Auriol and Peugeot secure Michelin's 5TH consecutive win in Spain! For the third 100% asphalt rally in succession, Peugeot-Michelin took maximum points in Catalunya thanks to Frenchmen Didier Auriol (1st) and Gilles Panizzi (2nd). However, there...
Auriol and Peugeot secure Michelin's 5TH consecutive win in Spain!
For the third 100% asphalt rally in succession, Peugeot-Michelin took maximum points in Catalunya thanks to Frenchmen Didier Auriol (1st) and Gilles Panizzi (2nd). However, there was none of the clear-cut domination that marked their one-two results last October in Corsica and Sanremo. For sure, the 206 WRCs were consistently faster than their traditional WRC rivals, but the new Citroën Xsara-Michelin was the star of the show for much of the weekend before Philippe Bugalski was slowed with mechanical problems on the final morning. Yet another podium finish for Tommi Mäkinen (3rd, Mitsubishi-Michelin) saw the Finn go clear at the top of the Drivers' championship, while the performance of Michelin's tarmac tyres was underlined by the firm's fifth consecutive win on this event... with five different manufacturers!
Maximum points for Peugeot-Michelin on the tarmac of Catalunya have given a welcome kick start to the defending champions' 2001 campaign. Despite leading in Monte Carlo, Sweden and Portugal, their year got off to a worryingly lean start with only a podium in Portugal to show for their efforts, but today's result saw them go straight into third position in the Manufacturers' classification. Although the first two days of the Spanish round were marked by the dominating speed of newcomers Citroën-Michelin, Didier Auriol and Gilles Panizzi kept on the pressure throughout and were rewarded with first and second places when pacesetter Philippe Bugalski lost time with clutch problems on his new Xsara WRC on the final morning.
Today's result comes as a reassuring relief not only for Peugeot but also for Auriol. After a barren period with an uncompetitive Seat in 2000, the Frenchman's most recent win before Friday's start dated back to the 1999 China Rally. And the one before that was here in Catalunya three years ago. Both were achieved at the wheel of a Toyota-Michelin. For the record, the former World Champion's win this weekend takes his personal tally to 20 world class wins, equalling in the process the scores of Markku Alen and Colin McRae. Only Juha Kankkunen (23), Carlos Sainz (23) and Tommi Mäkinen (22) can claim better.
The maiden WRC outing of the Xsara couldn't have got off to a better start when Jesus Puras and Philippe Bugalski ended Day 1 in first and second positions respectively. The Citroën pair swapped places the following morning but nothing looked like troubling their outstanding display... until the Spaniard was stopped with terminal fuel pressure problems on the road section after Saturday's final test.
But the French firm was still in front with Bugalski going into the last leg and, on the day's opening stage (SS13), the Frenchman extended his cushion over the chasing Auriol to a seemingly comfortable 33 seconds. On the following test however, the Citroën driver reported a problem with his clutch's hydraulics, before a two-minute penalty for a delayed start on SS15 dropped him to fourth, handing control to his Peugeot rivals.
While all this was going on, Mitsubishi's Tommi Mäkinen made it another all-Michelin podium in Catalunya. Third position for the Finn also allowed him to consolidate his lead at the top of the Drivers' points table, while Freddy Loix produced what many are describing as his best ever drive since joining the Japanese manufacturer in 1999. On his way to 5th overall, the Belgian's stage times were frequently on a par with, and sometimes even topped those of his illustrious teammate. Only temporary handling problems on Day 2 - traced back to a centre differential problem - prevented him from finishing even closer to the four-times World Champion.
In contrast to its winning form on the Spanish round twelve months ago running on Michelin tyres, the Ford Focus never looked like mixing it with the front-runners. After fuel pressure problems eliminated last year's winner Colin McRae on Day 1, Carlos Sainz and François Delecour traded places at regular intervals to finally collect fifth and sixth places, the Spaniard eventually salvaging a single championship point to keep his team just clear of Peugeot in the provisional Manufacturers' classification.
