2001 FIA World Rally Championship preview

The 2001 season again features 14 rounds, of which five (including the Mediterranean event in Cyprus) are outside Europe. Four of the events are on asphalt roads, the remaining ten (including the wintry Swedish Rally) on gravel. The championship...

The 2001 season again features 14 rounds, of which five (including the Mediterranean event in Cyprus) are outside Europe. Four of the events are on asphalt roads, the remaining ten (including the wintry Swedish Rally) on gravel. The championship regulations remain largely unchanged, so that registered World Championship manufacturers must again contest every event, except for teams which have recently entered the series. These teams (Skoda, Hyundai and Citroen) are allowed to enter progressively more events over a three season introductory period. Seven teams have again been registered for the championship. For this year SEAT have withdrawn from the series but have been replaced by Citroen, who plan to contest four events in 2001. All championship teams except Mitsubishi and Skoda expect this year to enter extra team cars from time to time. These drivers will be eligible for Drivers' but not Manufacturers' championship points. Drivers do not have to enter every event to qualify for their championship. Main changes within the FIA World Championship framework this year come with the two ancillary series: the Teams Cup which now is limited to six specific qualifying events, and the all-new low-cost younger driver Super 1600 series, again over six specific rounds.


(2000 World Champions, 2001 Drivers: Marcus Gronholm, Didier Auriol and Gilles Panizzi)
Peugeot will start the new season with an unchanged design, with a lighter weight car due to appear in mid season. Main driver change is Auriol's arrival to take over from Francois Delecour as regular team mate to world champion Gronholm: details of programmes to be announced in Paris on 12th January. Panizzi will also enter some events with the works team, and others in a car run independently by HF Grifone, who starts the season running Toni Gardemeister at Monte Carlo. HF Grifone hope to run 206 Maxi cars in the Super 1600 series as well.


(2nd in 2000, 2001 Drivers: Colin McRae, Carlos Sainz and Francois Delecour)
While McRae and Sainz remain the two regular team drivers entering all fourteen events, the Frenchman Delecour has also been promised ten rallies in total, including the first seven in the series. Thereafter the other three events will be decided on the current situations in the drivers' championship. The third variant Focus World Rally Car (called the Focus RS) is due to start competition immediately at Monte Carlo. Puma Kit Cars will be prepared for use in the Super 1600 series.


(3rd in 2000, 2001 Drivers: Richard Burns, Petter Solberg and Markko Martin)
The season starts with a new version Impreza which features a four door body, but which is mechanically similar at this time to the two door 2000 version. Full team plans will be announced at Monte Carlo, but already confirmed is that Burns and Solberg will do the full season, Martin will enter at least the first 12 rallies. Plans for Juha Kankkunen are still unannounced. Also, the FIA Teams Cup champion driver Toshihiro Arai is expected to enter ten selected events with a fully works specification car in 2001.


(4th in 2000, 2001 Drivers: Tommi Makinen, Freddy Loix, Thomas Radtrom)
There is a new team manager George Donaldson, replacing Phil Short - and TWO new types of car due this year! The first (to appear at the Monte Carlo) features improvements to the engine and most importantly revised rear suspension design. The second, due to appear at Sanremo, will be the first design from Mitsubishi to take full use of freedoms permitted under World Rally Car rules. For the first time, Mitsubishi will run a third car with Thomas Radstom at the Rally of Sweden. Radstrom has been nominated for manufacturer points instead of Loix.


(6th in 2000, 2001 Drivers: Alister McRae, Kenneth Eriksson and Piero Liatti)
The team is to enter 13 of the 14 rounds (only the Safari will be missed). McRae is to enter all 13, Eriksson their nine gravel events, Liatti all four asphalt events and two others as well. The current version Accent is to be used for the opening rounds of the series, there are to be improvements with engine specification to come in a revised version later in the year. The team has a new team manager - Mark Busfield.


(7th in 2000, 2001 Drivers: Armin Schwarz and Bruno Thiry)
Main change for 2001 is the appointment of Thiry as second driver to Schwarz, instead of Luis Climent. Skoda plans to enter 12 of the 14 rounds, missing only New Zealand and Australia. So far as the Octavia World Rally car is concerned, the team start the season with the existing second-generation version, with engine modifications to come in middle of season.


(New Entry, 2001 Drivers: Philippe Bugalski, Jesus Puras and Thomas Radstrom)
Citroen, who have been active for many years in national championship rallies, start their world rally car project with a four-round programme in 2001. This comprises Cataluna, Acropolis, Sanremo and Corsica - three asphalt and one gravel rally. Regular drivers continue to be Bugalski and Puras, while Radstrom will work as a gravel road specialist. The team also expect to gain extra experience on a range of rallies outside the world championship. Recent appointment: team manager will be former co driver Michel Perin. In addition to their World Championship activities, Citroen is active in supporting private drivers in the new FIA Super 1600 series.


Corolla World Rally Cars will continue to be seen on world championship rallies run by a new company called Step 2 which is associated with HF Grifone and run out of neighbouring premises close to Genoa, Italy. Step 2 start off at Monte Carlo running a car for Piero Longhi. Later they plan to run Abdullah Bakhashab in the FIA Teams' Cup. The Swedish Toyota team run by Leif Asterhag has no current plans to be active in world rallies this year.

PRODUCTION CAR CUP (GROUP N) Mitsubishi drivers again look like dominating the FIA Production Car Cup. All the top drivers expect to run most of the season with Lancer Evolution VI models with left hand drive version Evo VII cars not available until mid season. Top drivers planning a season include 2000 champion Manfred Stohl, four time champion Gustavo Trelles, the Italian Gianluigi Galli, while from Argentina the two cars from Cordoba Rally Team will continue with 21 year old Gabriel Pozzo, but this year 23 year old Marcos Ligato replaces Claudio Menzi. They will again compete with the Italian team Top Run. 1984 world champion Stig Blomqvist is planning various entries in a Mitsubishi and has also been entered by David Sutton (Cars) Ltd in the official Teams Cup. Champion Manfred Stohl's programme is not yet fixed, but he is cautious about the new Group N technical regulations.

"Main uncertainty is the consequence of the new stronger gearboxes. They will be more expensive, though driving should be more fun. We do not yet know how this will affect the casings, the clutches and the driveshafts, and (before Christmas) testing has not yet started. Maybe it will be better to stay with the old system at this time."


Sufficient registrations were received by the FIA before the 15th December deadline to guarantee the series will run in 2001. First of the six Teams Cup qualifying events will be the Swedish. A definitive list of qualifying teams is to be published in 15th January, a week after entries close for the Swedish.

SUPER 1600

Deadline for registrations (10 minimum) must be received by 1st February, in time for the first qualifying round (Catalunya Rally). Cars expected to feature in the series include Citroen Saxo, Peugeot 206 Maxi and Ford Puma. The first prototype Peugeot 206 Maxi was first run in mid December, prepared for 2002 rules.

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About this article
Series WRC
Drivers Tommi Makinen , Colin McRae , Carlos Sainz , Freddy Loix , Toshihiro Arai , Richard Burns , Gilles Panizzi , Didier Auriol , Marcus Gronholm , Petter Solberg , François Delecour , Alister McRae , Armin Schwarz , Philippe Bugalski , Thomas Radstrom , Jesus Puras , Juha Kankkunen , Kenneth Eriksson , Gustavo Trelles , Manfred Stohl , Toni Gardemeister , Piero Liatti , Gianluigi Galli , Michel Périn , Stig Blomqvist , Gabriel Pozzo , Markko Martin , Piero Longhi
Teams Citroën World Rally Team