Interview with Corrado Provera: On top at mid-point Against increasingly stiff opposition, Peugeot tops both the Manufacturers' and Drivers World Championships halfway into the 2003 season. Peugeot Sport boss Corrado Provera analyses the...
Interview with Corrado Provera: On top at mid-point
Against increasingly stiff opposition, Peugeot tops both the Manufacturers' and Drivers World Championships halfway into the 2003 season. Peugeot Sport boss Corrado Provera analyses the present situation before the second half of the competition kicks off in Germany...
Q: The first half of the season concluded with two tough events for Peugeot Sport in June.
Provera: "The troubles we encountered in Greece were due to a perfectible compatibility of a new clutch. This was resolved in time for Cyprus where our problems were principally related to the extreme temperatures. We clearly underestimated the consequences of the heat. To say we weren't the only ones to suffer is meant neither as an excuse nor as a consolation, but it does give an idea of the difficulty we all faced. On Marcus Grönholm's car, the prop shaft failed twice, while Richard Burns was initially slowed by hydraulic problems before finally coming to a halt when his engine overheated. In the case of Gilles Panizzi, a rock worked its way under the sump guard and led to the engine failing after a water hose was sliced. Given that Harri Rovanperä too finished the rally with a rather tired front transmission, we cannot say our reliability record was positive in Cyprus. The cars got back to France quite late and it was some time before we learnt exactly what the causes of our drivers' retirements were, although we have had sufficient time to correct the situation before Germany."
Q: In outright performance terms, the 206 WRC is still very much at the sharp end and Peugeot continues to top both championships .
Provera: "That's true. On the first day in Cyprus, Marcus Grönholm ran third on the road and therefore acted as road sweeper for those further down the order, yet that didn't stop him from concluding Leg 1 in first position, one place ahead of Harri, with Gilles following close behind in an excellent fourth place. Victory escaped us despite the fact that we set a significant number of fastest stage times, whereas last year Marcus finished first without recording a single best time. That's rallying! We expected to suffer in the last two events and we succeeded in limiting the damage more or less. Looking back, our overall performance during the first half of the season has been positive nonetheless. With seven of the fourteen rounds remaining, we lead the Manufacturers' championship and, although the cushion of Richard Burns in the Drivers' points table has considerably dwindled, he is still on top after Cyprus thanks to the gritty determination of his team-mate Harri who succeeded in crossing the finish line ahead of the Citroëns."
Q: That difficult moment the tremendous solidarity that prevails within the team come to the fore once again.
Provera: "Let me first underline the complementary nature of our drivers. Harri Rovanperä is incontestably the man of the moment when the situation looks compromised. In Cyprus, which frankly wasn't a glorious event for us, he began by brilliantly emerging in number one spot and ultimately saved the day for us by bringing home a rather sick car in second position. In between time, he demonstrated a great sense of self sacrifice by accepting not to go for victory at all costs, in the overall interest of Peugeot. We owe him a great deal. At the same time, we are very disappointed for Marcus since we failed to give him a machine that matched his talent. Not only is he an outstanding driver but he is also a man with extraordinary human qualities. Cyprus was his third retirement of the year, yet when he could have been forgiven for being somewhat down, he paid us a visit the next day to help boost the team's morale. Similarly, after he in turn was forced out, Richard Burns made a point of coming to shake the hands of all his mechanics. He knew they had done everything in their power, to the very end, to keep his car going. They had practised changing head gaskets and felt capable of doing the job for real in less than twenty minutes. Fate decided otherwise when Richard's 206 came to a definitive halt just a few kilometres from the service park but this sort of permanent team spirit, which is there even when everything isn't at its rosiest, ensures motivation stays high. I am convinced it will allow us to make a particularly concerted push together during the second half of the season. That said, we would prefer the rallies to come to be less eventful, even if that means team solidarity is not so movingly highlighted."
Q: The recent wins of Ford and Subaru have turned the 2003 championship into a very hotly contested affair.
Provera: "Our rivals are remarkable competitors for whom we have the utmost respect. They have put in a big effort to approach our level of performance. There's no secret: we must continue to work hard if we are to respond to their pressure. The World Rally Championship is extremely close and winning is never easy, despite what some may have thought when they saw Peugeot take three consecutive titles. The sport is in the process of reaching maturity. That can only serve to raise its appeal and, as a result, attract the level of media coverage it deserves. If the fight is so fierce this year, then so much the better. That makes us prouder still to have won three of the seven rounds contested to date."
Q: How do you see the remainder of the championship unfolding?
Provera: "On paper, the coming events should be more suited to our car and drivers, so we are quite hopeful for the second half of the season. With the exception of Germany, we have already won all the events to come so the team and drivers know them well. The toughest part of the championship is behind us and we hope we will succeed in increasing our lead in order to achieve our objective: a fourth consecutive world title."
Q: The second half of the season features four asphalt rallies. You have another asset in Gilles Panizzi.
Provera: "Absolutely. After a difficult Monte Carlo Rally, Gilles Panizzi's morale is once again extremely high and the first class stage times he has recorded recently on gravel can only serve to fully restore his confidence. We can count on him to exploit every ounce of his talent as a driver and development driver as the calendar moves on to his favourite surface."