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Ford's resounding Acropolis Rally one-two was clouded by a very public team orders row in which Carlos Sainz only conceded victory to Colin McRae a handful of metres from the end of the last stage. As a result, both Ford and Sainz were reprimanded by the event stewards. Sainz has won a number of rallies in the past on team orders, including two in 1997 with Ford, but instead of accepting Ford bosses' instructions when Richard Burns's retirement on the last day of the rally removed the last threat to the Focuses, he blasted past McRae into the lead. Ford chiefs Martin Whitaker and Malcolm Wilson drove out of the service point to a road section to reason with the Spanish star, but having promised to follow orders, he made the most public protest possible, pulling up just short of the finish of the last stage. Sainz's grievance was that it was too early in the season to orchestrate the result and there are unconfirmed reports that Ford had promised him that there would be no such orders until the end of the year – and then only if World Championship considerations required. He also claimed that there had been no attempt to slow McRae when the Martini Fords were second and third in the closing stages of the Monte Carlo Rally.
"I don't think there is any problem between Colin and myself. I understand the team orders more at the end of the year.
"I absolutely agree to help a team-mate – but at the end of the year. It is not a problem with orders. It is the situation," Sainz said. McRae explained his side of the story: "It's a difficult situation for drivers and team management, but we had a special situation here. We had an eight-minute lead [over the best non-Ford] and it would have been crazy to fight with two cars on the toughest rally we do," McRae said. He had led for the most of the rally and was more than 20 seconds in front of Sainz when the order to maintain positions was imposed.

2000 Ford team-mates Colin McRae and Carlos Sainz.

"Carlos has to remember he's part of a team. When you're in front of goal, you don't have to be the one that scores," stated Ford Director of Motorsport Martin Whitaker.
Later, the team's boss, Malcolm Wilson, affirmed that Sainz and McRae would continue to share joint number one status, even though the team orders verdict went in the latter's favour in Greece. "In theory, there's no real team orders. It was a unique event: we had an eight-minute lead and you do not throw 16 points away. It was so important for this team. Colin drove at the perfect pace to make sure nothing would happen," Wilson retorted. Although Wilson maintained that Sainz was still a number one, the Spaniard's actions have been interpreted in some quarters as evidence that he fears he is losing his position as one of the sport's top drivers. It had been almost two years since he last won a World Championship rally and his behaviour in Greece was compared to Juha Kankkunen's in Argentina in 1999. At the time, Kankkunen had gone five years without a World Championship rally win and he disregarded orders to slow down and accept second to Richard Burns – but on that occasion, the rebel got his way.
  • Originally published in Australian Rallysport News, August 2000
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