Rally GB: Burns must win or bust

Richard Burns has one simple task in South Wales this weekend. He has to win Rally GB. If he fails then he will pull down the shutters on the 2000 season with nothing to show for his efforts. Second place is first loser

Rally GB: Burns must win or bust

Even if Burns does win the event, and in doing so rack up a hat trick of home successes for the Cotswolds-based Subaru star, it might not be enough to secure the World Championship. His only rival is Finland's Marcus Gronholm but, thanks to an illegal turbocharger on Tommi Makinen's Mitsubishi in Australia, the points gap has gone up to nine between Gronholm and Burns. If the Finn finishes in the top five then he will add the drivers' title to the manufacturer's crown clinched by Peugeot 10 days ago. If Gronholm is sixth then Burns gets it on a tie break (actually by having more fourth place finishes than his rival).

In reality, Burns' best hope is for Gronholm to suffer an increasingly rare lapse and to not finish the event itself for, barring that miracle, you'd be a brave gambler to bet against Gronholm lifting the title.

"I don't want to think about winning the championship," admitted Burns in an interview with The Times. "If it happens, it happens, and it will be fantastic. I just have to go about the job the best I can and if it comes out right, that is fine.

"I have only made two mistakes all year. You need luck, and Marcus has had some of that on his side."


If Gronholm does take the title it will round off a remarkable season for the lanky Finn. Peugeot signed him up to do a limited programme of events but, after victory in Sweden, he drove himself high into the points. To his team's credit they re-thought the plan and Gronholm became team leader by mid-season.

The title race may be over for Colin McRae but this is his home event and the annual battle to see which out of Burns or McRae is the best Brit kicks off once more. The fans have usually been denied the head to head between these two but maybe this will be the year that the pair goes all the way to the wire. Burns has the incentive of having to win, McRae the desire to get back to the top again. Should McRae win he will join Hannu Mikkola as only the second driver to take four wins on this event.

Indeed, if you ignore the non-championship 1996 event, McRae and Burns have won all of the past five British rallies.

As for the rest, they will most likely be no more than supporting actors in the battle between the big three. However the Rally GB has a habit of throwing in some off the wall results. A year ago we saw Harri Rovanpera's SEAT edge out Bruno Thiry's Skoda for third place...

SEAT bows out of the World Championship at this event, a sad finale to a programme that promised much but delivered little. Skoda is poised to announce its second driver this week and Thiry might finally get the drive he should have had following that remarkable drive a year ago.

Mitsubishi's season has been pretty character-building as well. Makinen may have won the Monte Carlo (and thought he had won in Australia) but in between things haven't been too hot. Phil Short retires as team manager this week and in comes the fiercely competitive George Donaldson. It could be a turning point.

With seven manufacturers competing this year and five drivers in with a shout of the title going into the penultimate round it's been a classic year. British fans are now only interested in a classic finale.

Follow the final round of the World Rally Championship, the Network Q Rally of Britain from Thursday evening with autosport.com's usual in depth coverage and live timing.

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