Sunday, 19th May 2002 Reigning World Rally Champion Richard Burns has scored his first victory for the Peugeot team on the sixth round of this year's series, the Rally Argentina. The Englishman and co-driver Robert Reid finished second on stage...
Sunday, 19th May 2002
Reigning World Rally Champion Richard Burns has scored his first victory for the Peugeot team on the sixth round of this year's series, the Rally Argentina. The Englishman and co-driver Robert Reid finished second on stage times to team-mates Marcus Grönholm and Timo Rautiainen, but the Finnish pairing were excluded after the final test because Peugeot personnel present at this morning's parc ferme were adjudged to have offered advice when their car refused to restart. The result leaves the drivers' points standings delicately balanced, since it has moved Burns to within two points of his team-mate at the top of the table.
The final leg of the event provided drama to accompany Grönholm's controversy. Overnight leader Tommi Mäkinen lost his advantage to the Peugeot driver this morning and rolled his Subaru while trying to regain the lead. And there was an equally close battle between Ford's Carlos Sainz and Subaru's Petter Solberg for fourth. The young Norwegian lost out after he overshot a corner on the opening stage - although Grönholm's retirement eventually meant that he and Sainz were placed third and second respectively.
Technical: Marcus Grönholm's 206 WRC hit problems in parc ferme this morning. The car was reluctant to start and even when Grönholm succeeding in firing up the engine, it cut out several times. He had to stop seven times on the road section to first service to try different possible cures - the fault was later traced to an ECU. Richard Burns, meanwhile, was dissatisfied with his car's handling during this morning's opening three stages but his car was reliable otherwise.
Sporting: Marcus Grönholm struggled to start his car in this morning's parc ferme and he had to struggle to first service without incurring time penalties. The Finn then charged in the stages to pass overnight leader Tommi Mäkinen and build a lead. His position became more comfortable when Mäkinen rolled out near the end of the penultimate stage. However, event stewards met this afternoon and decided that Peugeot mechanics had broken servicing regulations by providing instructions on how to start the car on a road section. They excluded Grönholm and although Peugeot team boss Corrado Provera expressed dissatisfaction at the decision, the team elected not to appeal. The decision promoted Burns, who consolidated third and picked up second when Mäkinen crashed out, to the top step of the podium. Burns's win - his first for the Peugeot team - closed his deficit to Grönholm in the drivers' series to just two points.
Quotes: Richard Burns said: "More than anyone else on the podium I probably feel that I shouldn't be quite as high on the steps. The person who was fastest on the stages on this rally was Marcus Grönholm and although I'm happy with the 10 points, on a personal level the satisfaction is nowhere near what it would be if I'd won it on the stages. I think Peugeot has shown that it's stronger than it was last year, but in a way that's disguised the fact that Ford and Subaru have been very strong and challenging both here and in Cyprus last month."
Team Principal Corrado Provera said: "We believe that the rule of mechanics staying away one kilometre from the car is designed to avoid wild servicing, with people hiding in the woods and them coming out to work on the cars. By acting as we acted, we did not feel that we were breaking these regulations and we don't feel guilty, but we respect the Stewards' decision."
Technical: The Focus RS WRC02s of Carlos Sainz, Colin McRae and Markko Martin have been reliable today.
Sporting: As expected, Carlos Sainz attacked on this morning's opening stage and the double world champion quickly moved clear of Petter Solberg when the Norwegian overshot a corner and broke a wheel. Thereafter, Sainz consolidated his fourth position, and he inherited the final podium place when Tommi Mäkinen crashed out on the penultimate stage. His team-mates Colin McRae and Markko Martin had little to gain today, since they started this morning's stages in a lonely sixth and seventh respectively. They concentrated on maintaining those positions to the finish, although they too benefited from Mäkinen's retirement to eventually bag fifth and sixth. Grönholm's exclusion promoted the Ford trio to second (Sainz), fourth (McRae) and fifth (Martin).
Quotes: Carlos Sainz said: "It was a good fight this morning and I pushed hard. It seemed to work well, and when Petter made the mistake it gave me the advantage. This has been a hard event for us but in the end, we've got a good result for the team with some points in the manufacturers' championship. Second place is quite good, because the whole team had expected to be more competitive here."
Colin McRae said: "It's been a bad three days, really. Okay, we've ended up with some points but we didn't have that bit of extra speed that we showed in Cyprus, so we couldn't really compete with the Peugeots or the Subarus. The championship situation's not looking too hot now, so we'll just have to hope things take a turn for the better in Greece."
