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Drama a matter of Corse.


The second day of the Corsica Rally provided one of the most frightening incidents of the season, as well as leaving the battle for the lead split by just a fraction of a second.

The main talking point of the leg was the major accident that left championship contender Colin McRae requiring the attention of medical crews on SS10, before being airlifted to hospital in nearby Bastia for further treatment.

It transpires that the Scot may have cut one of a series of sixth-gear bends too sharply, flipping the Ford Focus up and over before rolling it down one of the steep banks that border the Corsican roads. Its downward progress was subsequently halted by a substantial impact with a tree and, although co-driver Nicky Grist was able to climb out unaided and unhurt, McRae needed to be cut from teh wreckage.

Initially unconscious, the Scot quickly came round, and was seen standing by the car as he recieved treatment from the medical team. Although apparently alert at the scene, he was then flown to Bastia hospital for further checks, which revealed a broken cheekbone and bruising to his chest and lungs. McRae is expected to fly home overnight.

The incident removed one of the event's leading players, but did little to affect the inter-necine battle taking place at the front of the field. Overnight leader Gilles Panizzi began the day in the same sort of form that saw him close Friday in front, and stage seven went his way despite the poor conditions that greeted the crews early on.

''I thought that we would lose a lot more time, but found that we had just as much traction in the wet as we did in the dry,'' he claimed later, ''The engine stalled at the start of the last stage, though. I've had one or two little problems since the start of the rally, but it's going well.”
Stages nine and ten also went the Frenchman's way, increasing his lead over Peugeot team-mate Francois Delecour, who again maintained a presence in the top three on each of the day's six stages.

It should have been six but, in actual fact, Delecour maintained his presence in teh top three on only five, after SS8 was cancelled because of the sheer weight of people attempting to catch a glimpse of the proceedings. With all the cars transferring to the start of SS9 at Noceta, Panizzi held an eight-second lead over his team-mate, increased it over stages nine and ten, before Delecour finally got his revenge on eleven.

The older Frenchman claimed that his tyre choice had been wrong, having been caught out by the damp conditions that greeted the teams at the Ajaccio start. Overnight thunderstorms had left sections of the course very wet, with high winds scattering leaves and other debris into the road, and Delecour believed that the Michelin intermediates used on both cars suited Panizzi better than they suited him.


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