From Adrian Kirk-Burnnand [ 23/09/2001 ].
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What a finish! As expected Richard Burns suffered on the stages being run for the first time, but the 45.6 second gap proved too large with the combination of two clean stages on the day. However, it was far from that easy. With only two stages to go the gap between Burns and McRae was only 14.7 seconds, but McRae spun and stalled the car and lost 35.1 seconds to Burns. But the top 6 battle was far, far, far from over!
McRae's spin pretty much secured it for Burns with the last stage being a repeat of the one just run.
What the spin also did was bring 2nd, 3rd, 4th and 5th all within 10 seconds with 1 stage to go!
After holding out third all day Carlos Sainz was to suffer a puncture on the second last stage (which he was not largely affected by as the tyre mouse worked), but he spun on the last dropping him to firstly fifth position and then later promoted to fourth after a stewards ruling.
The two Peugeot drivers, Marcus Gronholm and Harri Rovanpera, were fastest through the stage. Fast enough to claim third and fourth respectively as McRae was just able to hold onto second with a time 5.5 seconds of the pace.
However, Marcus Gronholm was then given a 10 second penalty for jumping the start of the final stage - dropping him to fifth!
That wasn't the end though. All day Petter Solberg had been setting leading times and finally on the last stage was only just able to pip Makinen's seventh place worth 1 manufactures championship point!
Simply an awesome finish. Incredible that such a close finish can be had after so many complaints were made about unfair aspects of the event!
Richard Burns after SS18 was confident and rightly so: “We seem to be on schedule at the moment. We’ve lost the time we expected. The grip was very difficult on that long stage, but with three short stages coming up, and the second run through being clean, the lead we got yesterday should be enough. But it will be tight towards the end. I’m very happy with the tyre choice that we made this morning, although it was often difficult to gauge the amount of grip we had in the corners. When the back of the car drifts onto the loose gravel it becomes very tricky."
His final quote was: “I’m delighted to have won here. It’s been very important for me to win this rally - both for myself and for Subaru. I’m really pleased for the team and it’s been a fantastic effort from everyone. There’s been a lot of pressure today, but we managed to get the result thanks to the lead that we achieved yesterday. It’s amazing what a win can do. We’re only nine points behind in the Drivers’ Championship, and anything can happen now.
Final results from New Zealand:
1 R.BURNS / R.REID GB SUBARU IMPREZA 126.96.36.199
2 C.McRAE / N.GRIST GB FORD FOCUS +44.6
3 H.ROVANPERA / R.PIETILAINEN FIN PEUGEOT 206 +50.1
4 C.SAINZ / L.MOYA E FORD FOCUS +52.2
5 M.GRONHOLM / T.RAUTIAINEN FIN PEUGEOT 206 +55.8
6 D.AURIOL / D.GIRAUDET F PEUGEOT 206 +1.11.3
7 P.SOLBERG / P.MILLS N/GB SUBARU IMPREZA +2.15.8
8 T.MAKINEN / R.MANNISENMAKI FIN MITSUBISHI LANCER +2.21.0
9 A.McRAE / D.SENIOR GB HYUNDAI ACCENT +3.33.8
10 K.ERIKSSON / S.PARMANDER S HYUNDAI ACCENT +4.21.9
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