Ford driver Colin McRae has scored his second consecutive victory in this year's FIA World Rally Championship by winning the sixth round, the Cyprus Rally, which finished in Limassol this evening.

The Scot, navigated by Nicky Grist, moved ahead of British rival Richard Burns during this morning's first loop of four stages and he eventually finished nearly 20 seconds clear of the Subaru driver. Spain's Carlos Sainz finished third, closing the gap between him and current World Championship leader Tommi M?kinen to just a single point. McRae's victory places him third in the series, seven points behind M?kinen, and moves Ford to the top of the World Championship for Manufacturers.

Intense heat and the notoriously dusty tracks again put cars and drivers through a stern test today, and the stages claimed two more works drivers. Reigning FIA World Champion Marcus Gr?nholm was forced out with a fuel feed problem, while suspension damage accounted for Mitsubishi driver Katsuhiko Taguchi late this afternoon.

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At Ford the two remaining Focus RS WRC01s of Colin McRae and Carlos Sainz have been reliable today. Sainz's only problems were two punctures on the penultimate stage, since the Spaniard then had to complete the last test with them as well.

Colin McRae scored his second victory in succession to boost his world championship chances. He moved clear of Richard Burns by setting fastest times on two of this morning's four stages, and even though the roads had cleaned for everyone by the time crews revisited them this afternoon McRae made sure of his success by posting further scratch times in SS19 and SS21. Carlos Sainz closed in on Marcus Gr?nholm this morning prior to the Finn's retirement, and then targeted Richard Burns during this afternoon's stages. But he was forced to complete the final stage with two punctures and had to settle for third.

Colin McRae said: ''It's a fantastic result that puts us right back into the championship. If we can get another good result now in Greece later this month then we'll be right up there. It's another British one-two as well - maybe the days of the Finns are finally over! It was actually easier than I thought it would be today - it's still close, of course, but I really expected it to be decided by just a couple of seconds and we won by nearly 20. We've shown before that when the car's reliable we can win almost anywhere and this proves it again. I'd like more of the same on the Acropolis.''

Carlos Sainz added: ''It's a good result for us in the drivers' championship and a great one for Ford in the manufacturers' series. I would have liked to have finished higher, of course, but it was a hard rally. I wasn't able to do much sport between Argentina and here because of my sore leg, so I'm quite tired.''

Ford World Rally boss Malcolm Wilson said: ''You can't take anything away from the way Colin's driven but there was a psychological battle last night over who would run first on the road today and we won it. He and Carlos have both driven superbly and it's great that this result moves them both into the thick of the championship fight. These types of events really seem to suit our car, because it's strong and the suspension is good. I'm delighted.''

At Subaru Richard Burns's Subaru was generally reliable during today's final leg, although the Englishman had to cope with two punctures on the fifth stage of the day. Team-mate Toshihiro Arai, meanwhile, continued to suffer from overheating on his Impreza, but the Japanese driver saw no repetition of the 'safe mapping mode' problem which cost him time over the opening couple of days.

Try as he might though, Richard Burns was unable to fight off the challenge of Colin McRae during today's opening four stages, when the Subaru driver had the slight disadvantage of running first on the road. Despite his perceived problem, Burns was still surprised at the pace of his Scottish rival and by the afternoon loop of stages, his target had switched from fighting for the win to hanging on to his second place. He achieved the latter by setting fastest time on the day's last stage.

Toshihiro Arai moved into fourth when Marcus Gr?nholm retired but came under slight pressure from Freddy Loix this afternoon. However, the Japanese driver fought back to hold onto that placing and equal his best ever finish on a World Championship event (he finished fourth on the Acropolis Rally last year).

Richard Burns said: ''I knew it would be hard to keep Colin behind this morning and I tried everything, but even then he took some big chunks of time. I think the second and third stages today cleaned more than the others, because he really took a lot of time out of me there. Of course, he was also driving pretty hard as well. Once I held Carlos off on the penultimate stage I was more comfortable going into the last, although it was close. We really wanted to be winning these events, not finishing second, but at least we can say we are finishing second and not retiring. Acropolis and the Safari will be crucial if we're to play a greater part in the championship fight.''

