Richard Burns has not won a rally this year, but leads the driver's championship with five events to go. Can the Briton withstand the onslaught of Markko Martin's Ford Focus WRC RS 03?

Richard Burns has not won a rally this year, but leads the driver's championship with five events to go. Can the Briton withstand the onslaught of Markko Martin's Ford Focus WRC RS 03?


The Peugeot driver, who has been linked to a move to Subaru next year, believes that Martin has emerged as his biggest challenger for this year's World Rally Championship.


Martin's second win from four events on last weekend's Rally Finland has moved the Ford driver to within 13 points of the Briton, behind Citroën's Carlos Sainz, defending champion Marcus Gronholm, Subaru's Petter Solberg and Sébastien Loeb. Burns says that Martin's current run of form along with the stunning performance of Ford's still-new Focus RS WRC03 - makes the Estonian his most dangerous rival, rather than Gronholm.


"As soon as Markko got his hands on the new Focus in New Zealand, we saw that he was able to challenge Marcus on a fast gravel rally, and now he's come here and won," said Burns. "We have two fast gravel and three asphalt rallies left in the schedule and on the asphalt in San Remo last year, Markko was quicker than his team-mates Sainz and McRae. I think he has to be the strongest threat - stronger even than Marcus."


Burns, who finished third in Finland after a final day scrap with Solberg, this week said that his position atop the points standings proves he has adopted the correct approach.


He said: "I always seem to be caught in a situation on events where I have to decide between pushing like hell and thinking about points, but when the standings look like they do, the approach we've chosen has clearly worked."