Rallying: Burns pipped by Kankkunen

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The Independent Online
RICHARD BURNS was "bitterly disappointed" at having victory in the Rally of Argentina snatched from his grasp by his Subaru team-mate, Juha Kankkunen. In one of the closest finishes in rallying history, Kankkunen pipped the Briton by 2.4 seconds.

Kankkunen was 6.3 seconds behind Burns going into the final two stages and 1.2 seconds adrift with the final 13-mile special stage to come but overhauled Burns to claim a stunning victory. "I'm bitterly disappointed to have lost the rally by two seconds, especially as I had to take a 10-second road penalty on the second leg," a dejected Burns said. "I should be happy with a second-place finish but I'm disappointed it wasn't more."

It was Kankkunen's 22nd rally win, a world record he holds jointly with Spain's Carlos Sainz, and his first victory since the Rally of Portugal in 1994. The four-times world champion Kankkunen said: "It's an important result for all of us, especially as the team struggled at the start of the year. I missed Corsica to concentrate on testing and this is the result of all the hard work put in by the team."

Kankkunen was 39.6 seconds ahead of the Toyota driven by the Frenchman Didier Auriol, whose third place was enough to see him join Finland's current world champion, Tommi Makinen, who finished fourth in his Mitsubishi, on top of the overall standings with 32 points. The Acropolis Rally, the eighth round of the series, begins on 6 June and Auriol said: "Everything went fine for us on the final leg. We pushed as hard as we could but we couldn't hold off the Subaru attack. We hit a rock embedded in the road on the first stage and that didn't help, but we only lost a bit of time. I am very happy to be joint leader of the championship as we are now heading to Greece. It is an event I really like so I've got a good chance of overhauling Tommi."

Makinen, who won the last three Rallies of Argentina, made the most of gearbox problems in Sainz's Toyota to take fourth spot, one minute 25.2 seconds behind Kankkunen. "It was not quite the result I wanted," Makinen said. "But it's always good to finish and score championship points. We are still in a good position in the championship."

Sainz, who was fifth, is third in the standings with 23 points together with Britain's Colin McRae, who pulled out of Sunday's first stage with a broken suspension. Thomas Radstrom took sixth in his Ford despite windscreen and engine problems.

RALLY OF ARGENTINA (Cordoba) Final leading positions: 1 J Kankkunen (Fin) Subaru 4hr 17min 15.4sec; 2 R Burns (GB) Subaru +2.4sec; 3 D Auriol (Fr) Toyota +39.6; 4 T Makinen (Fin) Mitsubishi +1min 25.2sec; 5 C Sainz (Sp) Toyota +2:28.1; 6 T Radstrom (Swe) Ford 4:51.9; 7 G Trelles (Uru) Mitsubishi 22:30.8; 8 J Recalde (Arg) Mitsubishi 23:53.6; 9 C Menzi (Arg) Subaru 24:17.6; 10 F Dor (Fr) Subaru 28:02.8. Drivers' standings after seven rounds of the World Championship: 1= T Makinen, D Auriol 32pts; 3= C McRae (GB) Ford, C Sainz 23; 5 P Bugalski (Fr) Citroen 20. Manufacturers' standings: 1 Toyota 67pts; 2 Mitsubishi 41; 3 Subaru 36; 4 Ford 35; 5 SEAT 8.

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