Burns flies into championship lead!

From Chris Biewer [ 02/03/2003 ].
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Richard Burns leads the World Rally Championship following his 2nd place in the Rally of Turkey today. The Rally of Turkey was extremely rough and needed an approach using brains and pace yourself never mind how much you want to attack and show performance. If you are looking for this brainy, pacing driver character, Richard may be the man alongside Carlos Sainz and it was these two drivers indeed to come out on top at this event. Indeed, Richard Burns didn’t seem to be the fastest driver over this weekend, he only managed 2 fastest stage times as well, but bar 3 punctures on day 1 he managed to stay out of trouble. When Schwarz, Loeb, Solberg, Grönholm, Mäkinen und Rovanperä all hit trouble ahead of Richard, it was Richard to be ready and pick up the result and the points.

Richard about his event: "We've had a very good event and enjoyed perfect reliability throughout. That's been the key to getting this result. It's certainly not been easy, but we expected the conditions to be this rough. I'm also in the lead of the championship now, which is very satisfying."

One of the many drivers to hit trouble was Harri Rovanperä. This was particularly sad since he was leading half of the event and he looked like a worthy winner. But in these conditions it often is only luck to not hit one of the huge rocks that are all over that track you try to cover at competitive speeds. In Harri’s case he hit one of those rocks so hard, it shoved the whole suspension through the rear body shell and it was impossible for the team to do sufficient repairs.

Harri after his retirement: "There were some stones by the side of the road about 2 kilometres after the start. It was a corner where you have to slide the car quite a lot, and then - bang! The damper was gone. So we just carried on as best as we could although we dropped a lot of time. I am very disappointed."

Marcus Grönholm found himself in very much the same situation as Harri. However in Marcus case it wasn’t the suspension to collapse, a problem every manufacturer could tell you stories about on this event. It rather was a steering problem, when the power assistence refused to work for most of day1. However Marcus stayed into the rally. There was not much motivation for him to carry on, but with so many people to hit troubles, Marcus was in the end even there to take a manufacturers point for Peugeot.

"It's been a frustrating rally for me," said Marcus. "We lost so much time on the first day that it was very difficult to stay motivated for the rest of the event. Now we just have to look forward to New Zealand."

One star of the rally was Gilles Panizzi. OK, it was about the last event to prove how fast you can go on gravel and you won’t find Gilles in the list of stage winners either. But again he managed to pace himself and stay out of trouble with his Bozian run 206 WRC Evo3. A 5th place is a nice result for the tarmac expert and as well gives him some nice WRC points. Still Gilles was nearly upset that he couldn’t put a challenge on Colin Mc Rae. Late in leg2 Gilles caught Freddy Loix in a stage and Freddy suffering a blown turbo on his Hyundai covered the stage in a thick layer of white smoke. Without virtually any visibility Gilles lost an estimated 20-30s in that incident and that would have had him very close to Mc Rae and 4th place indeed.

Gilles: "I caught the smoke from Feddy Loix's blown turbo in front of me on the last stage (on leg2). It was like driving in the fog in Britain! I'm very happy, I have learnt more and more about how to drive the car on gravel throughout the three days, and the experience has given me even more confidence on these types of surfaces."

The Peugeot’s have surely shown that they can take the toughest conditions at least as well as any of the other manufacturers, yet it was a rally of mixed emotions for Corrado Provera: "We are half-pleased with this very rough rally! On the one hand, Richard has put in an excellent performance and he has moved into the lead of the world championship. We are very happy for him, and I would like to thank him for the good work he has done. On the other hand, we are sorry for the mechanical problems on Marcus's car, without which I think he would have been able to fight for victory. It's a pity also that Harri was not able to continue in the lead. But I'd like to congratulate Gilles too, who has done an excellent job."