Gilles claims stunning second place for Peugeot Three-time Sanremo winner Gilles Panizzi has dramatically claimed second place on the Sanremo Rally after a stunning drive on the final day. World Championship leader Richard Burns finished the ...
Gilles claims stunning second place for Peugeot
Three-time Sanremo winner Gilles Panizzi has dramatically claimed second place on the Sanremo Rally after a stunning drive on the final day. World Championship leader Richard Burns finished the rally in seventh, ensuring that he continues to lead the drivers'series.
Reigning World Champion Marcus Gronholm was third throughout most of the event, and was running strongly until he went off the road in heavy rain at the beginning of the final stage. He tried to drive out of the stage slowly, but the car turned out to be too badly damaged to continue.
Gilles started the final day fifth, but as rain fell hard over the final two stages he chose the right tyres and set two brilliant fastest stage times in order to take second place. He refined the set-up of his car throughout the rally, and was able to push harder as the event progressed. He won the last stage by over a minute from his closest rival and ended up less than 30 seconds behind the overall winner.
He said: "We started off the rally with a car that felt very nervous, but we were progressively able to improve it. This rally turned partly into a test session, but it was important to find the right set-up with two more asphalt events coming up soon. I was driving at my maximum throughout the event. Choosing the right tyres is an important part of rallying, and the team did a fantastic job in helping me make the right choice. So I wasn't surprised when we were so quick at the end."
Richard said he lacked confidence from the start of this event, but a set-up change last night meant that his times improved today. He drove carefully through the rain on the last two stages to finish in seventh overall, having started the leg in ninth. He scored two points to maintain his lead of the drivers' World Championship.
"I'm very glad to get to the end and even happier to score some points," said Richard. "I can't remember an event where I felt so little confidence in myself or the car. It got a bit better on the final day, but when the rain came down I just concentrated on being careful. Having endured a tough weekend, the last thing I wanted to do was finish it in a ditch!"
Peugeot Sport boss Corrado Provera commented: "This rally has been a tragi-comedy for us. We have not been as efficient as we could have been on asphalt, but not to the extent that some people think: we are only slightly behind on pace. Gilles was not always at the maximum of his potential, but he made up for that with a brilliant tyre choice and an excellent performance over the last two stages. Marcus was fantastic and then ruined everything with a stupid mistake on the last stage when he went off the road.
Richard's rally was terrible, but then he redeemed himself on the last day by scoring points for himself and us. With so many things going on at the last minute it's difficult to draw any conclusions. Apart from one firm conclusion -- we fight on!"
The second of October's three asphalt rallies, the Tour of Corsica, takes place in just over a week's time. Peugeot monopolised the podium last year, taking first, second and third. The entire team is hoping for a repeat of that dream result, but the competition gets tougher ever year.