Three Peugeots In Top 6

From Chris Biewer [ 16/06/2002 ].
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Leg2 has been going quite well for the Peugeot team. All 3 works cars are in the points, 2 of them in podium positions. But the positions are not settled, we are rather looking forward to a showdown over the final leg in which anything can happen. Richard Burns is only just over half a minute behind rally leader Colin Mc Rae with Peugeot team mate Marcus Grönholm less than 10 seconds behind. But as several incidents on leg2 already proved only a puncture may be enough to turn the event into any of the top driver’s favour.

In line with that, the toughest stage of the Rally Acropolis 2002 is still to come, the 37km Elatia stage (SS15) which is not only the longest stage of the rally but a re-run of SS9 (i.e. more rutted and worn than the already rough first time round). This penultimate stage therefore is considered to be a very rough 37km, most likely the deciding stage of the event.

Richard Burns was the man to post the fastest time on the first run over the Elatia stage. However he appeared to drop a little time again to Colin Mc Rae and his team mate Marcus Grönholm on the last couple of stages when he opted for different tyres to Marcus. But indeed Richard managed to pass Carlos Sainz, Harri Rovanperä, Freddy Loix and Markko Märtin to move from 6th into 2nd during leg2: “It’s been a better day today, obviously. We attacked this morning on the cleaner roads and we’ve been able to take a bit of time out of people and move up. We’ve run a slightly different tyre compound to the one we used yesterday and we’ve had some more grip as a result. It’ll be hard to catch Colin tomorrow and equally hard to keep Marcus behind us, so it’s going to be tough. Our aim is to make second place secure.”

For Marcus Grönholm it was a similar story to Richard. His car has yet again been absolutely reliable, while he moved from 7th to 3rd during the day, quite a contrast to leg1 when he had to run 1st on the road. Marcus’ worst problem during leg2 was that he had never before competed on these stages: “The position’s good but the feeling’s not quite perfect just yet. I’ve always retired before these roads in the past so I’m finding quite a few things that I don’t like in my pacenotes. It’s also easier for me to slide wide in some places and end up in the really loose gravel, which costs me even more time. In the last two stages I found more confidence because it was the second run over the stages, and I attacked. I think it should be possible to fight for second tomorrow.”

Harri Rovanperä was the Peugeot driver with the bad luck today. Harri had tyre problems nobody could really explain. He suffered excessive tyre wear and punctures, although these very same tyres worked perfectly fine on leg1. Harri: “I don’t understand why I had the problems with the tyres. Yesterday I hit something quite big and we got away with it, but today I haven’t driven any differently and we’ve had problems. It was hard in the long stage because the wheel went onto the rim and there were a lot of tight, downhill hairpins. We lost a minute to everyone else pretty quickly. The team is going to check the differentials tonight because even with the hardest compound our tyres are wearing out.”

The private Peugeots can expect a rally of very mixed fortunes indeed. While Bruno Thiry moved into 15th overnight, especially Gilles Panizzi was a man on a mission. In 5 stages run today Gilles managed two 7th fastest and even a 5th fastest time, while his 6th fastest time on SS8 meant he was only 8.4s off fastest stage time and 1s off the fastest Peugeot, even though Gilles was still in an Evo1 206 while his team mates travel in an Evo3 version already. Certainly not bad for somebody often claimed to be a tarmac expert. Gilles moved from 20th into 14th position through the day and he is not far at all off Toni Gardemeister’s Skoda and both the works Mitsubishis. However here is the disastrous news for both, Bruno and Gilles: their excellent effort in leg2 means they will be 1st and 2nd on the road for the last leg.

Acropolis Rally - Leg 2 results

1.    Colin McRae/Nicky Grist Ford 3hr 23min 02.1sec
2.    Richard Burns/Robert Reid Peugeot 3hr 23min 34.7sec
3.    Marcus Gronholm/Timo Rautiainen Peugeot 3hr 23min 44.4sec
4.    Carlos Sainz/Luis Moya Ford 3hr 24min 32.3sec
5.    Freddy Loix/Sven Smeets Hyundai 3hr 24min 40.0sec
6.    Harri Rovanpera/Risto Pietilainen Peugeot 3hr 24min 56.8sec
7.    Petter Solberg/Phil Mills Subaru 3hr 25min 11.6sec
8.    Markko Martin/Michael Park Ford 3hr 25min 23.9sec
9.    Sebastien Loeb Citroen 3hr 25min 29.6sec
10.    Thomas Radstrom/Denis Giraudet Citroen 3hr 26min 31.0sec