Reigning World Rally Champion Richard Burns has scored his first victory for the Peugeot team on the sixth round of this year's series, the Rally Argentina.

The Englishman and co-driver Robert Reid finished second on stage times to team-mates Marcus Gr?nholm and Timo Rautiainen, but the Finnish pairing were excluded after the final test because Peugeot personnel present at this morning's parc ferme were adjudged to have offered advice when their car refused to restart.

The result leaves the drivers' points standings delicately balanced, since it has moved Burns to within two points of his team-mate at the top of the table.

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The final leg of the event provided drama to accompany Gr?nholm's controversy. Overnight leader Tommi M?kinen lost his advantage to the Peugeot driver this morning and rolled his Subaru while trying to regain the lead. And there was an equally close battle between Ford's Carlos Sainz and Subaru's Petter Solberg for fourth. The young Norwegian lost out after he overshot a corner on the opening stage - although Gr?nholm's exclusion eventually meant that he and Sainz were placed third and second respectively.

Marcus Gr?nholm's Peugeot 206 WRC hit problems in parc ferme this morning. The car was reluctant to start and even when Gr?nholm succeeding in firing up the engine, it cut out several times. He had to stop seven times on the road section to first service to try different possible cures - the fault was later traced to an ECU. Richard Burns, meanwhile, was dissatisfied with his car's handling during this morning's opening three stages but his car was reliable otherwise.

Gr?nholm struggled to start his car in this morning's parc ferme and he had to struggle to first service without incurring time penalties. The Finn then charged in the stages to pass overnight leader Tommi M?kinen and build a lead. His position became more comfortable when M?kinen rolled out near the end of the penultimate stage.

However, event stewards met this afternoon and decided that Peugeot mechanics had broken servicing regulations by providing instructions on how to start the car on a road section. They excluded Gr?nholm and although Peugeot team boss Corrado Provera expressed dissatisfaction at the decision, the team elected not to appeal. Gronholm thus joined fellow Peugeot team-mates - Harri Rovanpera and Gilles Panizzi, on the list of non-finishers.

The decision though promoted the sole remaining Peugeot of Burns, who consolidated third and picked up second when M?kinen crashed out, to the top step of the podium. Burns's win - his first for the Peugeot team - closed his deficit to Gr?nholm in the drivers' series to just two points.

Richard Burns said: ''More than anyone else on the podium I probably feel that I shouldn't be quite as high on the steps. The person who was fastest on the stages on this rally was Marcus Gr?nholm and although I'm happy with the ten points, on a personal level the satisfaction is nowhere near what it would be if I'd won it on the stages. I think Peugeot has shown that it's stronger than it was last year, but in a way that's disguised the fact that Ford and Subaru have been very strong and challenging both here and in Cyprus last month.''

Team Principal Corrado Provera added: ''We believe that the rule of mechanics staying away one kilometre from the car is designed to avoid wild servicing, with people hiding in the woods and them coming out to work on the cars. By acting as we acted, we did not feel that we were breaking these regulations and we don't feel guilty, but we respect the Stewards' decision.''

The Ford Focus RS WRC02s of Carlos Sainz, Colin McRae and Markko Martin have been reliable today. As expected, Carlos Sainz attacked on this morning's opening stage and the double world champion quickly moved clear of Petter Solberg when the Norwegian overshot a corner and broke a wheel. Thereafter, Sainz consolidated his fourth position, and he inherited the final podium place when Tommi M?kinen crashed out on the penultimate stage.

His team-mates Colin McRae and Markko Martin had little to gain today, since they started this morning's stages in a lonely sixth and seventh respectively. They concentrated on maintaining those positions to the finish, although they too benefited from M?kinen's retirement to eventually bag fifth and sixth. Gr?nholm's exclusion promoted the Ford trio to second (Sainz), fourth (McRae) and fifth (Martin).

Carlos Sainz said: ''It was a good fight this morning and I pushed hard. It seemed to work well, and when Petter made the mistake it gave me the advantage. This has been a hard event for us but in the end, we've got a good result for the team with some points in the manufacturers' championship. Second place is quite good, because the whole team had expected to be more competitive here.''

Colin McRae added: ''It's been a bad three days, really. Okay, we've ended up with some points but we didn't have that bit of extra speed that we showed in Cyprus, so we couldn't really compete with the Peugeots or the Subarus. The championship situation's not looking too hot now, so we'll just have to hope things take a turn for the better in Greece.''

The Subaru Impreza WRC2002s of Petter Solberg and Tommi M?kinen performed reliably on the final leg, although M?kinen extensively damaged his car when he rolled out off the event near the end of SS21.

M?kinen started today's final leg with a lead of just half a second over Marcus Gr?nholm, and the Peugeot driver inched ahead in the opening stages. M?kinen was trying to retaliate in the day's third test when he misjudged a double-crest and rolled his car off the road. He and navigator Kaj Lindstrom were badly shaken in the incident, and Lindstrom was taken to a nearby hospital suffering from suspected concussion.

