Citroen driver Sebastien Loeb has been declared the official winner of the Cyprus Rally, the fifth round of the 2004 FIA World Rally Championship. The event which was held on May 14-16 had its results noted as provisional; pending today's FIA scrutineering meeting in Paris, France.
Marcus Gronholm ran a consistent three days during the rally to take the first victory in the 2004 Peugeot 307 WRC, his first win this season. Now that victory has been denied by the FIA Technical Delegate (stewards).
Gronholm and Harri Rovanpera were both excluded from the final results of the Cyprus Rally when the Stewards determined that the water pumps on both of the Peugeots did not conform with technical regulations.
The WRC homologation rules require the water pump to be the same as on the production models. Post-tech inspection at the end of the Cyprus Rally immediately placed the results as provisional to allow the FIA Technical Delegate to look into the difference of the water pumps on the team cars of Peugeot and Citroen. Both of the French teams XU7 engines are built by the PSA automotive group.
The FIA released the following two statements:
Further to a report from the FIA Technical Delegate regarding the water pumps in Citroen car No.3 (Sebastien Loeb and Daniel Elena) and car No. 4 (Carlos Sainz and Marc Marti), the water pumps were found to be in conformity with the Technical Regulations.
Further to a report from the FIA Technical Delegate regarding the water pumps in Marlboro Peugeot Total car No. 5 (Marcus Gronholm/Timo Rautiainen) and car No. 6 (Harri Rovanpera/Risto Pietilainen) and having considered the statements from the representatives of the competitor at a meeting held in the Paris headquarters of the FIA, the water pumps were not found to be in conformity with the Technical Regulations. The Stewards decided that Marlboro Peugeot Total car No. 5 and Marlboro Peugeot Total car No. 6 be excluded from the 2004 Cyprus Rally.
Both of the Finns lost valuable points. Gronholm's loss of ten points for the win took away his lead in the overall championship, he now is in fourth with 24 points. Rovanpera finished fifth after a gearbox problem bumped him off a chance for the podium finish (Peugeot was leading one-two at the end of the first day). He lost four points.
Loeb came out smelling like a rose as he not only gained the victory and the additional points from Cyprus; he also inherited the overall drivers' championship lead. The Frenchman holds the edge with one point over Ford's Markko Martin (35 to 34). Martin is now listed as second in the Cyprus Rally.
Citroen's driver Carlos Sainz gained points with his now third place finish, the Spaniard has 19 points and holds the fifth top spot overall.
Petter Solberg who probably had the most up, down, up rally experienced in his career gained points with today's ruling. His early problem had him charging on the final two days to move into a point paying position. He was pleased with his sixth place position; however the ruling bumped him to fourth. The Norwegian is now third overall in the standings with 28 points.
Peugeot had gained manufacturer points allowing them to stay in touch with both Ford and Citroen and ahead of Subaru. That too has changed. The Manufacturers' Championship standings shows that Ford remains on top with 58 points to the second place Citroen at 54 now followed by Subaru at 40 points. Peugeot dropped to fourth in the standings with 33 points -- the ruling cost them 14 points.
The FIA further stated that the Peugeot team does have the right to appeal. Peugeot Sport announced that they will not appeal and will focus instead on the future rallies.
Please see the statement from Peugeot