Englishman Burns, co-driven by Robert Reid, enjoyed a problem-free day in their Michelin-shod Lancer during the leg which comprised just two stages, the first at only 2.2 km, but the second, a more challenging 20.31 km.
Their Team Mitsubishi Ralliart partners, Finn Ari Vatanen and his French co-driver "Tilber", and Japanese ace Kenjiro Shinozuka co-driven by Australian Fred Gocentas in the Lancer Dealer Team car running on Yokohama tyres, also enjoyed the first leg to hold third and fourth places respectively in their Lancer Evolution IIIs.
Team Mitsubishi Ralliart Manager Phil Short commented: "It was a problem-free day and all three drivers are just getting into their strides. The three are all driving well and the cars are running perfectly, so we are looking forward to the rest of the rally."
In Group N, the class for standard production vehicles, Japanese pair Yoshihiro Kataoka and Satoshi Hayahi stormed straight into the lead in their Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution III, a clear nine seconds ahead of their nearest rival Michael Lieu in the Subaru. Like the Group A Mitsubishis, Kataoka reported no problems with his Lancer. A win on this event is vital for Kataoka who is battling with Karamjit Singh from Malaysia for the Asia-Pacific Rally Championship Group N crown.
In complete contrast to last year when heavy rain made conditions hazardous, the 52 contestants in this year's Hong Kong - Beijing Rally started from Stonecutters Island near Kowloon, Hong Kong, in hazy sunshine and hot, humid weather. After a brief blast around the island for the first stage on sealed surfaces, they headed across the border to mainland China for the first proper stage, a 20.31 km challnge on slippery gravel over Nam Kwan Mountain, featuring smooth, wide, fast roads with fear-inducing drops into the valley below.
The leading cars finally arrived at the first overnight halt in Conghua at around 5:30 pm this evening, and after repairs are completed will enjoy a short night's rest before the start of the arduous second leg tomorrow, October 20 at 10:00 am, from where they will face a further 282 km with four stages covering a distance of 74 km.
|1. P. LIATTI/F. PONS||I/I||SUBARU IMPREZA 555||14.56||2. R. BURNS/R. REID||GB/GB||MITSUBISHI LANCER EVOLUTION III||14.59|
|3. A. VATANEN/"TILBER"||FIN/F||MITSUBISHI LANCER EVOLUTION III||15.15|
|4. K. SHINOZUKA/F. GOCENTAS||J/AUS||MITSUBISHI LANCER EVOLUTION III||15.59|
|5. Y. FUJIMOTO/A. HERTZ||J/S||TOYOTA CELICA GT FOUR||16.07|
|6. Y. KATAOKA/S. HAYASHI||J/J||MITSUBISHI LANCER EVOLUTION III||16.08 (1st N）|
|7. K. ERIKSSON/S. PARMANDER||S/S||SUBARU IMPREZA 555||16.11|
|8. M. LIEU/Y. NAKAHARA||HK/J||SUBARU IMPREZA 555||16.17|
|9. J. SINGH/A. OH||PROTON WIRA
|10.N. TAJIMA/S. VISUT||J/J||SUZUKI BALENO||17.09|