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 Grönholm 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.
The final leg of the event provided drama to accompany Grönholm's controversy. Overnight leader Tommi Mäkinen 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 Grönholm's exclusion eventually meant that he and Sainz were placed third and second respectively.
Marcus Grönholm's Peugeot 206 WRC hit problems in parc ferme this morning. The car was reluctant to start and even when Grönholm 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.
Grönholm 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 Mäkinen and build a lead. His position became more comfortable when Mäkinen 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 Grönholm 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 Mäkinen crashed out, to the top step of the podium. Burns's win - his first for the Peugeot team - closed his deficit to Grönholm 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 Grönholm 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.''