The Peugeot 207 Super 2000s target a return to the top of the podium The fifth round of the 2010 Intercontinental Rally Challenge, the Rally d'Italia Sardegna, sees the series return to loose surface action this weekend. Having been a qualifying...
The Peugeot 207 Super 2000s target a return to the top of the podium
The fifth round of the 2010 Intercontinental Rally Challenge, the Rally d'Italia Sardegna, sees the series return to loose surface action this weekend. Having been a qualifying rally for the WRC in recent years, this time sees the Mediterranean island event figure on the calendar of the IRC for the very first time. To mark the occasion, the organisers have planned a start ceremony in Sardinia's capital Cagliari which has enabled them to produce an all-new opening leg on Saturday, June 5. The 300km run from Cagliari to the rally's base in Olbia features six special stages that will take crews to different parts of the island, while Sunday's route will visit more familiar territory near the stunning Costa Smeralda.
Peugeot Sport has worked hard ahead of what it expects to be a very rough rally:
"We ran a specific test session for Sardinia," says Bertrand Vallat, the engineer in charge of the 207 Super 2000's development. "Until now, our car has rarely competed on such rough terrain. Here, our crews will have to cope with a deep top-coating of dust on their first attempt at the different stages, but the conditions promise to be far rougher second time round, with a strong likelihood of ruts forming and buried stones becoming exposed. That's why we have placed a great deal of importance on traction performance and on the ability of the car's suspension's to soak up the knocks."
Peugeot Sport test driver Kris Meeke took part in the pre-event test session: "I feel very confident," says the British driver. "We did some long endurance runs in some very rough conditions and the 207 Super 2000 seems to be really reliable. I have every intention of going for the win."
The Peugeot UK driver has already contested the Rally d'Italia Sardegna. "That was some time ago now, though. It was when I was contesting the Junior World Championship. I will start my pacenotes from scratch."
Two top drivers with Peugeot Italia
Peugeot Italia has entered a brace of 207 Super 2000s for Paolo Andreucci and Sebastien Ogier, winner of the recent Rally de Portugal.
"There was a gap in my WRC programme," reveals the upcoming French driver, "so I immediately accepted when Peugeot Italia asked me to drive for them in Sardinia. My mission will be to help Peugeot win the Manufacturers' IRC title. If necessary, I will also help the Peugeot drivers who are targeting the IRC Drivers' crown, but I will try to win myself if I can."
Ogier's team-mate, four-time Italian champion Paolo Andreucci, has lost nothing of his speed at the age of 45: "Although I'm Italian, I haven't competed in Sardinia since 2004. I have good knowledge of certain stages, but there are others that are unknown to me. Those I know, I like. They are extremely tricky and call for a precise diving style, which is exactly the sort of challenge I enjoy! Peugeot Italia is hoping that I can finish inside the top three, but maybe I will only manage that if my rivals hit trouble..."
Peugeot's other IRC representatives haven't set their sights quite so high, including youngster Thierry Neuville who will be defending the colours of Peugeot Belgium-Luxemburg: "This will be my first gravel event in a 4x4 car," he points out, "but there's a first time for everything! My main aim will be to reach the finish."
The Italian round of the IRC will be new to Peugeot Portugal's Bruno Magalhaes, too: "I have good experience of competing on dirt. My experience on Rally Argentina last March enabled me to fine- tune the set-up of my 207 Super 2000. Compared with many of my rivals, I will be at a disadvantage because I have no previous knowledge of the terrain here, but I will try my hardest to secure a top result."
There will be a particularly high number of Peugeot 207s on the Sardinian event, with other notable starters including Turkey's Burcu Cetinkaya who will be kicking off the IRC programme put together for him by Peugeot Turkey, as well as Saudi Arabia's Yazeed Al Rahji.