PEUGEOT WINS CENTENARY MONTE
The 1985 Rallye Monte-Carlo was won by Ari Vatanen after a memorable comeback, while the 2009 edition of the winter classic saw Sebastien Ogier claim the first international victory of his burgeoning career. This time round, it is Peugeot France's Bryan Bouffier and Xavier Panseri who produced the performance of the event when they climbed from seventh to first place on a single stage, before calmly controlling from in front to the finish. Peugeot really wanted to win the centenary Monte, and they succeeded!
A winning strategy
It is the magic of the Rallye Monte-Carlo which makes it such a unique event. You can have the best drivers and the best organised team, but sometimes a technical decision, a tyre choice or an incident can turn even the best-laid plans upside down in an instant. At the end of the opening leg (Wednesday, January 19), the 207 Super 2000 were not behind because they lacked the necessary competitiveness but following an inappropriate tyre choice (too soft). Twenty-four hours later, after Thursday afternoon's snow, the situation was reversed and four Peugeots figured inside the overnight top-five, while Bryan Bouffier climbed from seventh to first place in the space of just one stage.
The 207 S2000 in charge to the finish
The third and final leg on Friday, January 21, was divided into two distinct parts: the morning's single stage ahead of the long drive down to Monaco, then after an afternoon's rest the famous Nuit du Turini which featured a loop of two stages to be contested twice at night. When the Peugeot crews set out from Valence at 6:30am, they each had different objectives. Bryan Bouffier (Peugeot France/French Dealer was intent on holding onto first place, while Francois Delecour (privately-entered Peugeot) was focused on preventing third- placed Freddy Loix from passing him. The main priority for Guy Wilks (4th, Peugeot UK) was to score IRC points, Stephane Sarrazin (5th, Peugeot France) was targeting a top-three finish and Petter Solberg's objective was to post some top stage times...!
The 207 Super 2000 eventually notched up eight fastest times from 13 to emerge as the fastest car of this year's Rallye Monte-Carlo. Friday morning saw Sarrazin take an emphatic win on SS9 and the evening's first loop allowed him to ease into fourth spot before his gearbox jammed in fourth gear, dropping him back to fifth. The 207 S2000 of Bouffier/Panseri proved perfectly reliable and the Peugeot France driver succeeded in controlling masterfully from in front to take the win. "At the beginning, I wasn't the fastest driver on this rally which was never easy. This is the best win of my career," grinned the winner. "I wonder whether I will ever experience anything like this again. Winning the Monte Carlo is magic!"
A strong team effort from Peugeot
Stephane Sarrazin collected the highest number of stage wins (four) and completed the final test in third place before checking into the final Time Control on the harbour side in Monaco to hand the podium finish to Peugeot UK's Guy Wilks who is contesting the entire championship this season. Wilks/Pugh put in a strong, mistake-free performance to kick off their 2001 IRC campaign. Meanwhile, Peugeot completed the event with four cars inside the top-five to round off a polished team effort. "Today's result speaks volumes for the competitiveness of the 207 Super 2000, the ability or our crews and the high standard of our organisation," said Peugeot Sport Director Olivier Quesnel. "The important thing on the Rallye Monte-Carlo is to remain humble, even when you're in front, because the final standings are always the result of a combination of different incidents. When it snowed, our rivals made a strategic error and we were able to profit from that to take control. But make no mistake: we intend to savour Peugeot's third Monte Carlo win which was made all the more satisfying by the fact that this year is the event's centenary anniversary."
Last but not least, a special mention for Norway's Petter Solberg who made a real mark on the rally despite the Peugeot 207 being completely new to him. He played a key role until the very end of the last stage before being halted by an alternator failure.