WRC

Catalunya Rally Leg two report

French manufacturers Citroen and Peugeot are dominating the fourth round of the FIA World Rally Championship, the Rallye Catalunya-Costa Brava, which continued in northern Spain today. Local Citroen driver Jesus Puras occupied the top position,...

French manufacturers Citroen and Peugeot are dominating the fourth round of the FIA World Rally Championship, the Rallye Catalunya-Costa Brava, which continued in northern Spain today. Local Citroen driver Jesus Puras occupied the top position, until he retired with low fuel pressure leaving the lead to his French team-mate Philippe Bugalski. But the Peugeots of Didier Auriol and Gilles Panizzi remain in touch, ahead of four-times world champion Tommi Mäkinen. Again encouraged by sunny skies, huge crowds flocked to the fast asphalt roads south of Tarragona to catch the action.

Citroen
Technical: The main Xsara WRC's problem today has been stopping: Philippe Bugalski complained of a long brake pedal on this morning's opening stage, and the problem recurred during the day's longest test. Jesus Puras, meanwhile, had to pump his brake pedal for more than 15km of SS9 after it went to the floor. However,he was forced to retire after SS11, when his Xsara WRC stopped with low fuel pressure.

Sporting: Fastest time on this morning's opening stage increased Jesus Puras's overnight lead but he spun and stalled on the second test, handing team-mate Philippe Bugalski another sniff of victory. The Frenchman responded, setting fastest time on the first run through the day's longest stage to grab the lead. Throughout their battle, the two Xsara WRCs have pulled further clear of the Peugeots of Didier Auriol and Gilles Panizzi. Second-placed Puras entered tonight's final stage 22 seconds clear of Auriol.

Jesus Puras: "The brake problem was not so nice, because it was hard to commit to corners when you don't know if the car's going to stop."

Philippe Bugalski: "I'm pleased to be in the fight for victory but it's very hard to have confidence when the brake problems are continuing. The team has been trying everything to fix the brakes but so far, it keeps coming back. I know I could push a little harder if we solve this."

Peugeot
Technical: The 206 WRCs of Didier Auriol and Gilles Panizzi haven't experienced any major technical problems today.

Sporting: The 206 WRCs of Didier Auriol and Gilles Panizzi haven't been able to catch either of the Citroens today, but they have remained a match for rivals from Mitsubishi, Ford and Subaru. Auriol has stayed closest to Bugalski and Puras and the 1994 world champion is still charging for the lead . Third-placed Panizzi, however, is not yet completely clear of a threat from Tommi Mäkinen.

Didier Auriol: "All I can do is keep trying. Today's been quite good for me because at least I have a bit more of a lead over Gilles, but Bugalski is probably too far ahead now. I won't give up - of course not - but it looks like second for me unless something happens to him."

Gilles Panizzi: "In the long stage, I attacked more than I've done on any other stage of the rally. When I crossed the line, (navigator) Herve told me he thought the time would be good and I agreed. But then I saw the leading three cars' times and I couldn't understand it. Of course I'll keep trying, but I don't think we can catch them."

Mitsubishi
Technical: Tommi Mäkinen's Lancer has again performed reliably, but Freddy Loix's example suffered from a centre differential problem that made it unpredictable under braking. The unit was changed at service accordingly.

Sporting: Tommi Mäkinen opted for harder tyres than his rivals this morning but he felt that gravel (pulled onto the road by the cars in front) and cooler conditions meant it was probably the wrong choice. The Finn recovered for the long stage before lunch, though, and began to narrow the deficit to fourth-placed Gilles Panizzi. Freddy Loix's centre differential problems cost him time this morning and when the problem was cured, he suffered an ATS mousse insert failure in the long stage and lost further seconds. He dropped into the sights of François Delecour and Carlos Sainz as a result, but he remains in the points.

Tommi Mäkinen said: "This morning, there was a lot more gravel being pulled out onto the roads by the first four cars than I'd expected, and that caught me out a bit. The harder tyres were certainly the wrong choice for the first stage of the day. I still think we can get higher up the leaderboard than this, though, so we'll keep trying. Victory is too far away but the podium is still a possibility."

Freddy Loix: "You get a vibration when the mousse breaks up inside the tyre and this time it was so bad that the car started to change gear by itself. It was a frightening on the fast sections because you never knew if it was going to go back down from sixth to fifth. If we get more clean runs, then I think we have a chance of getting back up."

