Corrado Provera : "Never give up" With the year's final showdown in the forests of Wales looming large, the combination of victory in Catalonia - with the still highly competitive 206 WRC and the back-to-form Gilles Panizzi - and the team's ...
Corrado Provera : "Never give up"
With the year's final showdown in the forests of Wales looming large, the combination of victory in Catalonia - with the still highly competitive 206 WRC and the back-to-form Gilles Panizzi - and the team's unshaken motivation have put Peugeot well and truly back into the chase for the 2003 world title. "We have no intention of giving up," emphasises Corrado Provera!
Q: Peugeot Sport's title chances seemed rather slender at one point, but your win in Spain has given you a new lease of life at exactly the right moment--
CP: It's never too late to do well! Our victory in Spain could have, and should have, come earlier. Even so, we always knew our car was capable of winning on all types of surface. No team is made up of supermen. We have made some technical and human errors for which we can only blame ourselves. Today, we should have been in a reasonably comfortable position rather than being forced to do the chasing with a five-point deficit to make up on our principal rival in Wales.
Q: When you go through such a lean period in terms of results, do you end up thinking that luck is against you?
CP: Fate does sometimes seem to want to hold your head under water. But at the end of the day, and despite our near-faultless run in 2002, we have effectively had some shortcomings on the reliability front. That has made life difficult for us, for in addition to closing in on us in performance terms, all the cars entered in this year's championship have proved exceptionally strong. To see that, you only have to look at the very low number of retirements there have been this season. And most of those have been the result of accidents rather than mechanical problems. Each time out, the fight has been extremely fierce and has stayed fierce all the way to the flag, pushing the drivers to the absolute limit--
Q: How did you go about motivating your team to get back onto the right footing?
CP: That has never been necessary! They like champagne so much that I am in no doubt about their determination to win. A little against our will, we have had some bottles on chill for some time, but that only made them more of a pleasure to drink in Spain! Frédéric Saint-Geours was with us in Catalonia and it was a fine present the team gave him by returning to its winning ways. It also shows just how confident everyone in the team is, from the bottom to the top of the pyramid. Sometimes it can be difficult to be perfectly serene, but nobody at Peugeot Sport has ever lacked faith, determination or motivation. I hope we will be popping open other bottles very soon--
Q: Some observers were suggesting that the 206 WRC is past its best, but the car demonstrated in Catalonia that it has plenty of life in it yet--
CP: That's an understatement! As far as the car is concerned, we effectively heard some remarks that we didn't share. But it is only with facts that we ever going to be able to show that those comments were unfounded. OK, set-up troubles have occasionally had an adverse influence on the balance of the car which has in turn unsettled our drivers and affected their performance at times. When you're forced to keep fine-tuning the specification of your car to ward off the increasingly pressing competition, you can sometimes end up running less effective solutions. For some time now, we haven't been troubled by technical problems, but our drivers have sometimes been a little febrile or mentally fragile, albeit with attenuating circumstances since we were going through a difficult spell, at a time when our rivals were very strong. But the 206 WRC is still in there, and Gilles Panizzi finally proved that in Spain.
Q: Gilles leaves Peugeot at the end of the season and the 206 WRC is also about to bow out. Both have set a very high standard for their successors--
CP: Without a doubt, but that doesn't worry me. Gilles has occasionally given us cause to grumble, but that has been significantly outweighed by the joy he has brought us. By winning in Spain, he gave us a superb leaving gift. He also showed that he is still the Tarmac Master, at the wheel of a fantastic machine. But Marcus Grönholm has also put in some outstanding performances on asphalt and, as for Freddy Loix who joins us next year, we have total confidence in his ability. Finally, although it's still a little early to provide concrete evidence, we are actively working on ensuring that the 307 WRC is a perfectly worthy successor to the 206 WRC--
Q: Would you say that it is tougher to stay at the top than to reach it?
CP: Yes and no. It has never been easy for us and none of the titles we have secured in the past three years were achieved without a huge effort. That said, the current season is effectively very tough now that our rivals have become battle-hardened. As I said before, there are very few retirements at the moment and the field is more balanced than ever. The slightest mistake can cost you a number of positions and deprive you of valuable points. On the other hand, a top result when your main rival in turn makes a mistake can put you back in the running just when everyone thought you were on your last legs. Rallying continues to be a fantastically exciting sport where pure logic often flies out of the window, especially when the weather turns fickle. As a result, we are still there and prepared to fight until the very end.
Q: So you still have a chance--
CP: Absolutely. We are back in the running, and we feel that maybe the pressure has changed sides. We go to the final round of the season with an extremely strong driver line-up. A fourth title is still a very real possibility. As for Richard, he will be competing in front of home fans and has by no means lost all chance of clinching the Drivers' championship. Rally Great Britain is a particularly difficult event and anything can happen!