Race on for next season's contracts
THE rumour mill has been churning behind the scenes throughout the six-day 555 Hong Kong to Beijing Rally as the leading drivers on the international scene bid to wrap up contracts for next season, writes Bruce Macdonald.
The sport's in-form driver, Kenneth Eriksson, the winner of this year's race driving a Ralliart Mitsubishi, has been linked with Subaru whose number one driver Carlos Sainz has indicated he may switch camps.
Eriksson, who has won three international events this season including a round of the World Championship in Australia, is unhappy that he hasn't been offered a full World Championship programme next year by Mitsubishi.
Mitsubishi Ralliart team manager Phil Short confirmed yesterday that he was aware that Eriksson had been linked with Subaru.
'We have made an offer to Kenneth for next season but it doesn't include a full World Championship program,' he said.
Eriksson, guarded over his movements next season, said he would make a decision next week over where he will drive after his Mitsubishi contract expires in December. Referring to the latest Mitsubishi offer, Eriksson said: 'Maybe it is too late now.' Short confirmed that sacked Prodrive-Subaru World Rally Team driver Richard Burns, who finished third in the 555 Hong Kong to Beijing Rally, was on Mitsubishi's shopping list if Eriksson and lead driver Tommi Makinen were not signed for next year.
Makinen has further clouded an already confused situation by delaying his decision to re-sign with Mitsubishi. A decision was expected from him on Wednesday but that may now come next week.
The young Finn has been linked to the Ford camp.
Short also confirmed that Finn Ari Vatanen, who is lobbying for a drive next season, is also on the shopping list.