Network Q Rally of Great Britain
Round 14 of the FIA World Rally Championship
Sunday, 25th November 2001
Congratulations to Richard Burns/Robert Reid, Subaru Impreza WRC Winner, 2001 World Rally Championship for Drivers
Subaru driver Richard Burns is the new FIA World Rally Champion, after the Englishman finished third overall on the Network Q Rally of Great Britain this afternoon. Burns and navigator Robert Reid were happy to let the outgoing champion Marcus Grönholm and his co-driver Timo Rautiainen claim the rally victory, ahead of fellow Peugeot driver Harri Rovanperä. Peugeot's one-two success capped the French marque's victory in the FIA World Rally Championship for Manufacturers.
Heavy rain made today's final four stages in the south Wales forests treacherously slippery and with some of them being used for the second time, many drivers hit standing water in some of the deeper ruts. Overnight leader Grönholm and Burns merely consolidated their pace, for while Rovanperä inched past the Subaru driver into second overall, Burns knew that fourth or better would be enough to secure his first world crown.
Technical: Marcus Grönholm's 206 WRC has been reliable today. Harri Rovanperä's car hit alternator trouble on the day's first stage, however. It cut out briefly but re-started immediately. Didier Auriol complained of harsh suspension during the opening pair of stages.
Sporting: The withdrawal of Ford yesterday evening handed the manufacturers' crown to Peugeot, so their drivers were able to relax today. Marcus Grönholm maintained his steady but fast pace to secure his first victory on the Rally GB and claim his third win of the season. Harri Rovanperä needed only one stage to move past Richard Burns into second and despite a small off on the following test, the Finn held on to the runners-up spot to secure a one-two triumph for the French manufacturer. Didier Auriol felt his 206 WRC was fitted with suspension that was too stiff during this morning's opening pair of stages. He eventually finished seventh on his final outing for Peugeot.
Quotes: Marcus Gronholm said: "I'm very pleased. It's been a fairly easy win for us, because Colin (McRae) and Tommi (Mäkinen) retired pretty early on and Richard was obviously thinking about the championship. Today he's been going through the same emotions that I went through last year. It's fantastic that we've turned the season around for Peugeot and won the manufacturers' title again, but of course I'm a bit sad to give up my own championship crown. I'll be aiming to win it back next year - testing starts after just one week, and I'm keen to get started!"
Harri Rovanperä said: "Today was a good day. We knew this morning that there was no more pressure in the manufacturers' championship so we were able to push, and I got past Richard quite quickly. Conditions were difficult, of course, but the Rally GB can be like that. I'm really pleased that we got a one-two for the team, and that Peugeot won the manufacturers' title."
Didier Auriol said: "I'd have liked to have finished in the points because I think we were quick enough to do that, but our problems yesterday cost us too much time. The car was quite hard to drive this morning because the suspension was quite harsh and we bounced out of the ruts a few times."
Peugeot Total Team Principal Corrado Provera said: "The feeling I have is one of pure joy for everyone who has contributed to the programme. Our target at the start of the year was to win the manufacturers' title and we've done it, in the best way possible with a one-two finish. I'm delighted."
Technical: The Impreza WRC2001 of Richard Burns has been reliable today. The car of Toshihiro Arai hit gearbox problems in the day's second stage, though. The offending unit was changed at the following service by Prodrive mechanics.
Sporting: Richard Burns suffered no late scares as he picked his way through the deteriorating conditions today. The Briton eased off completely, allowing Harri Rovanperä into second since third was enough for him to clinch the 2001 FIA World Rally Championship title. Toshihiro Arai was troubled by gearbox problems but the Japanese driver still finished inside the top ten.
Quotes: Richard Burns said: "You can imagine how I feel. It's very special as a British driver to have stopped the Finns from winning the world championship again! It's been a difficult season and when things went wrong on the Safari I genuinely thought that the title hopes had gone. In fact, I didn't think about the championship again until after Australia. But myself, Tommi and Colin came here with the same basic chance of winning the championship and what happened to me here last year happened to them instead. To be fair, this is the first time that we've come to the Rally GB with a really good chance of winning the title and we've done it."
