From Chris Biewer [ 23/09/2002 ].
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It is that time of the year again, the WRChampionship is very much on it's finishing straight, time for decisions - feels like Christmas is round the corner again? Anyway, it is 3 rounds left and we have a strong case to have a look at who is left in the title race...
Peugeot - 131
Ford - 86
Subaru - 46
Mitsubishi - 9
Skoda - 8
Hyundai - 6
Peugeot has had 6 straight 1-2 finishes in 11 rallies and since Citroen didn’t score points in Germany, Peugeot had even 7 maximum scores. One really can’t say they don’t deserve the title. Peugeot didn’t quite put the lid on the championship yet in San Remo, which is nice, since that would have meant they got it for the bad luck of Ford. However there isn’t much of a fight left and we can assume that the manufacturer’s title will be decided in New Zealand in 2 weeks time.
Only Ford can challenge Peugeot at this point, but Ford would really need at least a victory and a 3rd place in NZ to at least keep the title open.
Peugeot in return would only need 4points, meaning a single 3rd place, never mind what Ford does, and the title is Peugeot’s for the 3rd year running.
Further down the board, Subaru seems pretty settled in 3rd, one better than last year, while for the 4th championship position it is indeed 3 manufacturers with pretty equal chances.
Marcus Grönholm - 57
Richard Burns - 34
Colin Mc Rae - 33
Gilles Panizzi - 31
Carlos Sainz - 26
Petter Solberg - 23
Sebastian Loeb - 18
Harri Rovanperä - 18
Tommi Mäkinen - 15
Markko Märtin - 12
Trying to keep it simple, we have 3 rounds left and a maximum of 30 points to give away to a single driver. Carlos Sainz at 26points is 31points down on the current championship leader, so the cut off line is identified and I am afraid, it isn’t going to be Carlos, Tommi, Petter, Markko, not this year. There are 4 drivers left:
Gilles Panizzi: Fantastic win in San Remo, 3 victories this season, but still a very unlikely outsider and even if he could have been in Deutschland and win, it wouldn’t have improved his situation. Right now he is 26points down on Marcus Grönholm, meaning out of NZ, Australia and GB, Gilles would have to at least win twice and have a 2nd place on the other one. That would come equal to a miracle for the tarmac specialist. Leaves 3:
Colin McRae: He is 24points down on Marcus. A win and two 2nd places would make 22points, not even that would be enough. Colin needs at least 2 victories from the last 3 events and rely on bad luck for Marcus Grönholm at the same time.
Richard Burns: Similar situation as Colin, he would need at least 2 victories without Marcus scoring too much, but like Colin, this can’t be ruled out at this moment, at least NZ and GB should be strong events for Richard, probably the strongest all season.
Marcus Grönholm: With a gap of 23points to his nearest challenger and a maximum of 30points possible to score, Marcus only needs 8points to be safe. Interestingly 7 points could lead to a tie breaker which would be a really close call, i.e. both, Richard and Marcus, would have in such tie breaker the same numbers of wins and seconds. However 8 points means a Grönholm win in NZ and it is all over. Alternatively Marcus could go for a 2nd and a 5th place or two 3rd places and the title goes his way, never mind what ideas the opposition has got. Even if Marcus retires in NZ, that title will be his there and then, should the two Brits fail to finish inside the top3.
The PWRC looks still pretty open with 2 rounds to go (NZ and Australia), we have Karamjit Singh leading at 28points with Ramon Ferreyros second at 20points. But there are in all another 5 crews able to take the crown, so we leave that until after NZ.
The JWRC however seems to have the closest battle of all right now, even though it is only 2 teams left that can take the title in GB, the only JWRC round left. It is an interesting battle, because Italian Citroen driver Andrea Dallavilla only took the lead of the series for the first time in San Remo and now sits at 28points. However his closest challenger, Spanish Citroen driver Daniel Sola managed to overtake Nicolas Caldani on the very last stage of San Remo, Sola beat Caldani by as little as 0.4s! This gave him 3rd place and puts him at 27points! Further, Sola has two victories (Catalunya, Deutschland) compared to Dallavilla’s one, meaning a tie would decide into Sola’s favour. That makes calculations straight forward: Whoever is ahead of the other in GB is JWRChampion 2002, should both fail to score points, the title is Dallavilla’s.
But I wanted it to go down the wire!
Indeed, it looks easy now for Peugeot and for Marcus Grönholm. Peugeot collected 7 maximum scores in 11 events and with 3 events left Marcus has already 13points more than the 2001 WRChampion had altogether. So both, Peugeot and Marcus would be deserved WRChampions.
For going down the wire, look at the bright side of it!
In GB 2001, the 4-way battle never materialised, in the end Richard Burns cruised along, he only had to finish. Same story in GB 2000, a 5th place would have been enough for Marcus to claim the title, so he wouldn’t even dream of fighting for Rally GB victory. Similar situations can be found nearly every time the title decision went to the last event. If the championships are decided before GB or even Australia, you can see events, where all tactical games are thrown overboard, no making sure of points has to be considered, team orders will be as pointless as could be, let’s have Marcus Grönholm, Richard Burns, Colin McRae go flat out, head to head in a massive, wild race for this last “bonus” victory of the year!