Rally aces get in gear for Beijing
By ANDREW LAXTON
WORLD car rally aces Colin McRae and Ari Vatanen were in top form yesterday at the opening ceremony of an exhibition to celebrate the 555 Hong Kong to Beijing Rally.
After a six-year lull, the 3,800-kilometre odyssey roars into action again on Saturday, taking competitors through six provinces of the Middle Kingdom rarely seen by outsiders.
With a television viewing audience of more than 400 million, the gruelling rally is one of the biggest in the world. The event has doubled in size since it was first staged in 1985, with more than 60 competitors.
Rally fans raced down to Pacific Place's Garden Court yesterday for the torch-lighting ceremony to mark the opening of the four-day Rally Exhibition.
Subaru World Rally Team stars McRae and Vatanen assisted with the official opening and talked to enthusiasts and signed autographs.
They will be at the exhibition again today, between 2.30 and 3.30 pm, before heading off to Honey Lake in Shenzhen to prepare for the rally's first stage.
The exhibition features a top-of-the-range Subaru Legacy RS rally car and a display of racing equipment, a competitive remote control car race and a hi-tech Bodysonic video wall which allows the public to experience the thrill of rally racing.
McRae, 24, with a string of British rally titles, is the leading driver in Asia's championships, while Vatanen has won 10 world titles in his 20-year career.
TV coverage starts from Hong Kong to Shenzhen and follows the drivers throughout seven gruelling days to the final stage at the Great Wall and Ming Tombs on October 29.