Rally Argentina Leg 3, 19 May 2002 Summary Today's final leg of Rally Argentina brought sensational events both on and off the stages. Overnight leader Tommi Makinen of the 555 Subaru team and his Peugeot rival Marcus Gronholm started the day...
Rally Argentina Leg 3, 19 May 2002
Today's final leg of Rally Argentina brought sensational events both on and off the stages. Overnight leader Tommi Makinen of the 555 Subaru team and his Peugeot rival Marcus Gronholm started the day split by just 0.5 seconds, and the battle for victory between the two compatriots looked set to be a classic.
But Gronholm's day began badly when his car refused to start at parc ferme and methods employed by his team to get it going would have terrible consequences for him later on. On the first two stages both Finns were on the limit, and Gronholm regained the lead by an extremely slim margin. Desperate to close the gap, Makinen responded at maximum attack on the penultimate stage and was three seconds quicker than Marcus at the mid-point. But disaster struck soon afterwards when Makinen's Subaru left the road at high-speed and crashed out of the rally.
With Makinen's competition over, Marcus cruised over the finish line to take the win. But the story was far from over. Stewards met to investigate Gronholm's parc-ferme actions and excluded him from the rally on the basis that he had received illegal assistance to get going. The result promoted Richard Burns to first place, Carlos Sainz to second and 555 Subaru driver Petter Solberg to third place on the podium.
SS19 0900hrs El Condor - Copina (16.77km)
Fastest Time: Gronholm (Peugeot) 13:52.6
Gronholm nearly missed out on the final day altogether when his car refused to start at the overnight parc-ferme. Marcus and co-driver Timo Rautiainen pushed the 206WRC out of the time control and worked for 30 frantic minutes by the roadside before it got going. However, contrary to WRC regulations, the pair were given instructions on how to fix the problem by Peugeot technicians standing close-by. Things underway, Gronholm and Makinen were in a class of their own through the opening 16.77km stage. The pair were neck and neck over the barren landscape of the high-altitude El Condor pass, but on the last section Gronholm managed to edge 1.9 secs ahead to slip back into the lead of the rally by 1.4 secs. Frustrating news too for Petter Solberg, who had battled to keep Carlos Sainz off fourth place for much of yesterday^Òs leg. On a foggy part of the stage he missed a corner and put his Subaru off the road, collecting a puncture in the process. He quickly reversed back on, but the incident cost him around 20 seconds. By contrast Carlos had a good stage and the pair swapped overall positions with Petter eight seconds behind in fifth.
SS20 1013hrs Giulio Cesare - Mina Clavero (22.82km)
Fastest Time: Gronholm (Peugeot) 18:35.0
Again the intense battle for first and second spurred Gronholm and Makinen way ahead of the competition. Gronholm was quickest over the 22km stage by four seconds and with two stages remaining, kept the overall lead of the rally by a slender margin of 5.5 secs. Sainz and Solberg were third and fourth respectively, Petter unable to claw back any of the time lost on the previous test.
SS21 1053hrs Cura Brochero - Cienaga de Allende (13.63km)
Fastest Time: Gronholm (Peugeot) 6:43.1
Tommi Makinen's Rally Argentina came to an end in the most dramatic fashion on the penultimate stage. The 555 Subaru ace was three seconds faster that Gronholm at the split-time and was pushing his car to the edge when disaster struck on a flat-out sixth-gear section. The back of his Impreza nudged a small bank, the rear broke loose and the machine launched into a terrifying series of rolls eventually coming to rest 75 metres from the stage. Thankfully the tough Impreza WRC stood up well to the multiple impacts and both Tommi and Kaj walked away from the crash bruised and shaken but without serious injuries. The incident effectively handed Gronholm victory - his lead over second placed Richard Burns stood at 1 min 23secs. Meanwhile Sainz and Solberg continued to battle for fourth. The pair shared exactly the same time on the stage and ahead of the final test Sainz was just 9.6 seconds ahead of the young Norwegian.
SS22 12.39hrs El Mirador - San Lorenzo (20.65km)
Fastest Time: Burns (Peugeot) 11:30.8
With the pressure off, Gronholm cruised the final stage to win the rally by a margin of 1 minute 17 seconds. Richard Burns kept up the speed to win the stage and secure second place and Carlos Sainz did just enough to keep Petter behind and hold third. At the mid-point Solberg was five seconds quicker than Carlos but a brake-balance problem on the second half prevented him from making more time and he had to settle with fourth. Or so it seemed-- The results at that point were provisional and shortly after Marcus crossed the finishing line, Stewards met to investigate a report from the Clerk of the Course concerning Peugeot's actions on the road section after parc-ferme. Having ascertained that the team had indeed breached article 12.2.2 of the FIA regulations, Gronholm was excluded from the rally. Peugeot had the option to appeal, but decided not to and accepted the decision. Richard Burns was declared winner, Carlos Sainz second, and Petter Solberg third.
The Next Event
Round seven of the 2002 World Rally Championship starts in four weeks time, when teams travel to Greece for the Acropolis Rally. The event has the reputation as one of the toughest in the series for cars and drivers, and the combination of searing temperatures and rocky stages make it a fearsome challenge. The rally begins from the foot of the Acropolis on June 13th.