WRC » 6 October 2002
Gronholm secures Drivers' title with Rally NZ win.
Peugeot Total Team Director Corrado Provera commented: ''To achieve this double success here is extraordinary. It's a fantastic result for a team and a manufacturer who are really committed to rallying and this championship.''
''Our success is also the fruit of close teamwork with our partner Michelin. Thanks to their valuable efforts, we have been able to count on excellent tyres throughout the season. Nor should I forget the input of Total's engineers in the development of the high performance lubricants that have played another significant role in our results. We've reached the targets here - I'm happy for Harri, Gilles and of course for Marcus. And I'm also a little sad for Richard [Burns], who was doing so well until yesterday. I'm sure that one of these days he will be winning as well.''
At Subaru Tommi Mäkinen has experimented with some suspension and anti-roll bar settings on his Impreza WRC2002 during leg 3, but the car has run reliably. Petter Solberg, however, lost some time this morning when his car lost hydraulic pressure in its centre differential. He was then forced to retire on the penultimate stage when his car's engine failed.
Both of Subaru's drivers, Solberg and Mäkinen, started today's tests in comfortable positions on the leaderboard, so neither was prepared to take risks in the closing stages. Solberg lost some time with a centre differential problem on the opening pair of tests, but the Norwegian recovered this afternoon to consolidate his third place. He looked certain to score his second podium finish in succession, but in the penultimate stage he suffered late heartbreak when his engine failed and he was forced to retire.
Mäkinen, meanwhile, played with set-up on his Impreza as he brought his car back to the Manukau finish in third overall after Solberg's retirement.
Petter Solberg said: ''It's hard to put what Phil [Mills] and I are feeling into words right now. We're so disappointed. The engine just failed, there was absolutely no warning. I just don't know what happened.''
Team-mate Tommi Mäkinen added: ''There was no point to fight today, so we tried some things to see if we can get a better feeling with the car on stages like these. We have to keep pushing and looking for different settings and ways to find more speed because when you look at how this rally has gone, we have not been able to really compete with the Peugeots. They have a big advantage now, and it's going to be hard to close that. Third is a good result for me, of course, but it's not the way that I wanted it - it would have been better to get two cars to the finish and I feel really sorry for Petter.''
The sole Ford Focus RS WRC02 of Carlos Sainz ran without problems. With a 50-second deficit to Tommi Mäkinen overnight and a cushion of more than a minute to Juha Kankkunen, Sainz had no reason to take risks. The Spaniard experimented with differential settings as he consolidated his overnight fifth place. His only real scare came three stages before the end, when he slid backwards in a braking zone approaching a fast corner and hit a tree. Sainz's car struck a television cameraman in the incident without the double world champion even being aware of any contact. The injured party was taken to hospital suffering a suspected broken leg. The bodywork damage on Sainz's car stopped just shy of the car's rear suspension and he continued, finishing fifth.
Sainz said: ''I was in a fast braking area and the back of the car slid round. I managed to lose quite a lot of speed but obviously not enough, and we hit a tree quite hard. There was quite a lot of bodywork damage but the steering was nearly straight, so we were able to get to the finish without losing too much more time.''
Team-mates Colin McRae and co-driver Nicky Grist retired on the opening day after sliding off the road and damaging the radiator while Markko Märtin and co-driver Michael Park went out yesterday after rolling.
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