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Gronholm takes two in Oz

High flyer: Hyundai's Alister McRae took won the award for the best jump on the Bunnings stage, with his brother Colin a close second.

Colin McRae grabs the outright lead in the drivers' title, but Ford loses top manufacturers' spot

Peugeot logo5 Nov 2001

PEUGEOT'S reigning world champion Marcus Gronholm has taken victory on the ball-bearing gravel roads around Perth to claim his second successive Telstra Rally Australia crown.

However, this year the Finn did it all on his own - he won the 2000 event by default when provisional winner Tommi Makinen was disqualified - taking the lead on stage two and only relinquishing it briefly on stage six, before finishing the rally 40 seconds in front of Subaru's Richard Burns.

Peugeot's drivers also filled third and fourth places, with Didier Auriol grabbing four manufacturers' points for the team in third just ahead of teammate Harri Rovanpera.

Colin McRae finished fifth after a controversial decision by the stewards effectively ended his hopes of victory. The Scot had been running with the leaders during the first day of competition, but was barred from selecting his start position on day two when he was deemed to have arrived late for the selection process.

As a result he was forced to start first on the road and was hampered by the loose gravel that is usually swept clear by earlier cars for the benefit of those behind. But fifth was enough to give him the outright lead in the drivers' championship.

Mitsubishi's Tommi Makinen came home sixth to pick up the final drivers' championship point on offer, after battling lower back pain for most of the rally as a result of his accident in Corsica. He is now second in the standings behind McRae.

Gronholm's win continues his end-of-season performance revival, extending his record to two wins and three points scoring finishes in the last five rounds, after he failed to score any points for five consecutive rounds during the middle of the year.

But the victory was more significant for his Peugeot team as it lifted the French marque to the top of the manufacturers' standings for the first time this season, with just one round remaining.

Peugeot scored 14 manufacturers' points courtesy of Gronholm's win and a third place finish from Auriol, while Ford managed just four points from McRae's fifth placing.

At the halfway mark of the season, Peugeot's defence of its manufacturers' crown was looking highly unlikely as the French marque languished in fourth position, 40 points behind Ford.

But since then it has had four double-figure points hauls as well as scoring in the other two rounds, to climb rapidly up the leaderboard.

If Peugeot's nominated drivers finish second and third in the final round, then even a victory to Ford will not be enough to prevent the French marque from taking back-to-back manufacturers' championships and its fourth crown.

The drivers' championship race is now a three-way battle between McRae, Makinen and Burns, with just three points separating the main contenders.

Carlos Sainz remains a mathematical chance, although after failing to score any points in Australia, the Spaniard would have to win the event with the other three finishing out of the points to claim his third title.

The all-time record for the most number of rally wins is also still up for grabs, so there is now a possibility that title may go to the new world champion.

* Australia's Ed Ordynski won the Group N category at Rally Australia for a phenomenal eighth time and he was also the highest placed Australian, finishing 17th outright.

He faced intense competition from young Argentinian Gabriel Pozzo, who recently won the world Group N title in Corsica, while another star of the future, Francois Duval from Belgium, secured third place in Group N on his debut in Australia.

Possum Bourne retired from the event at the end of the first day after experiencing engine problems that had plagued the team during testing and in the lead-up to the rally.

Neal Bates exited the event on the first stage of day two, when he and co-driver Coral Taylor rolled their Corolla world rally car in its last outing.

RACE RESULTS
1 Marcus Gronholm (Peugeot 206) 3hr17min1.3sec
2 R Burns (Subaru Impreza) +40.4
3 D Auriol (Peugeot 206) +1:20.1
4 H Rovanpera (Peugeot 206) +1:30.9
5 C McRae (Ford Focus) +1:40.0
6 T Makinen (Mitsubishi Lancer) +3:02.7
7 Petter Solberg (Subaru Impreza) +3:41.2
8 Carlos Sainz (Ford Focus) +4:59.2
9 Gilles Panizzi (Peugeot 206) +5:09.0
10 Alister McRae (Hyundai Accent) +7:31.7 DRIVERS' CHAMPIONSHIP
1 C McRae (GB) 42 points
2 Makinen (FIN) 41
3 Burns (GB) 40
4 Sainz (ESP) 33
5 Rovanpera (FIN) 30
6 Gronholm (FIN) 26
7 Auriol (FRA) 23
8 Panizzi (FRA) 22
9 Delecour (FRA) 15
10 Solberg (NOR) 11 MANUFACTURERS' CHAMPIONSHIP
1 Peugeot 90
2 Ford 86
3 Mitsubishi 69
4 Subaru 62
5 Skoda 15
6 Hyundai 13 Next round (final): Rally of Great Britain, November 23-25

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