WRC

Burns inherits Argentine victory only to lose it

Burns inherits Argentine victory only to lose it

The 2002 edition of Rally Argentina had so many potential winners during its final 24 hours that many observers lost count of who actually won the rally. Tommi Makinen after the crash. Photo by WRC McKlein. Four-time World Champion ...

The 2002 edition of Rally Argentina had so many potential winners during its final 24 hours that many observers lost count of who actually won the rally.

Tommi Makinen after the crash.
Photo by WRC McKlein.
Four-time World Champion Tommi Makinen was gaining quickly on leader and compatriot Marcus Gronholm on the penultimate stage of the rally, when he rolled his Subaru Impreza five times to take him out of the rally.

Gronholm then cruised throgh the final stage to what seemed like a comfortable victory, only to have it taken away from him minutes after the finish for a rules violation: at the morning stop, Gronholm had had trouble starting his Peugeot 206, and had received some advice from one of the mechanics.

"What happened this morning was the car wouldn't start," Gronholm recalled. "I was trying everything. It kept on stopping on the road section. The protest is just Subaru bull."

Marcus Gronholm.
Photo by Team Peugeot.
But with a marshal standing only a few meters away, no Subaru protest was necessary. The mere advice was enough to qualify as assistance (which is not permitted outside officially designated service areas), and take away from Gronholm his third win of the year.

So it was his teammate and 2001 Champion, Richard Burns, who celebrated a victory at the end of the rally, taking a big chunk out of Gronholm's Championship lead.

But that, too, was destined to be short-lived. In the post-rally technical inspection, Burns' 206 was found to have an underweight flywheel, meriting immediate disqualification. Peugeot chose not to appeal the disqualification.

The missing 20 grams of weight cost Burns his first win of the year, and instead handed the victory to veteran Spaniard, Carlos Sainz, driving a Ford Focus.

Carlos Sainz and co-driver Luis Moya.
Photo by Ford Motor Company.
"When I woke up this morning, victory was the last thing on my mind, but rallying is a strange sport sometimes," Sainz mused. "I have often seen the other side of things myself, losing a victory at the last minute, so my feeling is that whatever happens the record books will say a win is a win. "

Sainz has 24 victories in the WRC, matching Makinen at the top, but had not won since Cyprus in 2000. In Argentina, Sainz had been running well back of the leading trio of Gronholm, Makinen and Burns, finishing some 2:19 back of Gronholm on the road.

In the final reckoning, then, Sainz took the victory from Petter Solberg in the second Subary, followed by Ford teammates Colin McRae and Markko Martin.

Skoda had its best result since it launched the Octavia WRC with Toni Gardemeister and Kenneth Eriksson taking fifth and sixth places.

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Series WRC
Drivers Tommi Makinen , Colin McRae , Carlos Sainz , Richard Burns , Marcus Gronholm , Petter Solberg , Kenneth Eriksson , Luis Moya , Markko Martin