Andreas Mikkelsen’s last-gasp victory at PZM 73rd Rally Poland this month meant the WRC celebrated its sixth different winner in as many rounds.
Mikkelsen’ second career win followed triumphs for Sébastien Ogier (Sweden), Jari-Matti Latvala (Mexico), Hayden Paddon (Argentina), Kris Meeke (Portugal) and Thierry Neuville (Italy). The last time WRC saw a similar run was 2001 and we turned back the clock to recall those sensational six.
Colin McRae (above) completed a hat-trick at the Greek classic in a Ford Focus RS after winning in Argentina and Cyprus. He shrugged off the disadvantage of starting first for two days on slippery gravel, while Richard Burns slowed at the end of each leg to ensure cleaner roads and better grip for the following day. Burns’ tactics failed and McRae led from the end of the opening leg to win by 49sec from Petter Solberg.
Tommi Mäkinen claimed the 23rd win of his career to equal the record shared by McRae, Carlos Sainz and Juha Kankkunen. The Kenyan roads proved as tough as ever, with six factory cars sidelined in the opening day. Armin Schwarz led initially for Skoda before Mäkinen moved ahead. He overcame turbo failure in his Mitsubishi Lancer in the final leg to win by 12min 37sec from fellow Finn Harri Rovanpera and take the championship lead.
Marcus Grönholm scored his second successive win at his home rally in a Peugeot 206. Despite struggling for confidence due to handling issues, he led for most of the opening leg until a puncture allowed Burns to move ahead. Grönholm regained top spot early in the second day and won by 25.0sec from the Briton, who overhauled Rovanpera in the final stage.
Rally New Zealand
Burns scored the only victory of his championship-winning season in New Zealand with a tactically-astute drive. Road cleaning was a major issue and the Subaru Impreza driver bided his time on the first day to guarantee a lower start position in the following leg. He jumped from outside the top six to the lead after the second day’s opening 59km speed test and was never again headed. His winning margin over McRae was 44.6sec.
On only his second outing of the year, Gilles Panizzi won the Italian asphalt event by 11.4sec from Sébastien Loeb, making his World Rally Car debut with Citroën. Panizzi traded the lead with Jesus Puras until the Spaniard crashed early in the second leg. Panizzi was uncatchable afterwards, despite an impressive Loeb slashing the deficit in a rain-soaked finale.
Rally de France
Puras claimed his only WRC victory with the first of 32 wins for Citroën’s Xsara World Rally Car. He led the Corsican encounter for all but the first of 16 special stages, renewing his duel with Panizzi. Rain in the mountains affected all but this duo, and Puras triumphed by 17.5sec after what was then the shortest route in WRC history.