Richard Burns scored his first victory of the 2001 season on the tenth round of the series, the Rally New Zealand. The Subaru driver and navigator Robert Reid sprayed the champagne at the finish on the outskirts of Auckland after a tense final leg, held on sweeping fast stages to the south of the city.

Victory for Burns has also put the Subaru driver back in the 2001 Drivers' title chase, which now sees Tommi Makinen - who failed to score this weekend level, with second placed finisher Colin McRae at the top of the points standings.

Meanwhile a further podium finish for Harri Rovanpera keeps the Peugeot driver in the pack of five drivers grouped within a mere thirteen points with just four rounds of the 2001 season remaining, while Ford goes clear at the top of the Manufacturers' table.

After an opening day marked by tactical driving followed by a second leg in which starting order through the stages played a significant role in the final outcome, Great Britain's Richard Burns succeeded in warding off pressure from Colin McRae on the final day to collect his first win of the season.

Profiting from a favourable start position over the gravel-strewn stages of Leg 2, the Subaru star clocked up an impressive run of top times that took him into Sunday's final sprint with a healthy-looking 42s advantage over his Scottish rival.

Two stages from home, however, that deficit had been cut to less than fifteen seconds, but McRae then lost any chance of pipping Burns at the post when he span and momentarily stalled his engine on the penultimate test.

The time lost in the incident was enough to leave Burns with sufficient breathing space to cruise through the final stage and exact sweet revenge for the two occasions this year when the pair have finished the other way round (Argentina, Cyprus)!

Meanwhile, there was an even more dramatic climax in the battle for third place when Carlos Sainz, Marcus Gronholm and Harri Rovanpera found themselves split by less than 5 seconds with just the final 10.6km test to go.

Like his Ford teammate on the previous stage, Sainz lost time with a spin and allowed the Peugeot boys to slip past into third and fourth positions. Then, just as everyone was beginning to digest this unexpected turn, news filtered through that Gronholm had in fact jumped the start, incurring a 10s penalty that dropped him off the podium down to 5th, allowing Sainz to retrieve 4th place at the flag!

Understandably relieved to have secured a handful of points in New Zealand, the Peugeot squad will surely be asking themselves what might have been if, at the height of the event's tactical phase, they had not got their sums wrong.

A calculation error led them to signal Gronholm to go too quickly on the decisive SS6, which would dictate the start order for Leg 2, so preferring not to run first on the road many drivers backed off to allow a lower starting position.

The mistake would leave Gronholm second on the road on Day 2, while a similar mistake saw them instruct teammate Didier Auriol (6th) to slow excessively, the Frenchman dropping around half a minute unnecessarily.

Not only did those strategic blunders cost the team dearly in terms of the final result in New Zealand, it could also end up jeopardizing their championship chances.

Severely slowed by having to act as road sweeper through on Day 1, Tommi M?kinen (8th) never really recovered from the handicap. To cap the Finn's unhappy weekend, the Constructors' point he for a long time looked like salvaging for Mitsubish was snatched from his grasp - on the final stage - by Subaru's Petter Solberg (7th).

Finally, the top-ten was completed by Hyundai Alister McRae (9th) and Kenneth Eriksson (10th), the Swede the surprise leader at the end of Day 1.

Amazingly, there were no retirements amongst the leading WRC drivers and indeed very few mechanical problems were reported over the three-day event.

Outside of the factory teams' local Subaru Impreza WRC driver Possum Bourne finished 13th, while in Group N Austrian Manfred Stohl claimed a comfortable victory ahead of Argentine driver Gabriel Pozzo.

With Gustavo Trelles and Marcos Ligato non-scoring, Pozzo now holds a sizeable advantage in the FIA World Cup for Drivers of Production Cars and he could clinch the title in Sanremo next month.