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  Friday, 15 November, 2002, 13:17 GMT
Error dashes Burns' hopes
Richard Burns in the Peugeot in the Welsh forests
Burns has lost his first battle with Gronholm
Richard Burns has lost almost all hope of beating arch-rival Marcus Gronholm on the Rally of Great Britain after the Englishman damaged his car because of a driving error.

The two Peugeot team-mates were neck-and-neck after the first serious stage of the rally on Friday morning, but Burns lost one minute 38.7 seconds on the second.

Open in new window  :  GB Rally stage guide

Burns slipped off the road and flattened his exhaust pipe, forcing him to complete special stage three with vastly reduced power.

Burns said: "It was my mistake, pure and simple. I braked too late on a fast downhill section and slid backwards into a bank, bogging the car down to its axle.

"Now I have to fight back. I am confident I can still do well."


It is really slippery under braking and the road conditions are inconsistent
Colin McRae

Burns' car was repaired before stage four - but, after that run was cancelled, he lost more time to Gronholm on stages five and six and ended the day's serious running two minutes behind in eighth place.

Burns' mistake under pressure has almost certainly ended what was considered one of the few chances of Gronholm facing any opposition on the rally.

It was reminiscent of an incident on the Rally of New Zealand in October, when Burns made a mistake while trying to defend his lead from Gronholm.

It is a bitter blow to Burns, who had been determined to win his home event after being outclassed by Gronholm all season.

The Finn won his second world championship with two events to go, while Burns has yet to win a single rally in a year he started as world champion.

Burns was not the only British hope to make a potentially disastrous error early on day two.

Colin McRae, the only other driver considered capable of challenging Gronholm in Wales, also made a mistake on Friday morning.

Colin McRae in action during Thursday's Cardiff super special stage
McRae also lost time on the first serious day's running

He put himself out of the reckoning even before Burns, missing a junction on the run through Brechfa forest, the first stage on Friday morning.

The Scot has climbed up to seventh in his Ford, 1:58.7 behind Gronholm.

Unlike Burns, McRae has already written off his chances of victory.

"I went straight on at the junction in sixth gear, which is about 100mph," said McRae, who has crashed out of this event for the last three years.

"The car went into a ditch and it took ages for the spectators to push us out.

"The problem is road conditions are inconsistent. There is no way I can catch Marcus. It is more of a question of staying on the road."

Rising English star Justin Dale, who has been given a chance by Mitsubishi in the absence of Scot Alister McRae, rolled his car on stage two, causing damage that ended his rally.

If Burns does not win in Wales this weekend, it will be the first time in rally history that a reigning world champion has not won an event when he has had a competitive car.

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
Peugeot's Richard Burns
"It's a mistake and all I can do is carry on"
RALLY GB STAGE GUIDE
SEASON SO FAR
TOP TEAMS AND DRIVERS


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Day Two

Day One

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