Technical: The Impreza WRC2002s of Petter Solberg and Tommi Mäkinen performed reliably today, although Mäkinen extensively damaged his car when he rolled out off the event near the end of SS21.
Sporting: Tommi Mäkinen started today's final leg with a lead of just half a second over Marcus Grönholm, and the Peugeot driver inched ahead in the opening stages. Mäkinen was trying to retaliate in the day's third test when he misjudged a double-crest and rolled his car off the road. He and navigator Kaj Lindstrom were badly shaken in the incident, and Lindstrom was taken to a nearby hospital suffering from suspected concussion. Petter Solberg started today's first test hoping to defend his overnight fourth place from Carlos Sainz, but the young Norwegian overshot in the El Condor fog and although he fought back in the last test, two more slight overshoots meant that he finished behind the Spaniard in fourth. That became third, however, when Grönholm was excluded.
Quotes: Tommi Mäkinen said: "It's one of the biggest accidents of my career. We were in sixth gear on a very long straight when we went off. I tried so hard to win this rally and it's a sour way to lose it like that."
Petter Solberg said: "I really attacked this morning but about two kilometres into the first stage, it was really foggy and I just missed a corner. I could have tried to get round the corner but I think that might have caused even more damage, so I slid straight on and we broke a wheel. Then this afternoon I was well up at the split time on Carlos and then we had two more small overshoots. I'm sure I could have got back the position from him!"
Technical: Two of the three Octavia WRCs hit transmission problems today. Gabriel Pozzo complained of excessive oversteer on his car after a suspected rear differential glitch, while Toni Gardemeister suffered from a leaking front differential in this morning's group of three stages. Kenneth Eriksson's car, however, performed reliably.
Sporting: Toni Gardemeister continued to push hard this morning and the young Finn duly finished seventh after Mäkinen's accident. Grönholm's exclusion then promoted him to sixth, earning Gardemeister a point for himself and two makes' points for his Skoda team. Kenneth Eriksson maintained his pace to eventually claim seventh and a manufacturers' point, while Gabriel Pozzo was hit by differential problems this morning but still finished 10th.
Quotes: Toni Gardemeister said: "I'm really glad that we've got Skoda's first points of the season because we've tried hard on all the events so far and we certainly took some risks on this rally as well. Today was actually quite difficult - we pushed hard in the morning again, despite the feeling with the front differential, and then this afternoon we knew that if we got to the finish we'd score a point. It's never easy to drive just to finish and I actually had a few moments - including one at the finish of the last stage - before we could relax."
Gabriel Pozzo said: "I'm pleased to have got the full three days' experience of the works Octavia and hopefully given my home fans here a good show as well. The aim was to reach the finish and we've achieved that, so we have to be satisfied."
Technical: The sole remaining Accent WRC3 of Juha Kankkunen has been reliable today.
Sporting: Juha Kankkunen benefited from Tommi Mäkinen's retirement and Grönholm's exclusion today to move from his overnight 10th place to finish eighth.
Quotes: Juha Kankkunen said: "It's been quite a good day and not a bad event for us, but all the time today I've known that if we hadn't gone off and lost so much time on Friday, we could have been fighting for a points finish, and that's annoying. The car has been quite strong here, though, so hopefully we can take that into the Acropolis Rally next month and get a better result there."
Technical: The remaining Lancer Evo WRC of Alister McRae completed today's four stages without problems.
Sporting: Alister McRae gained time on rival Juha Kankkunen on this morning's first stage but in the second, he spun in a narrow section and had to reverse back and forth before he continue. The resulting time loss ended any faint hopes the Scot still had of overhauling the veteran Finn and he settled for ninth.
Quotes: Alister McRae said: "The spin was my fault and it cost us quite a bit of time. The biggest problem I have at the minute is that we really need a completely clean rally before we can tell exactly where we are in terms of performance. Here, I don't think we'd have been on the pace of the top guys but we lost at least four minutes with a few problems and if we hadn't had that, we'd have been fighting for a point or two."
Peruvian Ramon Ferreyros triumphed in the Group N category for more standard machinery and thereby claimed maximum points in the FIA World Championship for Drivers of Production Cars. Ferreyros's Mitsubishi finished just over half a minute clear of Toshihiro Arai's Subaru Impreza, with the Proton of Karamjit Singh in third.