Argentina Revenge

From Chris Biewer [ 11/05/2003 ].
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What an exciting rally this was! I am now waiting for people to say this show is boring because we had again a PSA 1-2-3-4 – well you simply can’t say they didn’t have to fight for it! If this wasn’t nail biting stuff, nothing is! And certainly two of the star drives of this generally havoc littered rally certainly came from the Peugeot camp: Marcus Grönholm and Richard Burns. This doesn’t mean Harri Rovanperä has to go hiding, even though he did finish well over 2 minutes off the pace. Harri underlined Peugeot’s reliability and speed in making it 3 Peugeots in the top 4 places. With it Harri will be delighted to have scored his first points of the season.

Harri commented at the finish of the rally: "It's very good to get a finish and start scoring points. This year I've been unlucky, but I hope my luck will change now. The car felt good during the rally, although I lost a bit of time over the first two days. But I think our season starts here! I'm very happy."

But you are forgiven for thinking Marcus Grönholm should always start rallies with a 2 minutes time penalty, just to give others a chance, although just a slim one – or just to stop his own boredom. In this case, he had with 206 NDQ 75 a car – although rebuilt – that was debuted at the Rally Acropolis 3 years ago and has now completed 9 WRC events. Marcus then made it even more 2nd hand in banging it with force against a rock during leg1, having to complete most of SS9 on 3 wheels and dropping nearly 2 minutes in the process. Was all that going to stop Marcus? Dream on! Give him a bicycle and he will still be out making some of the World’s best drivers look silly! It becomes more and more apparent there is some truth behind Corrado Provera’s claim Marcus is from a different planet!

But Rally Argentina with all its dramas can’t have been so bad, at least Marcus admits this rally was not so boring for him: "I'm so happy. After our mistake on the first day I realised we had a lot of work to do in order to catch up, but the car felt good and the team did a fantastic job. I pushed very hard a lot of the time and the rally was certainly not easy. But to win for the second rally in a row feels fantastic. It's been an amazing three days."

The other star of the rally – although admittedly this rally produced more than only two stars – was clearly Richard Burns. Some people may argue if Burns is doing such a brilliant job for Peugeot after all, even though he managed 4 podiums now in 5 rallies and – granted there is a new points system – after only 5 events of the 2003 season Burns is now only 12points down on his WRChampionship winning score 2 years ago and as well he is already 9 points up on Didier Auriol’s all season score during his time at Peugeot! Richard was putting in rather decent times during the last leg of Rally Argentina. He posted a time a nice 10s faster than Carlos Sainz on the penultimate stage and such took 2nd place. During the last stage Richard as well was well in control of Carlos. What many people did not realise, Richard did all of SS23 and all of SS24 without the anti lag system plus, without a service in sight, he as well started the final stage with the same handicap. The turbo kept stalling and was slow picking up again, while Richard still managed to beat Carlos and stay in touch with Marcus! That then 5km from the finish of the last stage the turbo eventually gave up the ghost for good was a shame, but not a big surprise!

Therefore Richard actually didn’t seem too disappointed of the prospect of being robbed 2 vital WRC points: "It's a pity we had a problem with the turbo because otherwise we would have finished second after a good battle with Carlos today. But these things happen in rallying and it's always good to get a podium finish and score some more points."

Surely Corrado wasn’t shy of acknowledging Richard, as his team mates, has done a superb job: "We're delighted to get three cars to the finish, all in excellent points-scoring positions. Marcus has taken an extraordinary victory for us, and one that we dearly wanted. Argentina is very important to us personally and commercially. I feel so sorry for Richard, who lost second place due to our mistake with his turbo. But he has done another extraordinary job, as has Harri – who takes his first points of the season. Peugeot are now 13 points ahead in the manufacturers' championship, with Richard and Marcus first and second in the driver's classification. So bravo to everyone!"