Peugeot Ready For The Cypriot Helter-Skelter The fifth showdown of the 2004 season takes teams to the twisty gravel mountain stages of Cyprus which recently celebrated its entry into the European Union. Marcus Gronholm has already won this ...
Peugeot Ready For The Cypriot Helter-Skelter
The fifth showdown of the 2004 season takes teams to the twisty gravel mountain stages of Cyprus which recently celebrated its entry into the European Union. Marcus Gronholm has already won this event once -- with the Peugeot 206 WRC in 2002 -- and he will be aiming to repeat that success this time round with the new 307 WRC. Harri Rovanpera, whose programme includes all this year's loose surface rounds, is also in a confident mood as he heads for the Mediterranean island following his strong showing in April's Rally New Zealand.
Since its maiden run on last January's Monte Carlo Rally, the new Peugeot 307 WRC has shown its potential in terms of outright performance and has progressed with every outing on both the reliability and consistency fronts. This progress is the reward for the hard work put in by the entire team and was highlighted in New Zealand where Marcus Gronholm finished 2nd after challenging for victory up to the very last stage. The Finn, whose 2004 record includes another 2nd place finish in Sweden, as well as points finishes in Monte Carlo and Mexico, is currently third in the provisional Drivers' standings, just two points behind the leader. Peugeot is also third in the Manufacturers' classification, although the points margin compared with the leader is bigger. It is interesting to note that Marcus Gronholm is the driver who has recorded the highest number of fastest stage times since the beginning of the season.
As the championship turns to its attention to the three roughest rounds of the calendar (Cyprus, Greece and Turkey) which will follow on from each other in May and June, the world title challengers will be placing the focus very much on reliability. Indeed, the first of these three encounters, Rally Cyprus, is also one of the toughest on mechanicals. For not only are its punishing and exceptionally slow stages (the winner of last year's event completed the distance at an average speed of just 66 kph!) particularly demanding but the high temperatures teams can expect at this time of year are also sure to test drivers and machines to the limit.
Marcus Gronholm has met with mixed fortunes in Cyprus over the years, securing a fine win in 2002 but retiring in 2000, 2001 and 2003. "To be quite frank, Rally Cyprus is not one of my favourite events. I find faster events more fun. Here you get the impression that it's just one slow corner after another, and the heat is suffocating. Even so, I will be looking for a top result. The whole team has worked extremely hard over the past weeks and we have made significant progress with the car. I think the 307 WRC is an all-round car that is capable of being quick on every type of surface, fast or slow."
Since his debut with Peugeot in 2001, Harri Rovanpera boasts two points finishes (4th in 2002, 2nd in 2003) and one retirement (2001) in Cyprus. Certain of starting all the gravel rounds of the 2004 championship with Peugeot since Rally New Zealand, the Finn is delighted to be back in Cyprus: "I am very happy to see my programme confirmed for the rest of the season. It seems like everything is going well at the moment. At the end of April, we tested at Château de Lastours in the south of France and that was very positive. The team has put in a great deal of work and we should be in a position to fight at the sharp end in Cyprus."
THIERRY MOINE: A brief guide to engine assembly--
Peugeot Sport engineer Thierry Moine explains how the engines built at Pipo's factory in Valence, in the south of France, find their way into the 307 WRCs in Velizy. And vice versa--
"We look after most of the turbo assembly work in-house in Velizy: assembly, balancing, rebuilds and management of the turbochargers and post-combustion systems, inspection and management of the intercoolers, water and oil systems. The turbo and its accessories are delivered to Pipo. There, they are fitted to the engine which then goes on the dyno where all the necessary electronic probes are added. This assembly is then shipped back to Velizy where it is re-inspected from A to Z before being equipped with all the vital peripheral components that serve no purpose on the dyno: heat screens, flywheel, mounts, alternator, hydraulic pumps-- Complete engines are delivered to either the development or race teams who ultimately fit the blocks into the car. Once all the water and air systems have been plumbed in and the exhaust system and electronic and electrical connectors added, the engine is fired up. If all the departments concerned are ready in time, the total operation takes about half a day. Finally, after every rally, the engines are stripped and cleaned before the whole process begins all over again--"