Toshihiro Arai continued: ''I'm really pleased with this result. I was determined not to make mistakes, drive my way around the worst rocks and get to the finish and we've done that. To equal my best ever finish is great, and we've set some good times as well.''

Meanwhile at Mitsubishi Freddy Loix's Lancer Evolution was reliable today, but team-mate Katsuhiko Taguchi was forced to retire in SS20 when he damaged his car's suspension.

Freddy Loix spun on the first stage this morning and stalled the engine, costing the Belgian crucial seconds as he tried to close the gap to Toshihiro Arai. He eventually had to settle for fifth, although that result gained Mitsubishi three points in the World Championship for Manufacturers. Katsuhiko Taguchi started the day just outside the top ten and with Marcus Gr?nholm's retirement, the Japanese driver looked set to score a top ten finish before broken suspension forced him to retire in SS20.

Freddy Loix said: ''I'm quite happy to score some more points, but this has been a really tough rally. I must say that I prefer the cleaner and faster roads instead of the dusty, twisty tracks we've used here. You have to stay in the ruts when possible but sometimes if you get a wheel outside of them you can find loads of loose gravel and the car will snap sideways. It's a shame that I lost time yesterday because I felt quite comfortable with the car during most of this rally and perhaps I could have pushed for a few more points, but at least we have finished.''

At Hyundai Alister McRae's Accent has enjoyed a troublefree final day. Alister McRae started today in ninth but the Scot quickly moved past Bruno Thiry's Skoda into eighth to claim a manufacturers' point for Hyundai. His haul was doubled when Marcus Gr?nholm retired, promoting McRae to seventh overall and fifth manufacturer-nominated entry by the finish.

Alister McRae said: ''It's really just been a case of keeping the car in decent condition and getting to the finish today. Our tyre wear has been more on a par with everyone else's today, which might just be the characteristics of the roads. But if you'd told me on day one that I'd come out of this rally with a couple of manufacturers' points, I'd have laughed. We're clearly making progress in a number of key areas - the performances over the last few rallies have shown that. All we need to do now is get a clean run and string them all together.''

At Skoda neither Armin Schwarz or Bruno Thiry reported any significant problems with their Octavia WRCs today. Thiry experimented further with his car's spring settings in an attempt to gain more traction while retaining enough suspension travel for the worst bumps. Skoda was the sole manufacturer to get all of its cars to the finish.

Bruno Thiry admitted that he'd been too conservative in today's first stage, and his caution allowed Alister McRae to sneak past and bag the final manufacturers' point. But Thiry was handed back that point when Marcus Gr?nholm retired before lunch. Armin Schwarz, meanwhile, was unable to make any impression on the cars in front from his overnight 10th place, although Gr?nholm's retirement moved him up to ninth.

Armin Schwarz said: ''It's been a hard event but when I've had a clean run, I've really enjoyed it. These sorts of stages should suit the car and me. I'm glad that Skoda has got both of its Octavias to the finish, because it shows the strength of the car and we've got two more rough rallies ahead in Greece and Kenya.''

Bruno Thiry added: ''I was too worried about the tyres on this morning's first stage and I gave away a lot of time to Alister. But this is the sort of rally where you can't really attack back, so I had to maintain my pace. We've proven that the Octavia is a strong car and this will help us in Greece later this month too.''

Over at Peugeot Marcus Gr?nholm was forced to retire from the event after this morning's fourth stage, when his 206 WRC suddenly lost fuel pressure on a road section. Peugeot engineers suspect the problem could be related to a pipe in the fuel tank itself, since a similar glitch occurred on a pre-event test. Cyprus was the third event this season where Peugeot has failed to get any of its works cars to the finish.

Marcus Gr?nholm started today's final eight stages running third on the road and signalled his intentions by setting fastest time on the opening test. He ceded seconds to Carlos Sainz thereafter, though, as Gr?nholm paced himself carefully to keep his tyres in a relatively useable condition. He still held third overall after the fourth stage of the day but on the way back to service, his 206 WRC's engine cut out and refused to restart. The Finn was eventually forced to retire with low fuel pressure.