Ford
Technical: Ford has attributed the fuel pressure problems that forced Colin McRae to retire yesterday, and hampered the efforts of Carlos Sainz and François Delecour, to a batch of faulty fuel pumps. The Focus WRCs have been more reliable today.

Sporting: Carlos Sainz and François Delecour have both been happier with their Focuses on the abrasive roads near Tarragona. Sainz in particular has put in a charge to move closer to a points placing by lunchtime service. He experimented with suspension and camber settings in an effort to find crucial seconds. Delecour lost time with a tyre mousse insert failure this morning, but he remained in touch with the points positions.

Carlos Sainz: "We have a little problem with the tyre tread wear so we've been trying different camber to see if it cures it. Apart from that it's going okay today - our times have been closer and we've been pushing as hard as possible."

Subaru
Technical: Subaru technicians discovered a turbo problem with Richard Burns's Impreza WRC2001 at final service yesterday, and the Briton's car has been more reliable today. Team-mate Markko Martin continues to suffer from ignition and gearbox problems, however: his Impreza cut out more than five times in the first run over today's longest stage, and he had to jam the 'box in third on a few occasions.

Sporting: With a more reliable car under him, Richard Burns started to inch towards his realistic target of a points position. But although his times compared more favourably with the leaders than yesterday, he still had Carlos Sainz, Francois Delecour, and Freddy Loix standing in his way. And like many, he was becoming concerned by spectator control. Markko Martin's continuing technical problems dropped the Estonian out of the top ten, however.

Richard Burns: "The crowds in the day's long stage were very bad. I had to consciously back off on some corners because I knew if I went off, I'd take a lot of people out. When the car's reliable, we can do reasonable times. But it's going to be hard to move much higher."

Skoda
Technical: Armin Schwarz was forced to retire his Octavia WRC with steering problems in this morning's opening stage. The German had experienced difficulties on the road section from Lloret de Mar to first service but although the team changed the steering rack, the glitch re-occurred in the first test and he retired on the spot. Bruno Thiry's example has been more reliable, although the Belgian suffered a bad vibration in today's first stage when he suffered a mousse break up in one of his tyres. He damaged the car's rear suspension in SS9 as well.

Sporting: Armin Schwarz retired with technical problems this morning, while Bruno Thiry's early problems dropped him to the fringes of the top ten. He was fighting hard to stay in touch with François Delecour and Carlos Sainz, but also found himself scrapping with Peugeot privateer Simon Jean-Joseph.

Bruno Thiry: "The vibration was incredible, and the car was a real handful when I damaged the suspension. The spectators have been crazy as well today - if we have an accident with crowds like that I wouldn't like to think about the consequences."

Hyundai
Technical: Piero Liatti's Accent WRC2 has been generally reliable today, but Alister McRae's example suffered from an overheating wastegate on this morning's opening pair of stages. Disabling the car's anti-lag system helped ease the problem, and the unit was changed at service.

Sporting: Hyundai continues to gain valuable data on how the latest evolution Accent works on asphalt, but neither Alister McRae or Piero Liatti has been able to break into the top ten positions. The pair are still behind Bruno Thiry's Skoda, and the private Peugeot of Simon Jean-Joseph.

Alister McRae:
"The wastegate problem meant I had to rev the engine very hard to get any boost at all, which was frustrating. It's heat-related so switching off the anti-lag system helped but it cost us a lot of time."

Other news
Engine problems hampered the overnight leader in the FIA Super 1600 Cup section, Frenchman Sebastian Loeb. He changed a faulty crank sensor after today's first stage but the time lost already dropped him behind local driver Sergio Vallejo. He however stormed through the afternoon stages to once again take the lead. Giandomenico Basso should have been ideally placed to capitalise but the Fiat driver lost a tyre on a rock. In the Group N section for production cars, multiple category champion Gustavo Trelles held a narrow lead over Marcos Ligato this afternoon.

