WRC

Rallye Catalunya - end of Leg 1

Rallye Catalunya - Costa Brava Round 4 of the 2001 FIA World Rally Championship 22 - 25 March 2001 The world's top rally stars have thrilled huge crowds on the opening day of the fourth round of the FIA World Rally Championship, the Rallye ...

Rallye Catalunya - Costa Brava
Round 4 of the 2001 FIA World Rally Championship
22 - 25 March 2001

The world's top rally stars have thrilled huge crowds on the opening day of the fourth round of the FIA World Rally Championship, the Rallye Catalunya - Costa Brava. Citroen celebrated its arrival in the series by leading from the opening stage, thanks to the efforts of Spanish champion Jesus Puras. Team-mate Philippe Bugalski boosted the French manufacturer's joy further by moving into second by the end of the day. But the Peugeots of Gilles Panizzi and Didier Auriol, and Mitsubishi's Tommi Mäkinen, are all poised to challenge the Xsara WRCs tomorrow. Reigning title-holder Marcus Grönholm and Ford's Colin McRae are not, however - they both retired this afternoon.

Citroen
Technical: The Xsara WRC has been generally reliable on its first day of World Rally Championship competition, but Philippe Bugalski's example suffered a broken brake disc on the road section to first service this morning. Although the team replaced the offending item, it took a couple of stages for the Frenchman to gain more confidence in the car's braking.

Sporting: Spanish champion Jesus Puras grabbed the lead on this morning's opening stage and extended his advantage as the day progressed. His team-mate Philippe Bugalski struggled with his car's brakes on the opening two stages but then set a fastest time in SS3 and began to improve his overall position thereafter. A string of fast times this afternoon moved Bugalski into second overall, behind his team-mate.

Quotes:
Jesus Puras: "I'm a bit surprised to be leading, because there's a lot of loose gravel getting pulled out into the road in the corners and I've been taking risks. But I know if we're to have any chance we need to be further up the running order tomorrow so I've been pushing accordingly. It's a great day for Citroen."

Philippe Bugalski: "The first couple of stages were hard but it's got better ever since. I've got a good feeling with the car now, and now that we've moved up the running order we have a chance."

Peugeot
Technical: The 206 WRCs of Didier Auriol and Marcus Grönholm haven't experienced any serious technical problems today, although Grönholm did admit that too much left-foot braking made his brakes overheat in the morning. Gilles Panizzi was less satisfied, as the Frenchman complained that the rear end of his 206 was nervous, particularly under braking.

Sporting: Marcus Grönholm made good use of clean roads and increasing confidence on asphalt to hold a top three position for most of this morning. But on the repeated long stage this afternoon, he ripped the left-rear wheel from his car on a concrete post and was forced to retire for the third time in four outings. His team-mates have had to dig deep to beat crews running further up the order and improve their chances of clean roads tomorrow. Didier Auriol helped his cause with second and fourth fastest times this morning, while Panizzi moved into a points placing with third fastest time in the third stage. They inched ahead of Mäkinen this afternoon to hold third and fourth overnight.

Quotes:
Marcus Gronholm: "We got caught out on a slow corner. It was maybe only second gear, but we couldn't stay on the good surface. We slid wide, hit the gravel and then went further. The rear of the car hit a concrete post and that was it. I'm disappointed, obviously, because it was going well up to that point."

Didier Auriol: "It's hard to make an impression on the leaders and improve my road position when I'm running this far back. The leading crews are cutting corners a lot and pulling gravel into the road. But I had to try. I'm pleased. "

Mitsubishi
Technical: The Lancer Evolution of Tommi Mäkinen jumped out of gear on today's second stage and suffered some brake overheating during the afternoon tests. Freddy Loix's example suffered from a sticking throttle in SS2 but both cars performed reliably otherwise.

Sporting: Four-times World Champion Tommi Mäkinen has been close to the event lead all day, helped by a fastest time in the second stage. He held second overall by lunchtime service, although reigning title holder Marcus Grönholm was only a few tenths of a second adrift. Brake problems in the afternoon cost him time, though, and he dropped behind both Citroens and the Peugeots of Didier Auriol and Gilles Panizzi, to hold fifth. Freddy Loix, meanwhile, has been displaying his usual strong form on the Spanish asphalt to occupy a top ten placing throughout.

Quotes:
Tommi Makinen said: "It's been a difficult day but obviously I'm encouraged by the speed. We're competing with our championship rivals and although we're not leading, we're well enough up to get a good position on the road tomorrow. I don't know what we can do about the Citroens and Peugeots, but we'll try."

Ford
Technical: Colin McRae complained of a lack of engine response this morning, while Carlos Sainz's Focus RS WRC suffered from a slight misfire that the team attributed to a fuel pump problem. All three Focuses suffered from apparent fuel pressure problems this afternoon, though, and McRae was forced to retire when his car refused to re-start at the start control for SS6.

