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Burns lights up title

New champion: Richard Burns cuts his way through the mist and mud towards his first world rally title.

British braveheart Burns takes maiden world rally crown, while Peugeot claims makes title again

26 Nov 2001

SUBARU'S Richard Burns has made history as the first Englishman to win the World Rally Championship for drivers since the title was established in 1979.

After finishing runner-up for the last two years, Burns yesterday secured his first title with a third place finish in his home event, the Network Q Rally of Great Britain.

After the early retirements of fellow championship contenders Tommi Makinen, Colin McRae and Carlos Sainz, Burns only had to finish fourth or better to claim his first world crown, able to ease off in the deteriorating conditions on the final day's stages.

"I feel absolutely fantastic! It's very special as a British driver to have stopped the Finns from winning the world championship again," Burns said.

"It's been a difficult season and when things went wrong on the Safari I genuinely thought that the title hopes had gone. In fact, I didn't think about the championship again until after Australia.

"But myself, Tommi and Colin came here with the same basic chance of winning the championship and what happened to me here last year happened to them instead. To be fair, this is the first time that we've come to the Rally GB with a really good chance of winning the title and we've done it." Outgoing champion Marcus Gronholm claimed the rally victory ahead of teammate Harri Rovanpera for a Peugeot one-two finish.

Rovanpera passed Burns for second place on the final day, as the Englishman took a cautious approach in the treacherous conditions caused by heavy rain.

The Hyundai World Rally Team's two crews produced outstanding performances in the final round of the season, with Alister McRae taking fourth place and Kenneth Eriksson sixth in their swansong event for the Korean marque.

The dual points finish gave Hyundai its best result to date, recording four drivers' and manufacturers' points in the one outing.

Skoda Motorsport also finished the year on a high with both of its drivers claiming top ten positions, as well as some of their best stage times of the championship.

Armin Schwarz finished fifth, earning two valuable manufacturers' points, while teammate Bruno Thiry came home in eighth.

Didier Auriol finished seventh in his final outing for Peugeot after complaining that the air suspension in his 206 was too stiff during the final day's stages.

Of the title hopefuls, Makinen was first onto the sidelines when he lost the left front wheel on Stage Two after hitting a hole and breaking a bolt in the suspension.

McRae joined the Finn on Stage Three when he crashed his Ford Focus at the end of a fast fifth and sixth gear section, rolling end over end four times. McRae and co-driver Nicky Grist were both uninjured despite the impact of the 150km/h crash.

Sainz and the remainder of the Ford team withdrew from the event after his car left the road in the muddy conditions on Stage 11 and struck a group of spectators. The stage was cancelled to allow the medical team to reach the injured spectators, 13 of whom were later admitted to hospital.

Ford's withdrawal from the rally effectively handed the manufacturers' crown to Peugeot, as only four points had separated the marques heading into the final event.

Consecutive manufacturers' crowns had looked extremely unlikely for Peugeot until the final rounds of the season, after it had failed to score any points in five of the first seven events.

Subaru's third place from Burns was not enough to catch a scoreless Mitsubishi, with the team finishing three points adrift in fourth.

Hyundai's record points haul put it on a par with Skoda in the final wrap-up, with the two teams sharing fifth spot on 17 points.

1 Marcus Gronholm (Peugeot 206) 3hr23min44.8sec
2 H Rovanpera (Peugeot 206) +2:27.1
3 R Burns (Subaru Impreza) +3:15.4
4 A McRae (Hyundai Accent) +6:48.8
5 A Schwarz (Skoda Octavia) +7:31.3
6 K Eriksson (Hyundai Accent) +8:11.0
7 D Auriol (Peugeot 206) +8:21.1
8 B Thiry (Skoda Octavia) +10:55.6
9 Gregoire de Mevius (Peugeot 206) +14:17.7
10 Toshihiro Arai (Subaru Impreza) +15:06.4 DRIVER'S CHAMPIONSHIP (final standings)
1 Richard Burns (GB) 44
2 Colin McRae (GB) 42
3 Tommi Makinen (FIN) 41
=4 Harri Rovanpera (FIN) 36
=4 Marcus Gronholm (FIN) 36
6 Carlos Sainz (SPA) 33
7 Didier Auriol (FRA) 23
8 Gilles Panizzi (FRA) 22
9 Francois Delecour (FRA) 15
10 Petter Solberg (NOR) 11
11 Jesus Puras (SPA) 10
=12 Armin Schwarz (GER) 9
=12 Freddy Loix (BEL) 9
=14 Thomas Radstrom (SWE) 6
=14 Sebastian Loeb (FRA) 6
16 Toni Gardemeister (FIN) 5
17 Alister McRae (GB) 4
=18 Toshihiro Arai (JAP) 3
=18 Markko Martin (EST) 3
20 Renato Travaglia (ITA) 2
=21 Pasi Hagstrom (FIN) 1
=21 Philippe Bugalski (FRA) 1
=21 Gabriel Pozzo (ARG) 1
=21 Kenneth Eriksson (SWE) 1 MANUFACTURER'S CHAMPIONSHIP (final standings)
1 Peugeot 106
2 Ford 86
3 Mitsubishi 69
4 Subaru 66
5 Skoda 17
6 Hyundai 17

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