Peugeot 206 WRC drivers Marcus Grönholm and Harri Rovanperä have finished first and second on the final round of this year's FIA World Rally Championship, the Network Q Rally of Great Britain. The two Finns' starring drives are enough to earn Peugeot the World Rally Championship for Manufacturers for the second year in succession.
Grönholm and navigator Timo Rautiainen started today's closing four stages in a commanding position, but they still had to cope with foul weather conditions as the skies over southern Wales darkened and heavy rain fell all day. Despite the treacherously slippery roads, Grönholm made no driving errors and with his 206 WRC running reliably, he was able to reach the finish in Cardiff with a lead of more than a minute. Marcus said: "I'm delighted to win here. I always felt confident that if I had the same feeling with the car as I did in Australia I could fight with Colin (McRae) and Richard (Burns). It didn't turn into much of a battle because Colin crashed out so early but we've been able to control the event instead. I never really felt under any pressure today. Conditions weren't nice, of course - there was heavy rain today and it left a lot of water lying in the ruts on stages that we'd used before - but I had a big enough lead that I didn't have to take any risks. I'm really pleased that we've won the manufacturers' championship with a one-two. It hasn't been an easy season but the team has turned things around really well in the second half of the year and we've fought back. The last few events have given me really good confidence for 2002."
Rovanperä started this morning's stages in third overall but they needed only the first test to overhaul second-placed Richard Burns. Harri and Marcus were then able to hold formation to the finish. Harri said: "It's been good today. I've been able to push because we didn't have any pressure in the manufacturers' championship. We had one small scare in the first stage when we were using so much electrical power - with the heater, the lights and the fog lights - that the alternator light started to flash. But it wasn't such a big problem. I'm delighted for the team that we've been able to win the championship. We had a difficult first half of the year but we've ended it very well. It's also good for me, too, because it means I'm staying with the championship-winning team for 2002!"
The third Peugeot 206 driver, Didier Auriol, finished seventh after splashing his way through the Welsh forests today in conditions he traditionally dislikes. Didier said: "I really don't like the Welsh forests when there's mist and fog, and there was plenty of that this morning. Our suspension felt a bit hard too, so we were bouncing around a lot in the ruts. I'm a bit disappointed with the result because we'd been going well and I wanted to end my time here at Peugeot with a points finish, but sometimes things don't work out like you plan them. I'm happy to have played a part in the manufacturers' championship, though."
Peugeot Team Director Corrado Provera said: "I feel completely drained! We've done it, and in the best possible fashion - with a one-two finish. It's the fourth time this season that we've taken maximum manufacturers' points, so it's a great end to the year. We never doubted that it was possible - even when we were 40 points behind our rivals, we believed that we could fight back and we've done it. The main feeling we have is pure joy - for everyone in the team who contributed to this fantastic result. Our target at the start of the year was the manufacturers' title, and we've achieved that. It's been difficult, but I am delighted."
The Peugeot team has only a few days to enjoy its triumph. Testing begins in earnest next week for the 2002 season, which starts in Monte Carlo next January.
1. GRÖNHOLM, Marcus Peugeot 206 WRC 3h23.44.8
2. ROVANPERÄ, Harri Peugeot 206 WRC 3h26.11.9
3. BURNS, Richard Subaru Impreza 3h27.00.2
4. McRAE, Alister Huydai Accent 3h30.33.6
5. SCHWARZ, Armin Skoda Octavia WRC 3h31.16.1
6. ERIKSSON, Kenneth Hyundai Accent 3h31.55.8
7. AURIOL, Didier Peugeot 206 WRC 3h32.05.9
8. THIRY, Bruno Skoda Octavia WRC 3h34.40.4
9. DE MEVIUS, Gregoire Peugeot 206 WRC 3h38.02.5
10. ARAI, Toshihiro Subaru Impreza WRC 3h38.51.2
World Championship 2001
Richard Burns 442
Colin McRae 423
Tommi Makinen 414
Marcus Grönholm 365
Harri Rovanperä 366
Carlos Sainz 337
Didier Auriol 238
Gilles Panizzi 229
François Delecour 1510
Petter Solberg 11