Japanese star Kenjiro Shinozuka and his Australian co-driver Fred Gocentas have also performed extremely well to hold fourth place in the Yokohama-shod Lancer Dealer Team Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution III.
Burns started the day in second place, and launched a concerted attack on overnight rally leader Pierro Liatti (Subaru). Although the Mitsubishi driver was hampered by Liatti's dust, the Italian soon succumbed to the pressure and crashed his Subaru out on the fifth stage leaving Burns' Lancer with a clear road to the second overnight halt in Shaoguan.
Said Burns: "Apart from the dust early on, I've had no problems today. When made a brilliant tyre choice with Michelin that really suited the conditions, and so far everything has been perfect."
Vatanen agreed, adding: "The dust has been a problem for us, but the car is driving perfectly. It's all so different from this rally last year when heavy rain made everything so slippery and muddy. This time it is so sunny and dry!"
Shinozuka commented: "I'm very, very happy with everything. I have no problems to report. It is all very good."
A delighted Kataoka, who is battling for the Group N Asia-Pacific Rally Championship crown with Karamjit Singh's Proton and running on Yokohama tyres, said: "We are having a big battle with Singh, but so far we have been fastest on every stage." The third top runner in the class to contest the lead during the day, Michael Lieu, crashed his Subaru on the fifth stage leaving Kataoka and Singh to fight it out.
Team Mitsubishi Ralliart Team Director Andrew Cowan reported: "The cars only require routine service here tonight. There's a long way to go, but so far it has been perfect for us and the Lancers are just brilliant. The stages were very slippery today with fine gravel over a hard surface, but we chose Michelin's Z90 tyres which, combined with the Lancer's superb transmission, gave perfect traction."
The last running of the Hong Kong - Beijing Rally is already creating great excitement in China. In strong sunshine and 30 degree Celsius temperatures many thousands of spectators lined the route 10-deep for over five kilometres into the overnight halt.
Fifty-one competitors started Leg 2 this morning, and with the retirements of top competitors such as Liatti and Lieu , a slightly reduced field will face the early morning start from Shaoguan tomorrow at 05:00 local time to tackle four special stages totalling 72 km in an overall route of 732 km to the third overnight halt in Changsha.
|1. R. BURNS/R. REID||GB/GB||MITSUBISHI LANCER EVOLUTION III||1.08.21|
|2. A. VATANEN/"TILBER"||FIN/F||MITSUBISHI LANCER EVOLUTION III||1.08.51|
|3. K. ERIKSSON/S. PARMANDER||S/S||SUBARU IMPREZA 555||1.09.57|
|4. K. SHINOZUKA/F. GOCENTAS||J/AUS||MITSUBISHI LANCER EVOLUTION III||1.12.07|
|5. Y. FUJIMOTO/A. HERTZ||J/S||TOYOTA CELICA GT FOUR||1.12.12|
|6. Y. KATAOKA/S. HAYASHI||J/J||MITSUBISHI LANCER EVOLUTION III||1.13.18 (1st N）|
|7. J. SINGH/A. OH||MAL/MAL||PROTON WIRA||1.13.49|
|8.N. TAJIMA/S. VISUT||J/J||SUZUKI BALENO||1.16.28|
|9. M. LIEU/Y. NAKAHARA||HK/J||SUBARU IMPREZA 555||1.18.00|
|10.T. XIAN/X. SHAN||CN/CN||SUBARU IMPREZA 555||1.18.04|