Marcus Gr?nholm said: ''We were on the road section, only about a kilometre and a half after the stage and I was cruising along, doing maybe 70kph, when suddenly the engine stopped. We talked to the team on the radio and tried everything to get going again but it wasn't possible. I'm really disappointed.''

Peugeot Sport Team Director Corrado Provera added: ''The problems that stopped Marcus and Didier (Auriol) here are details linked to the 2001 evolution of the 206 WRC, not fundamental problems. We have learnt a great deal here that will be useful in the rough events to come - the Acropolis and the Safari. It seems Ford has a very strong option on the manufacturers' title.''

Of the other teams Pasi Hagstrom bagged maximum points in the FIA Teams Cup for privateers and finished sixth overall in the process, while his nearest rival in the category, Abdullah Bakhashab, gained a top ten finish thanks to the retirement of Marcus Gr?nholm. Third place in the class was claimed by British woman Natalie Barratt.

In the Group N category for more standard cars, Gustavo Trelles closed the gap on Group N World Championship leader Gabriel Pozzo by winning the class. Pozzo finished third, behind reigning category champion Manfred Stohl.

Rally statistics:

Starters: 35 cars (21 Group A + 14 Group N) restarted the rally

Retirements: Gr?nholm (FIN), Taguchi (J) + 3 non-seeded drivers

Today - Sunday 3 June:

Leg 3 started from Limassol at 08h00 and covered 356.13km, including 97.46km on 8 special stages.

Stage by stage summary - leg three:

SS15 Vavatsinia-M. Kambiou (19.02kms):
1. Gr?nholm (FIN) Peugeot 17m 17.0
2. Sainz (E) Ford 17m 18.1
3. McRae (GB) Ford 17m 20.1

Leaders after SS15:
1. Burns (GB) Subaru 4h 00m 38.4
2. McRae (GB) Ford 4h 00m 40.4
3. Gr?nholm (FIN) Peugeot 4h 00m 52.9

SS16 Macheras-A Vavatsinias (13.11kms):
1. McRae (GB) Ford 11m 41.2
2. Sainz (E) Ford 11m 45.2
3. Gr?nholm (FIN) Peugeot 11m 45.3

Leaders after SS16:
1. McRae (GB) Ford 4h 12m 21.6
2. Burns (GB) Subaru 4h 12m 27.4
3. Gr?nholm (FIN) Peugeot 4h 12m 38.2

SS17 Lageia-Kalavasos (9.53kms):
1. McRae (GB) Ford 8m 37.3
2. Sainz (E) Ford 8m 37.5
3. Loix (B) Mitsubishi 8m 43.1

Leaders after SS17:
1. McRae (GB) Ford 4h 20m 58.9
2. Burns (GB) Subaru 4h 21m 13.8
3. Gronholm (FIN) Peugeot 4h 21m 21.7

SS18 Mari-Monagrouli (7.07kms):
1. Burns (GB) Subaru 4m 36.1
2. Sainz (E) Ford 4m 38.2
3. Gronholm (FIN) Peugeot 4m 38.7

Leaders after SS18:
1. McRae (GB) Ford 4h 25m 39.3
2. Burns (GB) Subaru 4h 25m 49.9
3. Gr?nholm (FIN) Peugeot 4h 26m 00.4

SS19 Vavatsinia-M. Kambiou 2 (19.02kms)
1. McRae (GB) Ford 16m 59.8
2. Sainz (E) Ford 17m 05.7
3. Burns (GB) Subaru 17m 07.2

Leaders after SS19:
1. McRae (GB) Ford 4h 42m 39.1
2. Burns (GB) Subaru 4h 42m 57.1
3. Sainz (E) Ford 4h 43m 06.6

SS20 Machereas-A Vavatsinias 2 (13.11kms):
1. Sainz (E) Ford 11m 36.0
2. McRae (GB) Ford 11m 36.8
3. Burns (GB) Subaru 11m 37.6

Leaders after SS20:
1. McRae (GB) Ford 4h 54m 15.9
2. Burns (GB) Subaru 4h 54m 34.7
3. Sainz (E) Ford 4h 54m 42.6

