WRC

Corsica Rally preview

Rallye De France - Tour De Corse www.rallyedefrance.com/ Round 12 of the FIA World Rally Championship 18-21st October 2001 Thursday, 18th October 2001 FIA World Rally Championship title hopefuls face another scrabble for points on the 12th...

Rallye De France - Tour De Corse
www.rallyedefrance.com/
Round 12 of the FIA World Rally Championship
18-21st October 2001

Thursday, 18th October 2001

FIA World Rally Championship title hopefuls face another scrabble for points on the 12th round of the series, the Tour de Corse, which starts from Ajaccio tomorrow morning. French asphalt specialists like last year's winner Gilles Panizzi (also a victor in Sanremo two weeks ago) and Philippe Bugalski are expected to dominate the timesheets, leaving championship contenders like Colin McRae, Tommi Mäkinen and Carlos Sainz to fight for points placings. McRae and Sainz will both be hoping that their Ford/Pirelli combination is slightly more competitive than it was in Italy, while Mäkinen's title hopes depend on a comprehensive turnaround for his new Mitsubishi Lancer WRC, which struggled on the Sanremo asphalt.

Steeped in rally history, Corsica's event is regarded as one of the most difficult in the entire world championship, as its twisty nature tests driver concentration, experience and the cars' braking ability to the limit.

FORD (1st - 83 points)

Technical: Colin McRae and Carlos Sainz both have brand new cars for this event but Ford has not changed the specification since Sanremo.

Sporting: Carlos Sainz and Colin McRae are nominated for manufacturers' points, with François Delecour eligible for drivers' points only.

Quotes: Colin McRae said: "It's hard not to see the asphalt specialists dominating again. But the asphalt in Corsica is a bit more abrasive than in Sanremo and hopefully that'll suit us a bit better. I still think there are four drivers in with a chance of the title - Tommi and I, of course, but also Carlos (Sainz) and Richard Burns aren't out of it. The aim is to come out of here with at least something so we can move onto the two remaining gravel rallies in a good position."

Carlos Sainz said: "The weather in Corsica can be tricky and the fact that it's later in the year could make it even harder to predict. I still think the championship won't be decided until the Rally GB."

MITSUBISHI (2nd - 67 points)

Technical: Ralliart sends the same two cars that Tommi Mäkinen and Freddy Loix used in Sanremo. The damage sustained on Mäkinen's car in his final-day accident was relatively minor. The Lancer WRCs had an extended 'shakedown test' for this event but lack of time means that the specification has not changed radically since the car's debut.

Sporting: Tommi Mäkinen and Freddy Loix are both nominated for manufacturers' points.

Quotes: Tommi Mäkinen said: "It's going to be difficult to win here, but if we get better reliability than we had in Sanremo then there should be a chance to fight for some points - for me and for Mitsubishi. We're still tied with Colin for the drivers' championship and with two gravel rallies to come, I still think that we can fight for the title."

Freddy Loix said: "It was clear from Sanremo that the car is still very new and needs development and work on the set-ups. We haven't had much time between then and now to do anything so I expect this to be a difficult rally."

PEUGEOT (3rd- 60 points)

Technical: Peugeot's drivers will re-use Rally Finland cars on this event. As in Sanremo, Marcus Grönholm, Gilles Panizzi and Didier Auriol will all use five-speed gearboxes. Auriol has opted for mechanical differentials front and rear, while Panizzi and Grönholm's 206s will use 'active' differentials all round.

Sporting: Sanremo Rally winner Gilles Panizzi and Catalunya Rally victor Didier Auriol are nominated for manufacturers' points for Peugeot in Corsica. Marcus Grönholm is eligible for drivers' points only. As in Sanremo, the team's fourth driver Harri Rovanperä will build his experience of asphalt rallies by driving a 206 WRC run by Italian private team Grifone. Peugeot confirmed just before this event that Richard Burns will join its line-up from next season.

Quotes: Gilles Panizzi said: "I'm confident that we can win again here. Of course the competition will be tough but I have a fantastic feeling for the 206 on asphalt and we have a very good set-up. The weather might make a small difference but we showed in Sanremo that it's good in the wet conditions too."

Didier Auriol said: "I still think I will lose a little time because of the five-speed gearbox. I'd prefer the six-speed. I'm using a new tyre from Michelin that's more like a racing tyre and that might make the difference because I can go deeper into corners."

SUBARU (4th- 48 points)

Technical: Subaru has introduced no major technical changes since Sanremo.

Sporting: Richard Burns and Petter Solberg are nominated for manufacturers' points, leaving Markko Martin and Toshihiro Arai eligible for drivers' points only. Subaru confirmed just prior to this event that four-times world champion Tommi Mäkinen has signed a two-year contract, starting in 2002.

Quotes: Richard Burns said: "I'm glad that all of the contract talk is now over, because it allows me to do what I want to do - concentrate on the remainder of this season. I think if we look at the times that Petter and Markko were able to do in Sanremo then it's clear that the car and tyres were working quite well. We're still not entirely sure what happened with my accident but I've just put it out of my mind. I'm just taking each event as it comes but I'm confident that we can fight for points here."

Petter Solberg said: "I'm quite optimistic here. We didn't really think that we'd be able to set fastest times in the dry in Sanremo, so it was a good boost to my confidence to do that. I just want to build on that performance now, set some good times and get more experience of this difficult rally."

SKODA (5th - 15 points)

Technical: Skoda has made no major changes to the Octavia WRC since Sanremo, although the team did test for four days on the island prior to the start of the reconnaissance. Some new front suspension parts have been introduced. As in Italy, Armin Schwarz's car will use a revised centre differential with Bruno Thiry's Octavia sticking to the older-spec unit. Thiry's pre-event shakedown test yesterday was curtailed by a broken propshaft.

