Marcus Gronholm, Team Peugeot 206 WRC driver, took home the 2002 World Rally Championship Drivers' title, and Team Peugeot won the Manufacturers' title at the inaugural Rally of New Zealand with two WRC events left in the season -- Australia and...
Marcus Gronholm, Team Peugeot 206 WRC driver, took home the 2002 World Rally Championship Drivers' title, and Team Peugeot won the Manufacturers' title at the inaugural Rally of New Zealand with two WRC events left in the season -- Australia and Great Britain.
At the beginning of the 2002 World Rally Championship season, it was not a question of whether Peugeot would win the Manufacturers' title but which Peugeot driver would win the Drivers' title.
The odds were favoring Gronholm to repeat his 2000 WRC title entering this weekend's rally, the Finn being 13 points ahead of teammate Richard Burns, 2001 champion and Gronholm's closest rival.
Peugeot won its third consecutive Manufacturers' title at the end of the second day when Markko Martin, Ford Focus WRC team, slid off the road and out of the event taking Ford mathematically out of title contention.
Day two was not a complete day of celebration for Peugeot when Burns' hope of a repeat was dashed on stage fifteen when he rolled the Peugeot 206 WRC and retired on leg two.
"It's actually been a difficult afternoon," said team director Corrado Provera. "It's hard to take joy when it comes to you because of someone else's accident. And then there's Richard - he would have been a very deserving winner of this rally, and it would have been his first one with us, so we can only imagine how strong and deep his sadness is."
"I'm really disappointed, because I desperately wanted to take my first win for Peugeot," Burns said after his accident. "It was a fourth-gear right-hand corner and I slid a little wide. There was a left-hander straight after it and it sent the car into the air. We went over a fence and cartwheeled into the trees."
Burns's retirement handed not only the rally lead over to Gronholm; it also gave the Finn the open door to secure the 2002 Drivers' Championship.
Gronholm and his navigator Timo Rautiainen sailed through the final day to win the Finn his second world driver's title. Gronholm now has 67 points to Burns's 34, with only 20 points possible in the final two rallies.
"I'm very happy, of course," Gronholm explained. "I don't know how this championship win compares to the first one two years ago. Back then it was a fight to the last stage whereas this time, we've done it with two rounds remaining. It seems strange to have things tied up so early in the season, but we've had a good finishing record this year."
Provera's happiness was clear, though. "I'm delighted for everyone in the whole team," he said, after the final stage. "We have scored throughout this season at a very high level, and this double win here is extraordinary. It's a fantastic result for a team and a company which are really committed to rallying and this championship."