<pre> Standings after leg two

OUTRIGHT

1 Bugalski      Citroen Xsara WRC       2:24:42,3
2 Auriol        Peugeot 206 WRC         2:25:10,0
3 Panizzi       Peugeot 206 WRC         2:25:52,7
4 Makinen       Mitsubishi Lancer Evo   2:26:05,1
5 Sainz         Ford Focus RS WRC       2:27:05,8
8 Delecour      Ford Focus RS WRC       2:27:06,2
6 Loix          Mitsubishi Carisma GT   2:27:08,6
9 Burns         Subaru Impreza WRC      2:27:28,1
10 Jean-Joseph  Peugeot 206 WRC         2:28:31,7

GROUP N

1 Trelles       Mitsubishi Lancer Evo   2:37:42,6
2 Pozzo         Mitsubishi Lancer Evo   2:41:22,8
3 Feghali       Mitsubishi Lancer Evo   2:42:08,9

SUPER 1600

1 Loeb          Citroen Saxo            2:38:12,4
2 Vallejo       Fiat Punto              2:38:45,8
3 Basso         Fiat Punto              2:39:55,3

__________________________________________________________________

LEADING RETIREMENTS

SS11 Puras      Citroen Xsara WRC       Fuel Pressure
SS8  Schwarz    Skoda Octavia WRC       Mechanical
SS6  C.McRae    Ford Focus RS WRC       Engine
SS4  Gronholm   Peugeot 206 WRC         Mechanical  
SS3  Solberg    Subaru Impreza WRC      Accident  

__________________________________________________________________

STAGE WINNERS

SS7 - Puras, SS8 - Bugalski, SS9 - Bugalski, SS10 - Bugalski, SS11 - Auriol, SS12 - cancelled __________________________________________________________________

STAGE RESULTS

SS 7, Pratdip 31.57 km 1st Car: 08:55

Pos/ Driver/ Car/ Time

1 Puras         Citroen Xsara WRC       19:12,0
2 Bugalski      Citroen Xsara WRC       19:21,3
3 Burns         Subaru Impreza WRC      19:24,3
4 Auriol        Peugeot 206 WRC         19:26,5
5 Panizzi       Peugeot 206 WRC         19:31,5

__________________________________________________________________

SS 8, Escaladei 14.43 km 1st Car: 10:06

Pos/ Driver/ Car/ Time

1 Bugalski      Citroen Xsara WRC       10:26,6
2 Auriol        Peugeot 206 WRC         10:31,2
3 Panizzi       Peugeot 206 WRC         10:32,7
4 Makinen       Mitsubishi Lancer Evo   10:35,3
5 Puras         Citroen Xsara WRC       10:37,7
6 Delecour      Ford Focus RS WRC       10:37,7

__________________________________________________________________

SS 9, La Riba 35.89 km 1st Car: 12:04

Pos/ Driver/ Car/ Time

1 Bugalski      Citroen Xsara WRC       21:56,6
2 Auriol        Peugeot 206 WRC         22:05,0
3 Puras         Citroen Xsara WRC       22:05,0
4 Delecour      Ford Focus RS WRC       22:12,1
5 Makinen       Mitsubishi Lancer Evo   22:16,6

__________________________________________________________________

SS 10, Pratdip 31.57 km 1st Car: 14:34

Pos/ Driver/ Car/ Time

1 Bugalski      Citroen Xsara WRC       19:17,8
2 Puras         Citroen Xsara WRC       19:19,8
3 Auriol        Peugeot 206 WRC         19:26,7
4 Burns         Subaru Impreza WRC      19:28,2
5 Makinen       Mitsubishi Lancer Evo   19:33,8

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SS 11, Escaladei 14.43 km 1st Car: 15:45

Pos/ Driver/ Car/ Time

1 Auriol        Peugeot 206 WRC         10:44,5
2 Bugalski      Citroen Xsara WRC       10:46,4
3 Panizzi       Peugeot 206 WRC         10:47,0
4 Puras         Citroen Xsara WRC       10:48,0
5 Delecour      Ford Focus RS WRC       10:51,6

__________________________________________________________________

SS 12, La Riba 35.89 km 1st Car: 17:43

Cancelled

__________________________________________________________________ www.worldrallychampionship.com www.fia.co,

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About this article
Series WRC
Drivers Tommi Makinen , Colin McRae , Carlos Sainz , Freddy Loix , Richard Burns , Gilles Panizzi , Didier Auriol , François Delecour , Alister McRae , Armin Schwarz , Philippe Bugalski , Jesus Puras , Gustavo Trelles , Piero Liatti , Simon Jean-Joseph , Markko Martin , Giandomenico Basso
Teams Citroën World Rally Team