Petter Solberg started today's first test hoping to defend his overnight fourth place from Carlos Sainz, but the young Norwegian overshot in the El Condor fog and although he fought back in the last test, two more slight overshoots meant that he finished behind the Spaniard in fourth. That became third, however, when Gr?nholm was excluded.

Tommi M?kinen said: ''It's one of the biggest accidents of my career. We were in sixth gear on a very long straight when we went off. I tried so hard to win this rally and it's a sour way to lose it like that.''

Team-mate Petter Solberg continued: ''I really attacked this morning but about two kilometres into the first stage, it was really foggy and I just missed a corner. I could have tried to get round the corner but I think that might have caused even more damage, so I slid straight on and we broke a wheel. Then this afternoon I was well up at the split time on Carlos and then we had two more small overshoots. I'm sure I could have got back the position from him!''

Two of the three Skoda Octavia WRCs hit transmission problems today. Gabriel Pozzo complained of excessive oversteer on his car after a suspected rear differential glitch, while Toni Gardemeister suffered from a leaking front differential in this morning's group of three stages. Kenneth Eriksson's car, however, performed reliably.

Gardemeister continued to push hard this morning and the young Finn duly finished seventh after M?kinen's accident. Gr?nholm's exclusion then promoted him to sixth, earning Gardemeister a point for himself and two makes' points for his Skoda team.

Kenneth Eriksson maintained his pace to eventually claim seventh and a manufacturers' point, while Gabriel Pozzo was hit by differential problems this morning but still finished 10th.

Toni Gardemeister said: ''I'm really glad that we've got Skoda's first points of the season because we've tried hard on all the events so far and we certainly took some risks on this rally as well. Today was actually quite difficult - we pushed hard in the morning again, despite the feeling with the front differential, and then this afternoon we knew that if we got to the finish we'd score a point. It's never easy to drive just to finish and I actually had a few moments - including one at the finish of the last stage - before we could relax.''

Gabriel Pozzo added: ''I'm pleased to have got the full three days' experience of the works Octavia and hopefully given my home fans here a good show as well. The aim was to reach the finish and we've achieved that, so we have to be satisfied.''

Juha Kankkunen's Hyundai Accent WRC3 has been reliable today. Kankkunen benefited from Tommi M?kinen's retirement and Gr?nholm's exclusion to move from his overnight tenth place to finish eighth.

Juha Kankkunen said: ''It's been quite a good day and not a bad event for us, but all the time today I've known that if we hadn't gone off and lost so much time on Friday, we could have been fighting for a points finish, and that's annoying. The car has been quite strong here, though, so hopefully we can take that into the Acropolis Rally next month and get a better result there.''

The other two Hyundai's went out yesterday and Friday - Armin Schwarz the first to go with fuel pressure problems on day one and Freddy Loix going out in leg two with throttle problems.

The remaining Lancer Evo WRC of Alister McRae completed today's four stages without problems. McRae gained time on rival Juha Kankkunen on this morning's first stage but in the second, he spun in a narrow section and had to reverse back and forth before he could continue. The resulting time loss ended any faint hopes the Scot still had of overhauling the veteran Finn and he settled for ninth.

Alister McRae said: ''The spin was my fault and it cost us quite a bit of time. The biggest problem I have at the minute is that we really need a completely clean rally before we can tell exactly where we are in terms of performance. Here, I don't think we'd have been on the pace of the top guys but we lost at least four minutes with a few problems and if we hadn't had that, we'd have been fighting for a point or two.''

Alister's team-mate, Francois Delecour retired on SS7 - day one - with suspension problems, the first works retirement of the rally.

Of the other entries Peruvian Ramon Ferreyros triumphed in the Group N category for more standard machinery and thereby claimed maximum points in the FIA World Championship for Drivers of Production Cars. Ferreyros's Mitsubishi finished just over half a minute clear of Toshihiro Arai's Subaru Impreza, with the Proton of Karamjit Singh in third.

Rally statistics - Leg three:

Starters: 34 crews (15 Group A and 19 Group N) restarted the rally.

Retirements: M?kinen (FIN), Gr?nholm (FIN) and two other drivers.

Today - Sunday 19 May: Leg 3 started from Villa Carlos Paz at 06h00 and covered 497.66km, including 73.87km on four special stages.

