2003 World Rally Championship: An unchanged line-up and identical objectives for Peugeot.
The 2003 WRC campaign will see Peugeot defend its Manufacturers' and Drivers' crowns with the same driver line-up and car that took it to such an exceptional crop of successes in 2002. The only difference of note will be visible the instant the curtain lifts on the new season, namely the 206 WRC's striking, new red livery based on the colours of the French carmaker's new partner.
It is effectively possible to prepare for the future while at the same time taking care to preserve the bond within the team that has proven its ability to win. Instead of being a year of change for Peugeot Sport, the 2003 season, on the contrary, sees the team place the accent very much on stability, with a squad that has claimed three Manufacturers' titles and two Drivers' titles in the space of just three years. Since 2000, Peugeot has won three consecutive Manufacturers' World Championship titles, plus two Drivers' crowns with Marcus Gr?nholm (2000, 2002).
Last year also saw Peugeot establish a new record with an unprecedented score of nine WRC one-two finishes from the championship's fourteen rounds.
For 2003, Peugeot has decided to build on these results with the same driver line-up that has made such a significant contribution to its recent spell of success: 2001 World Champion Richard Burns, defending champ Marcus Gr?nholm, undisputed asphalt ace Gilles Panizzi and Harri Rovanper?, winner of the 2001 Swedish Rally. In addition to being immensely experienced and balanced, one of this foursome's key assets is its collective, all-round ability to take the 206 WRC to victory over the full range of terrains that make up the championship.
Stability is a feature of the team's 2003 bid on the technical front too, since the Peugeot 206 WRC will continue to run in 2002 Evolution specification, although the car, which made its debut on last June's Acropolis Rally, will naturally continue to progress over the season.
As in 2001 and 2002, Peugeot's priority objective for 2003 will be to defend its Manufacturers' crown. At the same time of course, it will also do everything in its power to help one of its drivers win the Drivers' trophy, a prize currently held by Marcus Gr?nholm.
In keeping with tradition, next year's World Rally Championship will kick off in January with the Monte Carlo Rally and end in November with the Rally of Great Britain. In between these two events, however, the fourteen- round calendar features a certain number of changes, including the replacement of the African classic, the Safari Rally, with the Rally of Turkey, a newcomer to the series.
Finally, the battle for the 2003 title promises to be fiercer than ever with the official arrival of Citro?n which takes the total number of manufacturers committed to the championship to seven.