RACING NEWS

Peugeot takes command in WRC points after NZ 1-2 finish

Peugeot takes command in WRC points after NZ 1-2 finish image

Text: / Photos: | posted April 20, 2003 19:00

Marcus Gronhölm and Richard Burns took a sensational one-two finish in the concluded Rally of New Zealand last April 10 to 13, catapulting Peugeot to the top of the manufacturers' championship. Burns also increased his lead in the driver's championship, while Gronhölm is now just six points behind his teammate.

Gronhölm was elated with his win in New Zealand-the third of his career, "I'm absolutely delighted. I came here with the intention of winning and now I have done it. This has been an extremely satisfying rally for me and for Peugeot," Gronhölm said. The reigning World Champion took the lead on the first special stage and kept it until the end of the rally. He recorded the fastest time in 10 out of the 22 special stages, and finished with a gap of one minute and eight seconds over Burns.

Gronhölm was amazingly consistent throughout the event and the only mistake he made was during the 13th special stage wherein he rolled his car onto its side. The damage sustained by his Peugeot 206 WRC was minimal and the Finn continued without a problem. "That was a bit of a scary moment," said Gronhölm. "It was just a stupid mistake, as I was under no real pressure. I was slightly too fast, and it took about 30 seconds for the spectators to come and push the car back onto its wheels. Luckily there was no real damage, but then I decided to take it easy through the closing stages."

Burns, meanwhile, drove a conservative rally and focused on bringing his car to the finish thereby safeguarding his lead in the driver's world championship. Burns set seven fastest times over the course of the rally despite being first on the road during the opening day. "It's been an extremely good rally for us, and I'm pleased to have extended my lead of the drivers championship and helped Peugeot to the lead of the manufacturers series," said the Englishman.

With Peugeot's 22nd win with the 206 WRC and Gronhölm 's 14th career victory, Peugeot Sport

principal Corrado Provera was extremely pleased with his team's performance. "Our adventure in New Zealand has ended in a fantastic victory. We have scored maximum points in the manufacturers' championship, and moved into the lead of the series. We are also first and second in the drivers' championship. I am tremendously proud of all the hard work that the team has put into our 22nd victory with the 206 WRC, and of course I would like to congratulate the drivers who have done a fantastic job. Marcus took the lead at the start and was never beaten; Richard has also been

amazing despite the problem of running first on the road during the opening day," Provera said.

The fifth round of the World Rally Championship takes place in Argentina, from May 9-11. The Rally of Argentina, based in Villa Carlos Paz, is another classic gravel event and the Peugeot drivers will all be aiming to capitalize on their success here in New Zealand.