British Rally Championship runner-up Justin Dale has received the opportunity of a lifetime to show World Rally bosses what he can do, after being drafted in to the works Mitsubishi line-up in place of the injured Alister McRae.

The 31-year old was already planning a career in the World Rally Championship, having tested a privateer Subaru ahead of next week's Network Q Rally of Great Britain, but will now join Marlboro Mitsubishi Ralliart's three-car team for the final round of the 2002 series.

McRae is still not fully recovered from a recent mountain bike accident, which left him with a severely bruised liver, allowing Dale to graduate along with 32-year old co-driver Andrew Bargery. The duo will take over McRae's number eight start, sandwiched between fellow Mitsubishi drivers Fran?ois Delecour and Jani Paasonen, and all will be driving the latest Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution WRCs.

"I only got the call on Wednesday morning," Dale said, understandably delighted at the news, "and it wasn't until the late evening after a long meeting that we agreed to accept the offer.

"So much has happened in the last couple of weeks. Our preparations were going well with the Subaru, but this is an opportunity you can only dream about. I have to thank my management company, Protrak World Motorsport Management, for its support, because it's meant a complete last-minute change to my original Rally GB plans. However, it's not the sort of offer anyone would turn down.

"There's going to be even more pressure on me now, but the team has said that my job isn't to try to beat the others, but rather to support them and get the car to the finish in one piece. I have carried out about 250km of testing for Mitsubishi earlier this year, but only on tarmac.

"Starting at number eight in a WRC event in a four-wheel drive car I've never driven on gravel before is rather daunting, but I wouldn't miss this chance to show what I can do for anything."

The Mitsubishi team has been hit be a series of injuries in recent weeks, with Delecour's regular co-driver, Daniel Grataloup, only recently being released from hospital after what was described as the biggest WRC crash of all, on Rally Australia.

"We've given Justin the opportunity to represent the team on his home event," confirmed Marlboro Mitsubishi Ralliart team manager Derek Dauncey, "Competing in the British Rally Championship for many years will have provided him with very good knowledge of the stages and conditions and, as we've seen in the past with British drivers, this gives them a definite competitive edge."

Dale was already entered in the Rally GB, starting at number 30 in a Subaru Impreza WRC backed by Protrak World Motorsport Management [PWMM] and Dubai-based House of Cars, so this latest development has called for some fundamental changes of plan by PWMM manager Mark Taylor

"We had everything in place for next week, and had carried out a successful test in Wales," he explained, "but the Mitsubishi opportunity will be brilliant for Justin's new career and is a great start for Protrak and our plans for next year. As he says, it's an opportunity you don't turn down, and everyone involved in the new company fully understands this."

PWMM will be running Justin Dale in selected World Rally Championship events next year, as well as certain rounds of the Middle East Rally Championship.