SS21 Lageia-Kalavasos 2 (9.53kms):
1. McRae (GB) Ford 8m 37.5
2. Sainz (E) Ford 8m 37.7
3. Burns (GB) Subaru 8m 38.9

Leaders after SS21:
1. McRae (GB) Ford 5h 02m 53.4
2. Burns (GB) Subaru 5h 03m 13.6
3. Sainz (E) Ford 5h 03m 20.3

SS22 Mari-Monagrouli 2 (7.07kms):
1. Burns (GB) Subaru 4m 35.5
2. Sainz (E) Ford 4m 38.9
3. McRae (GB) Ford 4m 39.3

Leaders in Limassol after SS22:
1. C. McRae (GB) Ford 5h 07m 32.7
2. Burns (GB) Subaru +16.4
3. Sainz (E) Ford +26.5
4. Arai (J) Subaru +5m 38.3
5. Loix (B) Mitsubishi +6m 10.2
6. Hagstrom (FIN) Toyota +9m 32.5
7. A. McRae (GB) Hyundai +10m 35.6
8. Thiry (B) Skoda +11m 38.0
9. Schwarz (D) Skoda +12m 48.1
10. Bakhashab (SA) Toyota +22m 12.1

Group N leaders after SS22:
1. Trelles (ROU)Mitsubishi 5h 34m 44.0
2. Stohl (A) Mitsubishi +3m 54.7
3. Pozzo (RA) Mitsubishi +8m 47.7
4. Ginley (GB) Mitsubishi +18m 01.1
5. Mandrides (UAE) Mitsubishi +20m 59.6
6. Timotheou (CY) Subaru +21m 43.0

Final Rally Statistics:

Event: The rally covered 1252.53km, including 341.40km on 22 special stages (including nine run twice). All stages were on gravel roads closed to other traffic.

Starters: 80 cars (49 Group A + 31 Group N) started the rally

Finishers: 30 cars (17 Group A + 13 Group N) finished the rally

Stage winners:
Sainz (SS7-8-10-11-13-14-20)
McRae (SS12-16-17-19-21)
Gr?nholm (SS2-3-15)
Burns (SS18-22)
Solberg (SS1-4)
Delecour (SS5-6)
Auriol (SS9)

Rally Leaders:
SS1 Solberg
SS2-SS6 Gr?nholm
SS7-SS11 Burns
SS12-SS13 McRae
SS14-15 Burns
SS16-SS22 McRae

FIA World Championships (provisional standings after 6 of 14 rounds):

FIA World Rally Championship for Drivers:
M?kinen (FIN) 27, Sainz (E) 26, C. McRae (GB) 20, Burns (GB) 15, Rovanper? (FIN) & Auriol (F) 10, Delecour (F) 9, Loix (B) 7, R?dstr?m (S) & Panizzi (F) 6, Gardemeister (FIN) 5, Gr?nholm 4, Schwarz (D) & Solberg (N) , Arai (J) 3, A. McRae (GB) & Hagstrom (FIN) 1.

FIA World Rally Championship for Manufacturers:
Ford 50, Mitsubishi 47, Subaru 22, Peugeot 20, Hyundai 10, Skoda 7.

FIA World Cup for Drivers of Production Cars:
Pozzo (RA) 27, Trelles (ROU) 20, Stohl (A) 12, Gillet (CH) & Walfridsson (S) & Da Silva 10, Blomqvist (S) 8, others.

FIA Teams Cup (after 3 of 6 rounds):
Hagstrom (FIN) 20, Lundgaard (DK) 10, Bakhashab (SA) 9, Blomqvist (S) & Al Wahaibi (OM) 6, Papadimitriou (GR) & Heat (GB) & Natalie Barratt (GB) 4, Frederic Dor (F) 2.

FIA Super 1600 Cup (this event not counting):
Loeb (F) 10, Basso (I) 6, Fontana (I) 4, Stenshorne (N) 3, Dallavilla (I) 2, Chemin (I) 1.

Next event: June 14-17 2001: Acropolis Rally, Itea, Greece>