Panizzi pounces as Burns slips up

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The Independent Online

Richard Burns crashed out of the San Remo Rally early but lost ground to only Carlos Sainz in the race for the World Championship, as Gilles Panizzi held on to win the Italian round for the second successive year yesterday.

Burns' Subaru slid off the road and became stuck off the edge of the road after just four kilometres of the first stage, but was relieved to find his title rivals failed to take a bigger advantage of his early exit.

The joint championship leaders Colin McRae and Tommi Makinen were never in the reckoning, with only a late charge from the Scot promoting him to eighth place. Sainz's fourth place was enough to lift him two points above Burns and into third in the standings.

McRae picked up three manufacturers' points for Ford but was disappointed at missing an opportunity to take the outright lead of the series with Makinen struggling. "I've done the maximum I could have done with this car in finishing where I have," he said. "There was no point taking major risks. I didn't want to push too hard because there was fog on the stages and when you are not fighting to win you don't gamble. Any hope of drivers' points went out of the window on Friday when we had problems."

The Peugeot driver Panizzi led by 35.4 seconds at the start of yesterday and fought off the challenge of Sebastien Loeb to take the race by 11.4sec.

Panizzi's team-mates Didier Auriol and Renato Travaglia completed a good rally for Peugeot by taking third and fifth places respectively. Makinen's challenge ended on three wheels, two stages early.

The teams and drivers now head off to Corsica for the next event starting on 18 October. From there, they travel to Australia before the season's finale – the Network Q Rally of Britain – at the end of next month.

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