Sporting: Armin Schwarz and Bruno Thiry are nominated for manufacturers' points as usual.

Quotes: Armin Schwarz said: "We haven't really been able to test the new suspension fully, because we only really had a chance to use it at the shakedown. It's still hard to say what the feeling is like with the slight revisions but we'll obviously try to make sure it works on the event. It's going to be a tough rally - it's always hard on tyres here because of the abrasive roads and the weather is very unpredictable too."

Bruno Thiry said: "I still don't have complete confidence in the car and its handling, although it's certainly a bit more predictable than it was in Sanremo. The propshaft problem was frustrating because we still had some more things to try and we won't get to look at them until we start the rally now."

HYUNDAI (6th - 10 points)

Technical: Hyundai's Accent WRC2s will run to the same specification as in Sanremo. Piero Liatti's car had to be flown back to England for crash repairs after his first-stage accident in Italy.

Sporting: Alister McRae and Piero Liatti will be nominated for manufacturers' points. Regular team member Kenneth Eriksson will return to replace Liatti for Australia next month.

Quotes: Piero Liatti said: "The rally this year is very short compared to the old Tour de Corse but that doesn't mean it will be easy. The twisty roads here mean that handling has to be good but braking is also important, because the brakes don't really get chance to cool down between corners. It's going to be tough to fight against the top guys here, but all I'm aiming for is a better, longer run than in Sanremo. "

Alister McRae said: "I expect things to be pretty much the same as they were in Sanremo, which means it'll be hard for anyone to keep up with the French manufacturers. Our car's in pretty much the same specification as it was there so all I can do is try my best."

CITROEN

Technical: The two Xsara WRCs of Philippe Bugalski and Jesus Puras will run in the same specification as Sanremo. Citroen conducted four days' of testing in Corsica a month ago.

Sporting: Citroen is not eligible for manufacturers' points following an agreement with the FIA and fellow manufacturers earlier this season. With Sebastien Loeb returning to the Super 1600 series, the team's Xsara WRC reverts back to two cars, for Philippe Bugalski and Jesus Puras.

Quotes: Philippe Bugalski said: "Our target at Citroen this year was to win at least one rally, and this is our last chance to do that. The testing went well and I have good knowledge and feeling for the roads in Corsica. I'm quite confident."

Jesus Puras said: "We showed again in Sanremo that we're very competitive on asphalt but when you're fighting at such a high level, mistakes are always possible and unfortunately I made one when I was trying very hard. I just have to keep concentration here in Corsica and work harder to make sure I have the speed without the mistake! Providing I can do that, I'm optimistic we can fight for Citroen's first win with the Xsara WRC."

OTHER TEAMS

Sanremo is the fifth round of the inaugural FIA Super 1600 Cup, a cost-controlled series designed to introduce new, young talent into the world championship. After his starring role in a Xsara WRC in Sanremo, series leader Sebastien Loeb returns to the Super 1600 category to defend his advantage in a Citroen Saxo. A victory for the young Frenchman would clinch the title, but Sanremo S1600 winner Andrea Dallavilla will be aiming to inch closer in his Fiat Punto. Other likely contenders include Patrick Magaud and François Duval (both in Fords), and Cedric Robert (Peugeot 206).

Newly-crowned Group N world champion Gabriel Pozzo has elected to miss this rally, preferring to tackle Rally Australia instead. But his long-time rival Gustavo Trelles will celebrate anyway - the Uruguayan driver is making his 100th rally start at world championship level in Corsica.

TYRE FACTS

The world championship's two tyre suppliers, Michelin and Pirelli, will again have a range of options for their teams in Corsica. Michelin (Peugeot, Mitsubishi, Hyundai and Skoda) offers four possibilities. The N1 is for dry, cool weather, the N22 is more suited to slightly hotter conditions, the N43 will be used in dry, hot weather and the TA03 will be available for rain and damp asphalt. Pirelli (Ford and Subaru) has two basic options - the RS and the RE. The RS (available in several compound options) is for completely dry conditions, while the RE is an intermediate tyre that will be hand-cut and used on damp or wet roads. <pre> ITINERARY GMT +2

Leg 1, Friday 19th October (331.79km)

SS1  08:56  Cuttoli - Peri                      17.40km
SS2  09:44  Ocana - Radicale                    27.64km
SS3  11:46  Sainte Marie Sicche - Petreto       36.73km
SS4  14:04  Cuttoli - Peri                      17.40km
SS5  14:52  Ocana - Radicale                    27.64km

Leg 2, Saturday 20th October (279.31km)

SS6  09:15  Sainte Marie Sicche - Petreto       36.73km
SS7  11:40  Gare de Carbuccia - Gare d^ÒUcciani 10.66km
SS8  11:55  Vero - Pont d'Azzana                18.28km
SS9  12:40  Lopigna - Sarolla                   30.11km
SS10 14:31  Gare de Carbuccia - Gare d^ÒUcciani 10.66km
SS11 14:56  Vero - Pont d'Azzana                18.28km
SS12 15:31  Lopigna - Sarolla                   30.11km

Leg 3, Sunday 21st Octber (243.49km)

SS13  09:59  Coti Chiavari - Pietra Rossa       24.05km
SS14  10:35  Pont de Calzola - Agosta Plage     31.79km
SS15  12:37  Coti Chiavari - Pietra Rossa       24.05km
SS16  13:13  Pont de Calzola - Agosta Plage     31.79km
      14:50  Finish of the rally in Ajaccio

-WRC-

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Series WRC
Teams Citroën World Rally Team