Tue, 16 Aug 1994

Bourne gives Subaru win at Malaysia rally

KUALA LUMPUR (Agencies): New Zealand's Possum Bourne took the Petronas Rally of Malaysia as his Subaru World Rally team prevailed in the third leg of the Asia Pacific championship series yesterday.

Riding his Subaru Impreza, Bourne completed the 420-kilometer race with 34 special stages in a total time of four hours, 54 minutes and 12 seconds, with teammate Richard Burns finishing just 16 seconds behind.

The pair, who held the lead throughout the three-day race, were seven minutes ahead of the third place Mitsubishi of Kenneth Eriksson of Sweden, who beat them in the championship first leg in Medan, North Sumatra last June.

Eriksson maintained his overall lead with 42 points in the championship standings, but defending champion Bourne reduced his lead by seven points.

The final morning presented the rallyists with just four stages and 63km of distance to cover. With an overnight, eight- minute gap for the Mitsubishi, the two Subaru drivers had only to keep out of trouble as Eriksson was held back but waiting for any mistakes.

"This situation is more nerve wracking for drivers when they are racing at the limit," said the triumphant Bourne. The New Zealander was also fastest on 14 stages.

"There is no such thing as an easy rally and even when Eriksson was not pushing me I still had to contend with the difficult surfaces on the stages," said Bourne.

The grueling gravel roads of palm oil plantations had forced Eriksson's teammate Ross Dunkerton to retire on the last stage of the second day on Sunday. The Malaysian rally routes covered a total of 1,300 kilometers.

The final day also saw British champion Burns pass without incident. He earned his first points of the season.

"After two non-finishes, I feel this result has taken away a little bit of the pressure that I was feeling," said Burns at the rally finish at Merdeka Square in the center of Kuala Lumpur.

The 23-year-old Burns drove his Subaru Impreza off the track in the first two rounds in Medan and New Zealand.

"Many European drivers cannot imagine what it is like to drive on Asian type of surface in plantations, especially when they are damp," said Burns.

He added that yesterday's success gave him confidence booster in the fourth leg in Australia.

The Australian rally will take place in Perth on Sept. 17-20. The Subaru will have three cars with Bourne, Burns and the recent New Zealand rally champion Colin McRae behind the wheel.