCTAVIA
8 L CLIMENT / A ROMANI: SKODA OCTAVIA
9 C MENZI / E GALINDO: MITSUBISHI LANCER EVOLUTION Gr.N
10 R SANCHEZ / J DEL BUONO: SUBARU IMPREZA Gr.N
FIA World Rally Championship Round 3: 25-27 February 2000, Safari Rally of Kenya
Story by Alan Kelly - March 2000
The World Rally Championship moved from the cold weather of Sweden to the soaring heat of Kenya for round 3. It was an action packed rally last year and this year proved no different. Ford were desperate to repeat the finish they had last year, while Tommi Makinen was determined to stay on top of the points.
The first test was a 75-mile stage and Didier Auriol surprised everyone with the fastest time but he wasn't to be the leader for very long, as Richard Burns set a blistering pace on the 2nd stage. Burns was 58 seconds clear of his teammate Kankkunen and claimed he was not pushing hard: "The sections are rough, so I'm just taking it cautiously," said Burns. Tommi Makinen didn't make it out of stage 2, he got 3 punctures in the stage and stopped to change the 2 tyres on the right side of the car. Within minutes he had another puncture and his car cried enough. McRae also had problems with tyres and had three punctures also on that stage, but he set third fastest time: "There is nothing you can do but accept it, keep going and hope the other drivers have similar problems."
Not many drivers escaped unscathed from that stage and Sainz, Solberg, Gronholm and Loix all had problems. Toni Gardemeister had a major problem when the door on his Cordoba fell off during the stage. As a result there was a lot of dust in the car and he could not hear his co-driver properly, he went too fast over a jump and hurt his neck forcing him to retire from the rally. Richard Burns continued his blistering pace over the rest of the first leg stages and was leading at the overnight halt by 4m 28s from teammate Kankkunen. Didier Auriol was a surprise in 3rd and was going well for the SEAT team. Behind him was the Solberg in the Focus. McRae and Sainz must have been praying he would not beat them as it would leave some very red faces at Ford. McRae was 5th just ahead of Toshihiro Arai who was entering his first Safari Rally.
Leg 2 opened with an 81-mile stage and Burns showed everyone he is really worthy of being world champion this year by beating Kankkunen by 37s. McRae moved up to 3rd when Auriol suffered transmission problems and dropped 8 minutes to the leaders with the problem. Petter Solberg lost time with a puncture and got stuck behind a lorry - remember this rally is run on open roads. The Subaru pairing eased off on the 6th stage and the Fords and Auriol took full advantage. Sainz was 14s quicker then McRae with Solberg 3rd quickest, 12s faster then Auriol who was still going strong for SEAT. Stage 7 provided a few worries for the top crews as McRae's power steering failed and he dropped 3 minutes to his teammate McRae. Burns also got a fright when his engine automatically switched to two cylinders and stopped altogether at the end of the stage. "Once the engine had switched to safe mode the temperatures came down pretty rapid." Solberg had a problem with his driveshaft near the end of the stage but his time was good enough to bring him within 5s of Arai.
The remaining crews moved on to stage 8. Burns was forced to slow on this stage because of goats on the stage on two occasions, but he was still over 4m ahead of Kankkunen who was now driving to finish the rally as he was over 10m ahead of Auriol. McRae was not as lucky and his engine expired after water had got into it while he was going through a river: "Midway through the section the engine cut out and refused to start, there was nothing I could do". Sainz was quickest on the last test of leg 2. He had a small problem with the steering but it sorted itself out and he went on to finish the day 4th behind Auriol. Solberg leaped past Arai after the latter had two punctures and a broken suspension on the last stage.
The last day of the rally was run over the same stages as leg 1 although now the stages were a little rougher. Burns wasn't risking anything and just wanted to see the finish in Nairobi. Kankkunen was also in a comfortable position and also wanted to get to the finish to give Subaru another 1-2 finish. Sainz had problems with his steering and had to drive the first 2 stages of the day without a power steering pump which dropped him ten minutes and left him in 5th place behind Solberg. Team orders were brought into action and Solberg was forced to leave Sainz finish 4th.
Auriol went on to finish 3rd but it wasn't without incident when he had a big scare on the opening test: "I was in fifth gear, came over a crest and suddenly I was in the dust, I just turned a little late and clipped a rock". Solberg got stuck in 5th gear on stage ten and then got a puncture on the final test but ended up in 5th place to match his 5th place finish last year. Toshihiro Arai overcame a number of problems including a late loss of power to his car to finish 6th. Skoda must have been over the moon, finishing 7th and 8th and claiming 3 championship points, but Subaru claimed maximum points and now take the lead of the manufacturer's championship. Burns has now shown he has what it takes to take on the best but can he be consistent? We now move on to the Iberian Peninsula for the Rally of Portugal. Can Colin McRae repeat his win of last year or will Tommi pull one out of the bag to keep his lead at the top of the championship? Join us here in a few weeks to find out.