WRC

Rallye Catalunya - Auriol wins!

Rallye Catalunya - Costa Brava Round 4 of the 2001 FIA World Rally Championship 22 - 25 March 2001 Sunday, 25 March 2001 Reigning FIA World Rally Championship manufacturers' title-holder Peugeot has scored a one-two success on the fourth...

Rallye Catalunya - Costa Brava
Round 4 of the 2001 FIA World Rally Championship
22 - 25 March 2001

Sunday, 25 March 2001

Reigning FIA World Rally Championship manufacturers' title-holder Peugeot has scored a one-two success on the fourth round of this year's series, the Rallye Catalunya-Costa Brava, which finished in northern Spain this afternoon. Former world champion Didier Auriol scored his first success for the team he joined at the start of this year, with fellow 206 WRC driver Gilles Panizzi second and Mitsubishi's Tommi Mäkinen third. The Finn duly extended his lead in the drivers' championship standings. Large crowds flocked to the hills north of Barcelona expecting a tight battle between Auriol and overnight leader, Citroen driver Philippe Bugalski, but the Xsara pilot received time penalties as he struggled with clutch problems and he eventually finished fourth. But after a report of the Clerk of the Course, the Stewards of the Meeting decided to penalise Bugalski with 2 minute for false start and this dropped the Frenchman to eighth place.

Peugeot
Technical: The 206 WRCs of Didier Auriol and Gilles Panizzi have run without major problems today.

Sporting: Didier Auriol admitted to taking huge risks on this morning's first stage but it proved counter-productive as the Frenchman dropped time to leader Philippe Bugalski. But once the Citroen driver had received his two minutes' penalties, Auriol was placed in a commanding lead and he paced himself during the afternoon to score his first victory since the China Rally in 1999. Team-mate Gilles Panizzi, meanwhile, set fastest time in that first stage to ease clear of Tommi Mäkinen and secure third place. But Bugalski's problems promoted the second 206 WRC to the runners-up spot.

Quotes:
Didier Auriol: "We've had bad luck earlier this year but that's the way of life. All through my career I've had spells where you have five or six months' bad luck, then some victories. The car has been perfect. It's like a magic car, really - you just put a driver in it and it wins! This afternoon I concentrated on not making mistakes, not cutting the corners too much and it worked. I'm delighted!"

Gilles Panizzi: "The car has been really good since we changed the centre differential settings yesterday. I'm happy with second, because it gives Peugeot 16 points. I think our manufacturers' championship could really start now, and I think Didier and Marcus (Grönholm) will be a strong combination for Peugeot in Argentina."

Mitsubishi
Technical: Both Mitsubishi Lancer Evos have performed reliably today.

Sporting: Tommi Mäkinen tried hard to close the gap to Gilles Panizzi this morning but the four-times world champion was unable to catch the Frenchman. Bugalski's problems did promote him to the final podium place, however. Team-mate Freddy Loix started the day in seventh but he won a thrilling fight with Carlos Sainz and François Delecour to finish the event in fifth. The young Belgian was faster than his illustrious team-mate on half of today's stages.

Quotes:
Tommi Makinen said: "I'm disappointed not to be a bit higher but it could have been much worse. At least we have taken some points and extended our lead in the drivers' championship. Freddy has also driven a good event so Mitsubishi has taken a useful score too."

Freddy Loix: "It's great to get into a fight like that and come out on top, particularly when it's with guys like Carlos and François. I have a really good feeling with the car, although I was still a bit surprised at how good the times were on some stages. I seem to keep saying this on every rally but my confidence is building on each event. I can't wait for Argentina now."

Citroen
Technical: Philippe Bugalski's Xsara WRC started to lose its clutch between this morning's first and second stage and although the Frenchman effected running repairs, he received time penalties when he was unable to take the start of the third test in time. His team was able to fix the problem at lunchtime service, and the car performed reliably thereafter.

Sporting: Philippe Bugalski's hopes of winning appeared well-founded when he stretched his lead in today's first stage, but on the way to the second his Xsara's clutch started to malfunction and he lost time in that test. At the start of the third, he was unable to leave the line on his designated time and he picked up two minutes' penalties as a result. Although he reached service and set quick times all afternoon, the time penalty dropped him to fourth.

Quotes:
Philippe Bugalski: "Of course I'm disappointed because I had high hopes of winning and I think we've proved that the car is quick enough to achieve that. Apart from this clutch problem - which is one we haven't had before - the only thing holding us back was little brake problems yesterday. I felt confident that I could have kept Auriol behind me. But we have to be positive - it's the car's first world championship event and we've led until the last few stages. It's been an encouraging rally for Citroen."