Robert Reid said: "The final stage was a long 26 kilometres! To be honest, I struggled to call the last distance on the pacenotes because I was choked. Richard's driven really well this weekend - we've done what we had to do. It's fantastic."
Subaru World Rally Team Principal David Lapworth said: "We never doubted that we had the ability to win the championship. Of course it's been a hard season and we've made better starts to the year, but we always believed that the package would be good enough. I think this result will help Richard's status compared to Colin, Marcus and Tommi."
Toshihiro Arai said: "I'm glad to get to the finish of this event, because the conditions have been very difficult in places. Today was so wet - there was deep water in the ruts and it would have been very easy to lose control."
Technical: The Accent WRC2s of Alister McRae and Kenneth Eriksson both hit the same problem on today's opening stage - their windscreen wipers stopped working. Eriksson and navigator Staffan Parmander managed to rectify the problem before the next test by disconnecting the navigator-side blade, but McRae and co-driver David Senior had to resort to more desperate measures. They rigged up a manual system using the spare intercom cable. Both systems were fixed by Hyundai team mechanics at the following service.
Sporting: Alister McRae and Kenneth Eriksson both kept pushing hard today on their final rally with the team, although they struggled with broken windscreen wipers in the heavy rain of this morning's opening two stages. McRae did enough this afternoon to hold off Armin Schwarz and claim fourth, however, while Eriksson netted sixth. It's the first time that Hyundai has had both cars in the top six.
Quotes: Alister McRae said: "I'm really happy to leave the team on such a high note. We'd targeted a top six finish and fourth's really good for us. We've been improving all season and this is a bonus for all the boys who've worked so hard all year."
Kenneth Eriksson: "I'd have liked to have caught Armin but in the end, it just wasn't possible this morning. It's good that we've taken Hyundai up to a good level from when we started and I'm sure the team will be stronger again in future."
Technical: Armin Schwarz reported no major problems with his Octavia WRC today. Bruno Thiry's only concern was a leaking windscreen that allowed the Welsh rain into the car.
Sporting: Alister McRae's problems this morning allowed Armin Schwarz a sniff of fourth overall, and the German driver pushed harder still on his final day's action with Skoda. He posted third fastest time on the penultimate stage but ultimately, he had to settle for fourth. His result was enough to net Skoda fifth in the manufacturers' championship ahead of Hyundai, though. Bruno Thiry consolidated his overnight top ten placing and eventually finished eighth on his final appearance in a Skoda.
Quotes: Armin Schwarz said: "It's been quite a good rally. We've had good reliability, which is crucial in such difficult conditions. I'm pleased to end my time at Skoda with a top-six finish. The team has come a long way since I joined it and I've been pleased to be a part of that."
Bruno Thiry said: "Conditions today were very tricky - there was a lot of water in some places and the rain and mist made visibility quite difficult. I'm just glad to have reached the finish without any major problems."
Sporting: Ford withdrew both Carlos Sainz and Mark Higgins yesterday afternoon after the serious accident involving the Spaniard, in which some spectators were injured.
Quotes: Colin McRae said: "I offer my congratulations to Richard. He's had a great drive. He's won the title and he deserved to win it. But we'll come back next year stronger and better, and determined to take the title back."
FIA Super 1600 Cup champion Sebastien Loeb maintained his record of winning every round of the series that he's started this year by taking a comfortable category victory this afternoon. The Frenchman started today's mileage far enough clear of his main rivals to be able to ease off in the closing stages.
Behind Loeb and navigator Daniel Elena, things were much closer. A quick time from Andrea Dallavilla on today's opening stage moved him ahead of Niall McShea, who spun in the same test. The Ulsterman grabbed back a second in the next stage but Dallavilla pulled further ahead in SS16 and the Italian entered the last test more than 20s clear of his rival. But almost within sight of the finish in Margam Park, the engine in his Fiat Punto expired and he was forced to retire, allowing McShea to form a Citroen one-two at the head of the S1600 timesheets.
There was also a close finish in the Group N category for more standard machinery. British driver David Higgins inched ahead of Peru's Ramon Ferreyros this afternoon, and the pair entered Margam Park separated by less than a second. But Higgins eked out a further couple of seconds in the stage to secure a popular home victory. The Subaru driver's success also brought to an end Mitsubishi's 28 event strong run of victories in the Group N category.