WRC

Rally Mexico: Peugeot preview

Rally Mexico : The 307 WRC Takes To The Loose After concluding its debut outing, the Monte Carlo Rally, in 4th place, followed by a 2nd place in snowy Sweden, the next sortie for the Peugeot 307 WRC will be Mexico, its first attempt at a ...

Rally Mexico : The 307 WRC Takes To The Loose

After concluding its debut outing, the Monte Carlo Rally, in 4th place, followed by a 2nd place in snowy Sweden, the next sortie for the Peugeot 307 WRC will be Mexico, its first attempt at a 100% gravel route. Marcus Grönholm and his fellow Finn Harri Rovanperä will drive the two cars entered by Peugeot in the 2004 World Rally Championship.

Two rounds into the new season, the career of the Peugeot 307 WRC has got off to a positive start. First time out, in Monte Carlo, it led for much of the opening leg and posted three fastest stage times. Two weeks later, its performance in Sweden also showed significant promise. As he had done in the French Alps, Marcus Grönholm took the lead from the first stage. Despite falling back to 7th overall, the Finn proceeded to climb back up the leaderboard and finished the weekend with a total of eight fastest stage times to his name. Not only did he show his speed on both occasions, but he also finished in the points each time, with a 4th place in Monaco followed by a 2nd place in Karlstad. Prior to the trip to Mexico, he figures in 2nd position in the Drivers' championship while Peugeot is currently 3rd in the provisional Manufacturers' standings.

"The times set in the first two rounds of the season were clearly encouraging in terms of the 307 WRC's performance potential and we believe it will have progressed further still for its maiden event on gravel in Mexico," indicates Peugeot Sport Director Corrado Provera. "We are really looking forward to this new event in North America which Harri Rovanperä won two years ago with the 206. We are certain the 307 WRC can win but do not want to be over confident since the car is only at the beginning of its career. Evolutions are scheduled for New Zealand."

Rally Mexico is the first concrete example of the changes introduced this year to the WRC calendar since this is the first saeson the event will count as a qualifying round of the World Championship. Organised for the first time in 1979, it was initially known as Rally America and resembled more a Paris-Dakar style rally-raid than a traditional rally. It evolved over the years however to fall in line with international standards and, under the appellation Rally Mexico, was a candidate for inclusion in the WRC calendar when Peugeot sent Harri Rovanperä to compete there in the 2002 event.

Just as he will do in New Zealand in April, the Finn will drive the second 307 WRC in Mexico, an event of which he has fond recollections following his first visit... "I was impressed by the high standard of the work put in by the organisers despite the fact that they had no previous experience of world rallying," he recalls. "The event went very well and the atmosphere was very pleasant even though there weren't many spectators. The rally is based in the industrial city of Leon but the stages are beautiful and challenging. Some are fast, others are twistier, while the surface is quite smooth although fairly slippery with lots of sand and dust. Personally, I am delighted to be back with Peugeot after a rather long winter break. I recently did some testing in Sardinia where I was given a very warm welcome by the team. That was very nice."

Meanwhile, Marcus Grönholm is in a confident mood as he turns his attention to the third round of 2004: "I finished the first two rallies of the year in 4th and 2nd place but perhaps I could have come away with better. The season has only just begun though, and the recent testing I did, which focused on the set-up of the car and the differential, was very positive. I think we have found a good set-up that should make the car more competitive for its first outing on the loose. We have worked well--"

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Series WRC
Drivers Harri Rovanpera , Marcus Gronholm , Corrado Provera