Peugeot grabs double title glory* Peugeot 206 WRCs have grabbed first and second on the Rally New Zealand, the 12th round of the FIA World Rally Championship, which finished on the outskirts of Auckland this afternoon. Marcus Gronholm and Timo...
Peugeot grabs double title glory*
Peugeot 206 WRCs have grabbed first and second on the Rally New Zealand, the 12th round of the FIA World Rally Championship, which finished on the outskirts of Auckland this afternoon. Marcus Gronholm and Timo Rautiainen secured their fourth win of the year and subject to confirmation, that was enough to ensure a second world championship crown* for the Finn. Harri Rovanpera and Voitto Silander finished second, meanwhile, to secure yet another maximum points haul for Peugeot in the manufacturers championship. The result was more than enough for the French marque to secure a remarkable third successive makes' title*.
Gronholm and Rovanpera both had comfortable positions at the start of today's eight stages, held to the south of Auckland. As such, neither took any real risks in the remaining tests as Gronholm romped to victory by almost four minutes. Rovanpera lost time with a late hydraulic problem, but he still claimed the runners-up spot, more than half a minute clear of Tommi Makinen. Another Peugeot 206, driven by Rallye Sanremo winner Gilles Panizzi, finished in an excellent seventh overall on the Frenchman's first attempt at the tricky New Zealand stages.
Marcus said: "I'm very happy, of course. I don't know how this championship win* compares to the first one two years ago. Back then it was a fight to the last stage whereas this time, we've done it with two rounds remaining. I think the big thing this year has been that I have had a very good finishing record. Not counting the exclusion in Argentina, I've only retired from one rally and with the good speed of the 206 WRC as well, that's been enough for me to take good scores from almost all of the rallies. There are still two events remaining now and I don't have so much to go for now, but they're both rallies that I normally enjoy so I'm looking forward to them."
Harri said: "With three stages to go, I heard a bad noise from the engine and then I noticed that the hydraulic pressure was starting to go down. We had to go back to the manual gearshift and I also lost the power steering and the front brakes for the last couple of stages. I was sure I'd lose second place in the end but we've kept it, so I'm quite happy."
Peugeot Total Team Director Corrado Provera said: "I'm delighted for everyone in the whole team. We have scored throughout this season at a very high level, and this double win here is extraordinary. It's a fantastic result for a team and a company which are really committed to rallying and this championship. Our success is also the fruit of close teamwork with our partner Michelin. Thanks to their valuable efforts, we have been able to count on excellent tyres throughout the season. Nor should I forget the input of Total's engineers in the development of the high performance lubricants that have played an other significant role in our results. We've reached the targets here -- I'm happy for Harri, Gilles and of course for Marcus. And I'm also a little sad for Richard, who was doing so well until yesterday. I'm sure that one of these days he will be winning as well."
With both world titles* now assured, the Peugeot team can now approach the final two rounds of the year in a more relaxed mood, but all of its regular drivers will be aiming to end the 2002 season on a high. Outgoing world champion Richard Burns will be particularly determined to bounce back from his disappointment here in New Zealand and take his debut victory for the Peugeot team -- his first chance to achieve that will come on the Rally Australia on October 31-November 3.
* Subject to the official publication of the results by the F.I.A.