Ford
Technical: The Focus WRC01s of Carlos Sainz and François Delecour have been reliable during today's stages.

Sporting: Carlos Sainz and Francois Delecour started today determined to keep Freddy Loix and Richard Burns out of the points positions, but they only managed to stave off the latter. Sainz was troubled by tyres this morning, suffering two punctures and losing a little time before the mousse anti-deflation system worked. Delecour inched ahead of the Spaniard, only to incur a 10-second penalty for jumping the start on the day's third stage. That dropped him behind Loix, and Sainz reclaimed his status as top Ford to net sixth - ahead of Delecour - at the finish.

Quotes:
Carlos Sainz: "The tyres have been difficult today, and there has also been a lot of gravel on the road at times as well. But a point is more than I thought possible after the first day. I'm looking forward to a gravel rally now."

François Delecour: "The clutch is like a switch and it just jumped forward, breaking the timing beam. It was a pity to end the fight like that, because I was enjoying swapping seconds with Carlos and Freddy. I think we need to work closely with Pirelli to improve our tyres before the two asphalt rallies later this year."

Subaru
Technical: Richard Burns's Impreza WRC2001 was reliable today, but Markko Martin's example continued to suffer engine cut-out problems and they struck again on today's first stage. At lunchtime service, the Subaru team ran out of time as they made extensive efforts to finally discover a cure for the glitch, and Martin was forced to retire.

Sporting: Richard Burns tried hard to inch towards even a chance of a points finish on today's first three stages but although he gained time on the Sainz/Delecour/Loix battle in the first pair, he dropped it all again in the third. He closed in on Delecour towards the finish, but ultimately had to settle for eighth overall. Markko Martin's frustrating run ended with retirement in service after SS15.

Quotes:
Richard Burns: "You can't expect to get in the points these days if you have problems with the car. We've had a few, including some with the gearbox, and we just haven't been able to challenge. I hope we can turn this around in the next event."

Skoda
Technical: Having raised his Octavia's ride height to prevent it from hitting the sump guard when cutting corners, Bruno Thiry experimented today with his Octavia's springs and damper settings. The Belgian's trial-and-error approach was useful, given that he had little to gain or lose and he was racking up by far his greatest dry asphalt mileage with the Octavia to date.

Sporting: Bruno Thiry started today in 10th overall and effectively conducted useful experiments with his car's set-up as he maintained a steady pace to hold that position.

Quotes:
Bruno Thiry: "We've been close with the Hyundais, which has been useful because it's kept my concentration. I've learnt a lot about the Octavia on dry asphalt now and I think the car's got real potential, once we have found some more power from the engine."

Hyundai
Technical: Piero Liatti's Accent WRC2 was forced to retire this morning when it started to leak brake fluid and the Italian was unable to find the source of the problem. Alister McRae's car continued to be hampered by wastegate glitches and he also suffered from a slipping clutch at the start of the day's first stage.

Sporting: Alister McRae started today's final leg in 12th and he concentrated on staying out of trouble to keep clear of Adruzilo Lopes's private Peugeot. He achieved this, and the retirement of Piero Liatti promoted the Scot to 11th.

Quotes:
Alister McRae: "The niggling problems haven't been great but the new car's definitely better than the old model. The break before the next event will allow us to get stuck into some serious development work."

Other news
Sebastien Loeb claimed maximum points in the first round of the inaugural FIA Super 1600 Cup. The Frenchman's Citroen Saxo finished nearly three minutes clear of the Fiat Punto of Giandomenico Basso. His nearest rival yesterday, Spaniard Sergio Vallego, was excluded last night for a technical infringement.

In Group N, Argentine driver Gabriel Pozzo took maximum points after category leader Gustavo Trelles lost a tyre this morning. The Uruguyan had been fighting with Marcos Ligato until the event's halfway point, when the Argentina driver crashed out.

-FIA WRC

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About this article
Series WRC
Drivers Tommi Makinen , Adruzilo Lopes , Carlos Sainz , Freddy Loix , Richard Burns , Gilles Panizzi , Didier Auriol , François Delecour , Alister McRae , Sébastien Loeb , Philippe Bugalski , Gustavo Trelles , Piero Liatti , Gabriel Pozzo , Markko Martin , Giandomenico Basso
Teams Citroën World Rally Team