WRC

Rallye Deutschland: Peugeot preview

Back to asphalt in Germany The Deutschland Rally, eighth round of the 2003 World Rally Championship, kicks off the second half of the season the majority of which will take place on asphalt. Peugeot will be out to make the most of its ...

Back to asphalt in Germany

The Deutschland Rally, eighth round of the 2003 World Rally Championship, kicks off the second half of the season the majority of which will take place on asphalt. Peugeot will be out to make the most of its sealed surface potential to consolidate its position at the top of the Manufacturers' and Drivers' points tables, a challenge toughened however by the fact that the list of possible winners has rarely been as long as it is this year. Three 206 WRCs have been officially entered by Peugeot Sport for Marcus Grönholm, Richard Burns and Gilles Panizzi, while privately-entered 2003-specification cars will be present in Germany for Harri Rovanperä and up-and-coming Frenchman Cédric Robert.

The World Rally Championship has always featured an exceptionally wide variety of terrains and the nuances of the current calendar ensures that 2003 is no exception. Of this year's first seven rounds, six ran on either gravel or snow, with just one taking place on asphalt. And that was the Monte Carlo Rally which was its usual patchwork of wintry conditions. In contrast, as the punishing tracks of Cyprus, Greece, Argentina, Turkey make way for a series of sprints that place the accent more on outright speed, four of the seven remaining contests will be on asphalt.

The first of these will be the Deutschland Rally which takes place in the region of Trier, near the French and Luxembourg borders. Included in the WRC calendar for the first time in 2002, its stages alternate between the narrow lanes that criss-cross through the Mosel Valley vineyards to the more flowing tests further south as well as visits to some of the area's military ranges. Indeed, this variety is one of the principal challenges of the German round in which Peugeot competed for the first time in 2001, a year before it's promotion to World Championship status.

While Gilles Panizzi was forced to sit out the 2002 event because of a fractured collarbone, Richard Burns and Marcus Grönholm put in strong performances to secure second and third places respectively at the finish.

So, could this month's visit be the chance of the team's British driver to take his maiden win in Peugeot colours? "A result as good as last year's would be nice, but why not one place better? Unlike in recent events, the fact that the Deutschland Rally runs on asphalt means I won't be handicapped by my start position on Day 1. That's an important factor. Given the close fight in the championship this year, my only tactic will be to drive flat out with a view to scoring as many points as possible. With four different cars capable of taking top spot, it's going to be extremely close."

Gilles Panizzi is less familiar with the German round than he is with the Mediterranean-rim asphalt events that have been the scene of his finest successes to date: "I will be at a handicap because I have never competed in the Deutschland Rally before. Injury prevented me from taking the start in 2002, so my only experience of the event is the recce I did two years ago. It's going to be a big challenge but I will be aiming to win. If I succeed, it will be a fantastic result given the circumstances." Less than three weeks before the start of this year's rally, Gilles Panizzi had the misfortune of fracturing a rib in a testing accident. Happily, however, this injury is likely to be less of a hindrance than the one he sustained this time last year...

Marcus Grönholm has been very quick in each of his two previous visits to the Deutschland Rally and only an early technical incident put him out of contention for victory on the 2002 event. "I was really disappointed because I believe I could have fought for first place. The stages are not so clean as those of other asphalt rallies and that suits my driving style better. This year will give me another great opportunity," enthuses Marcus who, like his team-mates, knows he has an important card to play as the WRC hits the Mosel Valley vineyards...

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Series WRC
Drivers Richard Burns , Harri Rovanpera , Gilles Panizzi , Marcus Gronholm , Cédric Robert