The Subaru camp has even less to shout about with Petter Solberg crashing out on Day 1 and Markko Martin going OTL after a prolonged gearbox change on Day 3. The make's only finisher was Richard Burns but irregular stage times relegated the British driver to a disappointing eigth overall.
Driving a Kronos-run Peugeot 206 WRC-Michelin, Frenchman Simon Jean-Joseph was the best placed privateer at the finish in ninth position, one slot clear of Skoda-Michelin's Bruno Thiry whose consistent run bagged tenth at the finish. However, the Czechs were disappointed to lose Armin Schwarz with power-steering problems early on Leg 2.
After the recent debut of the latest evolution Accent WRC-Michelin in muddy Portugal, Hyundai continued the new car's development with its first outing on tarmac. Although Piero Liatti failed to finish because of brake problems, Alister McRae took his car to 11th overall.
Peugeot's Marcus Grönholm was another WRC regular not to reach the finish. The Finn was lying third overall when he swiped a concrete post and ripped off his rear left wheel on SS5.
Finally, a word about the inaugural round of the brand new FIA Super 1600 Championship which was won by Frenchman Sebastien Loeb driving a Citroën Saxo-Michelin. However, the combination of gruelling conditions and the fierce competition in this exciting formula whittled the original entry of twenty-two cars down to just seven survivors!
1997 - 2001... In typically demanding, hot and abrasive conditions, Didier Auriol provided Michelin with its fifth consecutive win on the Catalunya Rally... with five different manufacturer-partners: 1997, Mitsubishi (Mäkinen); 1998, Toyota (Auriol); 1999, Citroën (Bugalski); 2000, Ford (McRae); 2001, Peugeot (Auriol).
START TO FINISH... Michelin runners led the 2001 Catalunya Rally from start to finish, collecting fastest times on all seventeen stages with three different manufacturers (Citroën 10, Peugeot 6, Mitsubishi 1) and with five different drivers (Bugalski 8, Auriol 4, Puras and Panizzi 2, Mäkinen 1).
ON TOP... Thanks to four consecutive wins since the beginning of the 2001 World Championship (Monte Carlo, Sweden, Portugal, Catalunya), Michelin runners provisionally lead both the Drivers' and Manufacturers' classifications with Tommi Mäkinen and Mitsubishi.
UNBEATEN... Michelin's FP-generation of tarmac tyres remains unbeaten since its debut on the 1998 Sanremo Rally.
<pre> 2001 WORLD CHAMPIONSHIP POSITIONS AFTER 4 ROUNDS
DRIVERS MC S P E RA CY GR EAK FIN NZ I F AUS GB Total Tommi Mäkinen (FIN) 10 0 10 4 - - - - - - - - - - 24 Carlos Sainz (E) 6 4 6 1 - - - - - - - - - - 17 Harri Rovanpera (FIN) - 10 0 - - - - - - - - - - - 10 Didier Auriol (F) 0 0 0 10 - - - - - - - - - - 10 François Delecour (F) 4 2 2 0 - - - - - - - - - - 8 Thomas Radström (S) - 6 0 - - - - - - - - - - - 6 Gilles Panizzi (F) 0 - 0 6 - - - - - - - - - - 6
MANUFACTURERS MC S P E RA CY GR EAK FIN NZ I F AUS GB Total Mitsubishi-Michelin 13 10 10 6 - - - - - - - - - - 39 Ford 6 8 6 1 - - - - - - - - - - 21 Peugeot-Michelin 0 0 4 16 - - - - - - - - - - 20 Hyundai-Michelin 2 3 3 0 - - - - - - - - - - 8 Subaru 0 4 3 0 - - - - - - - - - - 7 Skoda-Michelin 5 1 0 0 - - - - - - - - - - 6
Next round: Argentina (3-6/5/2001)