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  Home > People > Drivers > A to C > Burns, Richard
Richard Burns
David Richards, who has known both men, has compared Richard Burns to Walter Rohrl. For younger generation this comparison may not mean much but it refers to analytical approach both of these drivers had. Many drivers are hot-heads and impulsive but not Richard. He was described to be very methodical, a true thinking man's rally driver, not a bit as brash as, say, Colin McRae.

One cannot write about Burns and say nothing about his relationship to Colin McRae. Being only three years younger than the Colin, comparison and eventually, competition between the two was inevitable. As Richard's career progressed, the competition got harder and by the end of the century they were not only rivals on stages but also in public. Much of this rivalry was made up by the press, statements being taken out of context and jokes turned into mockery. Even if Colin and Richard were not the best of friends, they certainly weren't as bitter enemies as casual observer was led to believe.

But let's start go back in time. He joined local car club at age of 11 and begun on the path that would lead to championship title two decades later. In 1990 he was supplied a Peugeot 205GTI by David Williams whose protege he had become. Entering the national 205GTI challenge, Richard won series with ease in 1990 and again in 1991, finishing sixth in the British Open Championship as well. For 1992 David provided him a Group N Subaru Legacy with which Richard won Mintex National Championship, even winning one event ahead of Group B MG Metro 6R4!

For 1993 he joined the ranks of Prodrive, again driving Group N Legacy but this time in British Championship which he duly won by 29 points ahead of Malcolm Wilson. That opened up the WRC events for him as he started 1994 Safari Rally as his first WRC event abroad and in which he would four years later score his first WRC win. Despite the Prodrive promise, he started only three WRC rallies with them in 1994 and 1995 each, final of those being Subaru's second 1-2-3 and Burns' first podium. When Mitsubishi offered him larger programme he did not decline.

1997 season was big break for Burns as Mitsubishi entered second car in all events, Richard getting largest share of those outings. In Safari he finished second in first ever British 1-2 result, led rally first time in Australia and could have won RAC Rally if flat tyre had not ruined the result. Especially stunning was his speed on first stage of second leg in RAC, SS12 Radnor. In the fog he was by far fastest, even catched and passed Didier Auriol who had started ahead of him. Puncture robbed him the win but in following year Richard won not only Rally GB but also scored his maiden win in Safari.

That really launched Burns' career and when Ford lured McRae away from Subaru, door was open for him to return as team leader. Until Subaru also signed Juha Kankkunen and refused to acknowledge which was to be the leader. 1999 season was to be a mighty battle for supremacy between young talent and old fox and perhaps the most telling moment of that struggle came in Argentina where Juha snatched last-minute win ahead of Richard. In the following year Subaru introduced radically new Impreza WRC2000 and while Juha struggled with it, Richard grasped the opportunity with both hands. Unfortunately for him, Peugeot's Marcus Gronholm had no only more reliable car but also a slice of luck on his side.

Next year roles changed. Marcus suffered from numerous problems but still he, Colin and Tommi Makinen all scored three wins each while Burns won only once. With other wins going for drivers that did not compete full championship and Richard's hallmark consistency, title was decided only in the final rally of the season. After just four stages both Tommi and Colin were out and title was to be decided between Burns and Sainz, Burns having advantage of seven points and familiar terrain. And so it was that his fortune held and title awaited at the end of the rally.

As soon as title celebrations were over, controversy began. Burns had already signed to drive Peugeot for 2002 despite the loud protests from Subaru that they had valid contract with him. World followed this exchange of words but in the end an agreement was reached, details of which have remained secret. Judging that Peugeot offered him the best chance for the title, Richard had high expectations but was to be disappointed. In 2002 Gronholm was in a class of his own and 2003, despite starting well for Richard, was to be the end.

On the eve of 2003 Rally GB, Richard was driving his Porsche on motorway with Markko Martin when he suddenly collapsed. Martin was able to stop the car but soon it was obvious that Richard would not be able to take part in the rally. Just weeks later he was diagnosed with brain cancer. For two years he was treated, at times feeling well enough to visit Rallyday at Castle Combe in August 2005.

WRC starts:104
first: Great Britain 1990
latest: Catalunya 2003
Resultswins:10 (9.6% of starts)
second places: 16 
third places: 8  
total podiums: 34 (32.7% of starts)
points finishes: 63  
total points scored: 351  (drivers' championship points)
DNF's: 31 (29.8% of starts)
Stage wins: 277 
WRC titles:winner of 2001 FIA World Championship for Drivers
First WRC event: 1990 Great Britain
First DNF: 1992 Great Britain
First scored point: 1993 Great Britain (7th)
First stage win: 1997 Safari (SS4)
First time led rally: 1997 Australia (SS4)
First podium: 1995 Great Britain
First win: 1998 Safari
Career summary
  Team  StartsWinsPodiumsDNF'sPointsRank
 1990  Private1 0 0 0 0  -   
 1991  Private1 0 0 0 0  -   
 1992  Private1 0 0 1 0  -   
 1993  Subaru1 0 0 0 4 43rd 
 1994  Private,
3 0 0 2 8 20th 
 1995  Subaru3 0 1 1 16 9th 
 1996  Mitsubishi4 0 0 2 18 9th 
 1997  Mitsubishi8 0 1 2 21 7th 
 1998  Mitsubishi13 2 2 3 33 6th 
 1999  Subaru14 3 6 3 55 2nd 
 2000  Subaru14 4 6 5 60 2nd 
 2001  Subaru14 1 6 4 44 1st 
 2002  Peugeot14 0 5 6 34 5th 
 2003  Peugeot13 0 7 2 58 4th 
Richard Burns
Richard Burns
Nationality: United Kingdom
Birthday: 17-Jan-1971
Died: 25-Nov-2005

Richard Burns
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Richard Burns celebrating his 100th WRC start at 2003 Rally Finland. Click picture to see larger version in a pop-up window
Richard Burns - Manx 1993
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Richard winning 1993 Manx in Subaru Legacy, one of many wins in a season that made him British Champion. Click picture to see larger version in a pop-up window
Richard Burns - Rally GB 1998
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After bitter defeat in 1997 RAC Rally, Richard came back with vengeance and won next year. Click picture to see larger version in a pop-up window
Richard Burns - Argentina 2001
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In 2001, Burns won only one rally but finished on podium six times, his consistency enough to make him World Champion. One of the podiums was second place in Argentina. Click picture to see larger version in a pop-up window
Richard Burns - Catalunya 2003
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Richard's final rally was Catalunya in 2003 where retired after an accident. Click picture to see larger version in a pop-up window
Richard Burns missed
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It speaks volumes of benign, fraternal spirit of WRC that after Richard's illness was diagnosed, Sainz and Loeb very publicly missed Burns in FIA prestigious awards gala of 2003! Click picture to see larger version in a pop-up window