Rally Argentina Sunday May 19th 2002 End of Rally Report Richard Burns makes it five-in-a-row for Peugeot-Michelin In conclusion to a rally packed with suspense, surprise and incidents, Peugeot-Michelin claimed its fifth victory of the season...
Sunday May 19th 2002
End of Rally Report
Richard Burns makes it five-in-a-row for Peugeot-Michelin
In conclusion to a rally packed with suspense, surprise and incidents, Peugeot-Michelin claimed its fifth victory of the season in Argentina today thanks to Richard Burns, a result that takes it further clear at the top of the Manufacturers' WRC points tab le. The French carmaker even came close to claiming its fifth consecutive one-two finish of the year since Marcus Grönholm was without a doubt the fastest man in the sierra this weekend before his controversial exclusion from the results following a servic ing infringement on the final day. Although he would have preferred to have achieved it in other circumstances, Richard Burns' first success with the 206 WRC gives Michelin its seventh win on the South American event in the past ten years.
After last month's Cypriot thriller, Rally Argentina provided further World Rally Championship excitement this weekend thanks to another three days of high-speed action, drama and sudden fortune changes. Not the least of which was the controversial post-fi nish exclusion of Marcus Grönholm (Peugeot-Michelin) who had completed the final stage of the South American round with a lead of more than a minute over his British teammate Richard Burns.
At first sight, the Finn's command at the flag was as convincing as they come, but it hadn't all been plain-sailing for the 2000 World Champion. Despite leading by the incredible margin of 1m40s over Tommi Mäkinen at the end of Leg 1 (thanks to a determine d charge in the floating fog that shrouded Friday evening's stages), his seemingly unassailable advantage melted away to 16s first thing the following day when his 206 WRC was slowed by hydraulic problems.
The trouble was swiftly cured at following service but, unsurprisingly, the incident was more than enough to rekindle Mäkinen's winning instinct. With Grönholm back in his sights, the Subaru driver proceeded to haul in his fellow countryman thanks to a str ing of fastest times that saw him finish the second day with a half-a-second margin over his fellow Finn.
But as the terrain switched to such famed high-altitude classics as 'El Condor' and 'Giulio Cesare' for the final sprint on Sunday morning, Grönholm moved firmly back into control, retrieving the lead on the day's opening test before forcing Mäkinen into a mistake that saw the Finn roll out of the rally at speed on the final corner of the penultimate stage. "Perhaps the biggest accident of my career," commented the four-times World Champion afterwards who had left the road flat out in sixth gear!
With victory for the 206 WRC now looking a foregone conclusion, Grönholm's teammate Richard Burns had been enjoying a quick, dependable run. With two stages remaining, the Briton figured in an apparently safe 3rd spot, but Mäkinen's multiple roll suddenly promoted him to second overall before his silver medal was traded for gold following Grönholm's exclusion. Despite its hollow nature, this is the reigning champion's first win with the 206 WRC since his transfer to the French squad at the end of last seaso n!
The other drivers to find themselves unexpectedly on the podium at the traditional Cordoba Stadium prize-giving ceremony were Carlos Sainz (2nd) and Petter Solberg (3rd) who were both relieved to salvage valuable points for Ford and Subaru after playing so mething of a second role for much of the event. Having said that, the scrap between the Spaniard and the Norwegian was another of the action-packed weekend's highlights and the balance only tipped in the Focus driver's favour when the Subaru youngster lost time with an off on Sunday morning.
Ford's Colin McRae and Markko Martin followed in 4th and 5th respectively, while Skoda-Michelin's excellent run was rewarded with 6th and 7th places for Toni Gardemeister and Kenneth Eriksson and the Czech manufacturer's first points in the 2002 World Cham pionship. Juha Kankkunen (8th, Hyundai-Michelin), Alister McRae (9th, Mitsubishi-Michelin) and local hero Gabriel Pozzo (10th, Skoda-Michelin) completed the final top-ten.
In addition to Grönholm and Mäkinen, the other WRC regulars who failed to reach the finish were Armin Schwarz (Hyundai-Michelin, fuel problem), Freddy Loix (Hyundai-Michelin, throttle), François Delecour (Mitsubishi-Michelin, accident), Harri Rovanperä (Pe ugeot-Michelin, valve failure) and Gilles Panizzi (Peugeot-Michelin, overheating engine). Coupled with Grönholm's exclusion, the untimely disappearances of the Peugeot pair brings an end to the enviable 100% finishing record of the factory 206 WRCs since t he start of the season.
MICHELIN BACK ON TOP IN ARGENTINA
- SUCCESS ON ALL EVENTS-- Michelin's seventh Rally Argentina win in ten years means that its tyres have now won every round that makes up the World Championship at least once in the past 24 months This feat has been achieved with four different manufacturer partners (Peugeot, Mitsubishi, Citroën and Ford).
- MICHELIN ZA STARS IN THE DAMP-- Michelin's driver partners were delighted with the performance of the Michelin ZA in the frequently damp conditions that are a hallmark of Rally Argentina. While the traditional top-covering of sand and gravel called for the Michelin ZA's open pattern, the cool temperatures meant that this tyre was used in its 8 compound (soft) by winner Richard Burns and Marcus Gronholm (and indeed by the majority of Micheli n runners) from start to finish.
- CONFIDENCE-- The Michelin ZA especially gave Grönholm the confidence to maintain his determined attack in the rain on Leg 3 which even featured 6km of mud on the day's opening stage.
- FASTEST TIMES-- Michelin runners set fastest times on 14 of the 21 stages effectively covered in Argentina, with three different drivers: Gronholm (9, including 1 equal), Burns (5, including 1 equal) and Loix (1).
Next round: Acropolis (Greece), June 14th-16th 2002