Stage by stage summary - Leg three:

SS19 El Condor (16.77kms):
1. Gr?nholm (FIN) Peugeot 13m 52.6
2. M?kinen (FIN) Subaru 13m 54.5
3. Sainz (E) Ford 14m 01.0

Leaders after SS19:
1. Gr?nholm (FIN) Peugeot 3h 28m 54.5
2. M?kinen (FIN) Subaru 3h 28m 56.0
3. Burns (GB) Peugeot 3h 29m 42.0

SS20 Giulio Cesare (22.82kms):
1. Gr?nholm (FIN) Peugeot 18m 35.0
2. M?kinen (FIN) Subaru 18m 39.1
3. Sainz (E) Ford 18m 51.8

Leaders after SS20:
1. Gr?nholm (FIN) Peugeot 3h 47m 29.6
2. M?kinen (FIN) Subaru 3h 47m 35.1
3. Burns (GB) Peugeot 3h 48m 44.9

SS21 Cura Brochero (13.63kms):
1. Gr?nholm (FIN) Peugeot 6m 43.1
2. Sainz (E) Ford 6m 46.3
2. Solberg (S) Subaru 6m 46.3
4. Kankkunen (FIN) Hyundai 6m 51.4

Leaders after SS21:
1. Gr?nholm (FIN) Peugeot 3h 54m 12.7
2. Burns (GB) Peugeot 3h 55m 36.4
3. Sainz (E) Ford 3h 56m 32.5

SS22 El Mirador (20.65kms):
1. Burns (GB) Peugeot 11m 30.8
2. Solberg (N) Subaru 11m 31.0
3. Sainz (E) Ford 11m 36.6

Leaderboard in Cordoba after SS22:
1. Burns (GB) Peugeot 4h 07m 06.8
2. Sainz (E) Ford +1m 02.3
3. Solberg (N) Subaru +1m 06.3
4. C. McRae (GB) Ford +3m 21.4
5. Martin (EE) Ford +3m 54.7
6. Gardemeister (FIN) Skoda +6m 21.1
7. Eriksson (S) Skoda +7m 18.9
8. Kankkunen (FIN) Hyundai +9m 05.6
9. A. McRae (GB) Mitsubishi +9m 51.9
10. Pozzo (RA) Skoda +15m 01.2

Group N Leaders in Cordoba after SS22:
1. Ferreyros (PE) Mitsubishi 4h 32m 27.6
2. Arai (J) Subaru +30.1
3. Singh (MAL) Proton +1m 15.1
4. Villagra (RA) Mitsubishi +5m 11.4
5. Trelles (ROU)Mitsubishi +6m 13.1
6. Ligato (RA) Mitsubishi +7m 06.8
7. Beltran (RA) Subaru +7m 43.9
8. Raies (RA) Mitsubishi +10m 51.1
9. Altamirano (RA) Subaru +24m 12.6
10. Marrini (I) Mitsubishi +32m 07.9

Final Rally statistics:
Event: The rally covered 1460.69km, including 381.45km on 22 special stages (including nine run twice). All stages were on gravel roads closed to other traffic.

Starters: 68 cars (26 Group A and 42 Group N) started the rally.

Finishers: 30 cars (12 Group A and 18 Group N) finished the rally.

Stage winners:
Gr?nholm (SS2-3-4-7-8-18-19-20-21)
M?kinen (SS5-11-12-15-17)
Burns (SS6-10-13-18)
Loix (SS9)
C. McRae (SS14)
Sainz (SS16)
SS1 was cancelled due to spectator congestion

Rally leaders:
Gr?nholm (SS2-SS16)
M?kinen (SS17-18)
Gr?nholm (SS19-22)
SS1 was cancelled due to spectator congestion

FIA World Rally Championships:

FIA World Rally Championship for Drivers (after 6 of 14 rounds): Gr?nholm (FIN) 31, Burns (GB) 29, Panizzi (F) 20, Sainz (E) 15, M?kinen (FIN) 14, Solberg (N) 11, Rovanper? (FIN) 9, C. McRae (GB) 9, Bugalski (F) 7, Loeb (F) 6, Martin (EE) 2, A. McRae (GB) 2, Gardemeister (FIN) 1.

FIA World Rally Championship for Manufacturers (after 6 of 14 rounds): Peugeot 78, Ford 36, Subaru 31, Mitsubishi 6, Skoda 3, Hyundai 2.

FIA Junior World Rally Championship (after 2 of 6 rounds, this event not counting): Duval (B) 11, Sola (E) 10, Caldani (I) 6, Dallavilla (I) 6, Feghali (RL) 4, Basso (I) 4, Carlsson (S) 3, Galli (I) 3, Doppelreiter (A) 2, Tuohino (FIN) 2, Schelle (D) 1.

FIA Production Car World Championship (after 4 of 8 rounds): Ferreyros (PE) 20, Singh (MAL) 14, Arai (12), Trelles (ROU) 12, Sohlberg (FIN) 10, Iliev (BG) 9, Rowe (GB) 5, Baldini (I) 4, Ipatti (FIN) 4, Girdauskas (LT) 4, Fiorio (I) 3, Harrach (A) 2, Marrini (I) 2, Ligato (RA) 2, Kollevold (N) 1.

Next event: June 13-16 2002: Acropolis Rally, Itea, Greece.