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Last Updated: Sunday, 13 April, 2003, 06:40 GMT 07:40 UK
Gronholm heads Peugeot double
Peugeot's Marcus Gronholm
Gronholm has led from start to finish in Auckland

Marcus Gronholm eased off the throttle and cruised to victory in the Rally of New Zealand after his earlier scare.

The reigning world champion rolled his Peugeot during Saturday's stages, convincing him to rein in his hard-driving instinct.

The Finn said: "It was a scary moment and a stupid mistake to make as I was under no pressure.

"Luckily there was no serious damage but it could have been the end of the rally for me."

Once Gronholm had recovered his composure, he cruised to to victory ahead of British team-mate Richard Burns.

He finished with an overall time of three hours 45 minutes 21.2 seconds, over a minute ahead of 2001 champion Burns.

Burns still leads the title race and so will start first again on the first day of next month's Argentina Rally - the fifth of 14 events.

Radical

Peugeot's one-two in New Zealand means they now lead arch-rivals Citroen in the manufacturers' championship standings.

Ford, meanwhile, will be boosted by an impressive showing from its radical new Focus, which was completed just in time for the rally.

Although Estonian Markko Martin eventually retired with an engine problem, he had been the closest challenger to Gronholm's supremacy for the first half of the event.

"The performance of the car exceeded all our expectations," said team boss Malcolm Wilson.

"It has given us a fantastic platform to work on and I think we will be looking for great things from the Acropolis Rally in June."

Petter Solberg of Norway finished third behind Gronholm and Burns with Frenchman Sebastien Loeb coming home in fourth.

McRae retired after the sixth stage
Colin McRae is third in the standings
Fifth place went to Finn Toni Gardemeister, driving a Skoda, while Alister McRae brought a privately entered Mitsubishi home in sixth.

The British driver has not competed since bruising a kidney last year and his lack of practice showed clearly for the first half of the rally before he regained his form.

Finn Tommi Makinen finished seventh, Frenchman Didier Auriol eighth, Francois Duval of Belgium ninth with another Finn, Mikko Hirvonen, completing the top 10.

Burns leads the championship with 26 points after four rounds with Gronholm now on 20.

Loeb and Colin McRae, who was sidelined on the opening day with suspension failure, are joint third with 18 points while Spaniard Carlos Sainz is fifth with 16.




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