Catalunyan Rally preview

Fourth round of the 2001 FIA World Rally Championship. This is a momentous event for two reasons. Firstly the arrival of Citroen as a registered contender in the FIA Manufacturers Championship, secondly the first round of the FIA's new cost ...

Fourth round of the 2001 FIA World Rally Championship. This is a momentous event for two reasons. Firstly the arrival of Citroen as a registered contender in the FIA Manufacturers Championship, secondly the first round of the FIA's new cost limiting Super 1600 championship.

The first clear asphalt rally in the championship, similar in format to previous years but with many detailed changes to stages. Once again, in order to provide just one Service Park location each day, this rally has the longest road sections of any World Championship event, apart from the Safari. Although every stage is to be repeated, reconnaissance will be difficult. Ford co-driver Nicky Grist has calculated over half of the route this year needs new pacenotes, mostly on account of being run in the opposite direction. This year the event does not count for the National Rally championship. There are only six private Spanish competitors on the entry list. This is the first asphalt World Championship Rally where only two types of tread pattern are allowed, even though the stages in the two separate areas where the rally are held have considerably different style of surface.

Current standings are that Tommi Makinen in four points ahead of Carlos Sainz, with Harri Rovanpera a further six points behind. The Manufacturers' standings are set out below, while the Group N category cannot be published awaiting confirmation of positions after Portugal.


Tommi Makinen, Car 7 and Freddy Loix, Car 8

Andrew Cowan, Chairman of Ralliart Europe, said that the team had made a total of nine days' testing just for this event. He added: "Freddy Loix's transmission failure in Portugal may have been due to mud in the clutch housing, because this also occurred in post-event demonstrations, the day after the event in similar conditions." Loix's car has not yet been examined to confirm the reason.

FORD MOTOR COMPANY Ltd. (2nd - 20 points)
Carlos Sainz, Car 3, Colin McRae, Car 4, Francois Delecour, Car 17

Main technical innovation is a new design of sumpguard, aimed at reducing rideheight. Ford made a bold decision to nominate both their types of tread patterns for dry-weather conditions. The theory is that each pattern was ideally suited to different parts of the route. Tread pattern cutting will adequately cater for wet conditions. McRae's engine failure in Portugal was found to be a consequence of an ECU malfunction.

Piero Liatti, Car 9 and Alister McRae, Car 10

There has been little time following their successful debut appearance of the WRC2 in Portugal. Asphalt testing of the new model was due to start two days before reconnaissance, in the hands of guest driver Liatti. Liatti has gained three podium finishes at Catalunya already to his credit.

SUBARU WORLD RALLY TEAM (4th - 7 points)
Richard Burns, Car 5, Petter Solberg, Car 6, Markko Martin, Car 18

New cars for Burns and Martin, his Monte-Carlo car for Solberg.
David Lapworth, SWRT Principal: "The decision to run only three cars here and in Argentina is based solely on logistics. We hope to have full four-car teams for the next four gravel events".

SKODA MOTORSPORT (5th - 6 points)
Armin Schwarz, Car 11 and Bruno Thiry, Car 12

Sporting director Pavel Janeba: "Main news for Catalunya are the significant improvements to the engines. The latest version is being tested the week before the event and all being well, identical units will be fitted for the rally." Thiry will leave Catalunya to go the same day to Kenya for pre-Safari testing.

TEAM PEUGEOT TOTAL (6th - 4 points)
Marcus Gronholm, Car 1 and Didier Auriol Car 2

Also entered Gilles Panizzi (car n°. 16). Two big challenges: Peugeot has never won this event before, and the reigning World Champion Marcus Gronholm, has never achieved a podium finish on asphalt. Rovanpera's retirement after leading the Portugal Rally has been found to have originated by excessive water pressure inside the engine, which caused a radiator leak and eventual engine failure.

Philippe Bugalski, Car 14 and Jesus Puras, Car 15

Welcome the return of a famous name in the Championship ! It is 15 years since this manufacturer was last present at the top level of the sport, but there is no doubt about their sincerity. The team has carried out no less than 21 000 km of test work since the start of the this project in March 1999, during which period the project had been suspended for five months. The official name for the car is now Xsara World Rally Car - and not Xsara T4 by which it had previously been known. Jesus Puras is reported fit after withdrawing from the P ortugal Rally following his accidents in reconnaissance.

Group N championship: regular Group N include Gustavo Trelles, Gabriel Pozzo and Marcos Ligato but not reigning champion Manfred Stohl who has entered Super 1600 instead. Other top drivers include Natalie Barratt (with her spare car after her accident in Portugal) and Stig Blomqvist (with a new car) even though this does not count for the Teams' Cup. Other drivers: SEAT are present with two ex-works Cordoba World Rally Cars (Salvador Canellas Junior and Marc Blazquez). Roger Feghali, reigning rally champion of Lebanon drives a Mitsubishi Group N. After the massive nine car entry in Portugal, there will only be two Toyota Corolla WRCs on this occasion - the young Finn Janne Tuohino and the 1999 Team's Cup champion Luis Climent.

ABOUT SUPER 1600 By introducing this new category, the aim of the FIA is to reduce, particularly for younger drivers, the daunting aspect of initial financial outlay. FIA President Max Mosley said "For me the most important problem in motor sport is money. This formula helps negate the temptation for drivers to invest in their cars in order to overcome shortcomings in their talent. I personally would like to see all grass root rallying to be for one-make championships, for this reason."

The 1600 series is for drivers, not manufacturers. Works teams are not allowed to compete, but manufacturers have specially to develop and then homologate the cars, and are permitted to attend events as suppliers of spare parts. There are six events, three on asphalt and three on gravel, the majority coming later in the season. Drivers must participate in all six or risk a penalty from the FIA. A total of 23 drivers are expected to make the start line in Spain.

Four models have been homologated so far and are eligible for use by Super 1600 drivers at Catalunya. Most cars (for example Citroen Saxo, Ford Puma and Fiat Punto) are de-tuned versions of existing Kit Cars and are largely rally-ready, while the Peugeot 206 has been developed upwards from a standard production car and needed initial development work. Proton and Suzuki are expected to be available for Super 1600 use in the near future.

Cost control is the most notable aspect to the project. The total cost of a car must not exceed USD100,000, and the total sum of all components bought separately must be less than USD115,000. The underlying concept of the formula is to encourage younger drivers, and it is notable there are four drivers 21 years or younger, but also entered are 41 year old Patrick Magaud, former works Citroen driver, and Manfred Stohl.

www.worldrallychampionship.com www.FIA.com

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