Sporting: Ford gambled on a slightly harder tyre compound this morning but team management felt that it left the Focus scrabbling for grip on the early stages. Carlos Sainz in particular complained of understeer throughout, as he, Francois Delecour and Colin McRae struggled to stay in touch with the points positions. McRae was subsequently forced to retire with a fuel pressure problem.

Quotes:
Carlos Sainz: "It's been very hard because we had understeer everywhere. I'm not sure if it was all the tyres but we clearly have to find something. The car had a misfire on the last stage today and the road section back, which was worrying."

François Delecour: "The engine has been losing power a lot today, and the misfire was very bad this afternoon."

Subaru
Technical: Richard Burns lost time when his Impreza WRC2001's gearbox malfunctioned in the second and third stages this morning. The unit was changed at lunchtime service as a result. Markko Martin hit problems in the same stage when his car's ignition cut-off stalled his engine.

Sporting: Richard Burns held a top-six placing after the first stage but dropped out of contention when he hit gearbox problems on the very next test. A broken wheel cost him even more time this afternoon. His team-mate Petter Solberg fared worse - the young Norwegian set respectable times in SS1 and SS2, but then slid off the road, into a ditch and into retirement in SS3. The other works Impreza driver, Markko Martin, felt his car's handling was unpredictable on the first stage and he lost time with ignition cut-off problems in SS2, but he stayed in touch with the top ten regardless.

Quotes:
Richard Burns: "The gearbox started to select neutral of its own accord. At the end of SS2 and SS3 I had to lock the gearbox in fifth to keep going, and I spun at one hairpin when I arrived in fifth gear."

Skoda
Technical: Neither of the two Octavia WRCs, driven by Armin Schwarz and Philippe Bugalski, suffered from major technical problems today. Thiry's example did encounter overheating brakes this morning, but a switch of brake bias cured the problem.

Sporting: Both Skoda drivers would have preferred changeable conditions to negate any power disadvantage but they fought hard to keep the points placings in sight.

Quotes:
Armin Schwarz: "It doesn't look like we're going to get our wish on the weather. The handling of the car is fine, it's just that we're losing out in the uphill sections where raw power counts."

Bruno Thiry: "We have a good set-up now, so I'm hopeful for tomorrow. The handling is very nice, since we changed some shock absorber settings."

Hyundai
Technical: The set-up of Hyundai's 'interim' asphalt-specification Accent WRC2 has been tweaked throughout the day after the team started without an extensive test session. Alister McRae's example suffered from understeer, while Piero Liatti felt his car was down on turbo boost this morning. The turbo was changed at first service as a result.

Sporting: Hyundai's biggest problem today seemed to be the long uphill sections on some stages, where the Accents of both Alister McRae and Piero Liatti lost time to their rivals. Accordingly, both cars were outside of the top ten but both drivers were keen to experiment with settings on the still-new evolution version of the car.

Quotes:
Alister McRae: "I've got a bit of understeer in long corners but I think the biggest problem is sheer power. We lose time uphill and then match the rest on the downhill bits, so at least we know what we have to do."

Other news
In the FIA Super 1600 Cup, Frenchman Sebastian Loeb has grabbed the initial advantage in hisCitroen Saxo. He leads Giandomenico Basso's Fiat Punto by more than half a minute, with reigning Group N world champion (and recent convert to the new category) Manfred Stohl third, a further six seconds behind.

Outright

1 Puras         Citroen Xsara WRC       1:02:43,6
2 Bugalski      Citroen Xsara WRC       1:02:53,6       
3 Auriol        Peugeot 206 WRC         1:02:56,1
4 Panizzi       Peugeot 206 WRC         1:03:03,4
5 Makinen       Mitsubishi Lancer Evo   1:03:09,0
6 Loix          Mitsubishi Carisma GT   1:03:36,4
7 Canellas      Seat Cordoba            1:03:48,8
8 Delecour      Ford Focus RS WRC       1:03:52,8
9 Sainz         Ford Focus RS WRC       1:03:56,4
10 Martin       Subaru Impreza WRC      1:04:05,1

Group N

1 Ligato        Mitsubishi Lancer Evo   1:08:16,2
2 Trelles       Mitsubishi Lancer Evo   1:08:20,1
3 Pozzo         Mitsubishi Lancer Evo   1:09:01,2

Super 1600

1 Loeb          Citroen Saxo            1:07:47,4
2 Basso         Fiat Punto              1:08:24,0
3 Stohl         Fiat Punot              1:08:30,8

-FIA

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About this article
Series WRC
Drivers Tommi Makinen , Colin McRae , Carlos Sainz , Freddy Loix , Richard Burns , Gilles Panizzi , Didier Auriol , Marcus Gronholm , Petter Solberg , François Delecour , Alister McRae , Armin Schwarz , Philippe Bugalski , Jesus Puras , Manfred Stohl , Piero Liatti , Markko Martin , Giandomenico Basso
Teams Citroën World Rally Team