Peugeot driver Richard Burns has extended his World Championship lead after finishing fourth on the Acropolis Rally. Team mate Harri Rovanpera has finished two places behind him in sixth. Richard is now five points clear of second-placed Carlos...
Peugeot driver Richard Burns has extended his World Championship lead after finishing fourth on the Acropolis Rally. Team mate Harri Rovanpera has finished two places behind him in sixth.
Richard is now five points clear of second-placed Carlos Sainz, after a heroic drive which saw him complete nine stages of the rally without second gear. Despite this considerable handicap, the Englishman brought his car safely to the finish to stretch out his World Championship advantage.
Peugeot also maintain the lead of the manufacturers' championship thanks to the points scored by Richard and Harri after a tough rally. Conditions throughout the event were typical of Greece, with rough rocks and blistering temperatures.
Richard started the Acropolis Rally running first on the road and lost a lot of time sweeping away loose gravel. On day two he was able to make some of that time up, but then he lost second gear on SS13. As Richard had already used his spare gearbox on Friday, he had to do without second gear for the rest of the event. Nonetheless, he was able to adapt his driving style to the new circumstances and continue with total commitment.
He said: "I'm very glad to get to the finish of this rally: it's been extremely tough. I was expecting to lose time being first on the road, but the gearbox problem I had from day two onwards made driving conditions extremely difficult. On the last day I just concentrated on getting the car to the finish, although I also had difficulty shifting down into first gear. Looking on the positive side, my aim on this event was always to come away still in the championship lead and I've been able to achieve that."
Harri was challenging for the lead of the event until the morning of the second day, when he lost three gears. The resulting time loss dropped him well down the order, although the Finn refused to give up. He fought back to set some excellent times and move up to sixth place, scoring points for himself and Peugeot.
Harri commented: "This has been a disappointing rally for me. Of course it's always good to finish and score points, but earlier we had a chance to try and win. The car had the potential to do very well here, but just one problem let us down. There's no point in thinking about that now though: I'm just happy to be at the finish, and I'm really looking forward to the next rally in Cyprus"
Gilles Panizzi, driving a 2002-specification Peugeot 206 WRC run by Bozian Racing, finished just behind Harri in seventh, having set some top-five stage times.
Peugeot Sport team principal Corrado Provera commented: "This is a rally that we should have won but through our own fault we didn't. The mechanical problems we experienced were nothing to do with the nature of the rally, but we have still come through to score some valuable points. I'd particularly like to congratulate Richard, who has put in a performance that is truly worthy of him, and Harri, who was amazing here. We are sorry not to have taken advantage of all the opportunities available to us, but we are very happy indeed with the performance of our drivers."
The next round of the World Rally Championship is the Cyprus Rally, based in Limassol from June 20-22.