Vatanen blows it in second stage
BRUCE MACDONALD reports from Medan
FORMER world champion and 555 Hong Kong to Beijing winner Ari Vatanen's return to the international rallying scene lasted only 15 minutes yesterday on the opening day of the Rally of Indonesia.
The Flying Finn cooked the motor of his factory-prepared Ford Escort when a $60 relay switch controlling the cooling fan malfunctioned midway through the second stage.
And to heap irony upon Vatanen's frustration, his rally ended in the exact same spot as it did the last time he visited Indonesia in 1993 when driving a Subaru.
On that occasion his steering gave way.
Vatanen was not the only driver to suffer on day one which saw 19 cars from a starting grid of 59 fail to complete the opening eight stages.
Scot Colin McRae underlined his ability at the highest level when he overcame an early setback of his own to lead overnight with an aggregate time of one hour, 19 minutes and 17 seconds in his 555 Subaru World Rally Team Impreza.
He held an 11-second lead over winner of the event last year, Swede Kenneth Eriksson driving a Mitsubishi Ralliart Lancer Evolution 3.
His teammate, Finn Tommi Makinen, was nicely poised at his debut in Indonesia in third place on 1:22:33. McRae was forced to play catch-up until late in the afternoon after his rear drive shaft broke on the second stage.
His teammate, New Zealand's Possum Bourne, also in an Impreza, set the pace until stage six when a suspension nut worked loose after he became airborne midway through the 31 km stage.
'The car was vibrating like crazy after the jump but it seemed okay for about another two kilometres,' Bourne said.
'The nut finally gave way and wheel collapsed, running us into a small ditch. I was able to drive the car out and finish the stage.' Bourne plunged to 10th overall after losing nearly seven minutes on the stage but by the night halt had clawed his way to sixth place, seven minutes off the pace.
Hong Kong's main hope, Michael Lieu, overcame a slow start to finish 11th overall behind the wheel of his Tein Sport Mitsubishi Evolution 1.