Rallye Sanremo: Final summary

Sunday, 22 September 2002 Peugeot driver Gilles Panizzi has won the 11th round of the FIA World Rally Championship, the Rallye Sanremo, which finished in northern Italy this afternoon. The Frenchman and his navigator, brother Hervé, had...

Sunday, 22 September 2002

Peugeot driver Gilles Panizzi has won the 11th round of the FIA World Rally Championship, the Rallye Sanremo, which finished in northern Italy this afternoon. The Frenchman and his navigator, brother Hervé, had led from the second stage on Friday morning and despite suffering from a shoulder injury, he consolidated his advantage throughout the remaining tests. He polished off today's four remaining special stages to win by just over 20 seconds from his team-mate, Marcus Grönholm. The result earned Peugeot another maximum score in the manufacturers' championship to take the team to within a few points of a third successive makes crown, and Grönholm's second overall extended the Finn's lead in the drivers series.

Technical: The 206 WRCs of Gilles Panizzi, Marcus Grönholm and Richard Burns have been reliable today.

Sporting: Gilles Panizzi overcame any nagging pains from his injured shoulder to tick off today's four remaining stages and win the Rallye Sanremo for the third year in succession. The Frenchman and his navigator, brother Hervé, used the split times this morning to ensure that their times matched those of team-mate and closest rival Marcus Grönholm. Grönholm settled for second overall at the finish, extending his advantage in the drivers world championship. Richard Burns, meanwhile, took a few seconds from third-placed Petter Solberg this morning but in the end, the reigning world champion had to settle for fourth overall, a result that moves him up to second in the drivers' standings.

Quotes: Gilles Panizzi said: "I'm delighted. This was a difficult victory because my shoulder injury made me quite tired and it's always harder to concentrate in that situation. I had a lot of pressure from Philippe Bugalski in the early stages and then Marcus was always there, too. But the car has been perfect for me - everyone in the whole Peugeot team has done a very good job."

Marcus Gronholm said: "If it had been wet this morning then maybe I would have had a chance to catch up with Gilles but in the dry, I knew it would be impossible. We're very close to his speed on asphalt but there are just a few places where he still has a little bit more speed. Of course, though, this result is good for me in the championship."

Peugeot Total Team Director Corrado Provera said: "We're totally happy. What Gilles and Hervé have done here is quite remarkable, especially with Gilles's injury. The championships are not mathematically guaranteed yet but we would be crazy if we lost them from this position."

Technical: The remaining Impreza WRC2002s of Petter Solberg was reliable today.

Sporting: Petter Solberg started today's four stages knowing that he'd need to push to fend off a charging Richard Burns, but fastest time on the day's opening test was probably enough to ease the pressure slightly. Even in this afternoon's warmer conditions, where Solberg felt his Pirellis might lose out against Burns's Michelins, he was able to fend off the Englishman to secure a podium finish.

Quotes: Petter Solberg said: "I'm really, really happy. The first thing is that we've had a clean, reliable run with no problems from the car whatsoever. The second thing is that we've found some improvements in the set-up, just by making small changes as the rally went on, and we gained some more speed because of that. And finally, I'm really glad to have been able to push, get involved in a fight with Richard and still come out with a podium finish. We can take some of what we've learned here to New Zealand and I can't wait for that rally now. This is a really important result for me."

Technical: The Focus RS WRC02s of Markko Martin and Colin McRae have been reliable today.

Sporting: Markko Martin knew that he'd have to push hard this morning if he was to make any impact on fourth-placed Richard Burns, but when the Englishman eked out a few more seconds in the opening stages, the young Estonian elected to aim for a finish, two drivers' points for himself and three crucial points for Ford in the manufacturers' series. Colin McRae, meanwhile, had little to gain today, since he started this morning more than a minute and a half behind seventh-placed Cedric Robert. As a result, the Scot backed off and cruised towards the Sanremo finish in eighth, scoring two manufacturers' points for Ford but ceding a further six to Grönholm in the race for the drivers' championship.

Quotes: Markko Martin said: "I'm quite pleased and maybe a little surprised with how well it's all gone here. We clearly found a good set-up for the car and we've had no real problems either. I had hoped to fight Petter because we were on the same pace as him in the early stages but he found more speed and we couldn't match him."

Colin McRae said: "We didn't really have anything to gain by taking big risks today so we just had a steady run. The car's clearly better on asphalt, as we've seen from Markko's times, but the gap is still there to the Peugeots. We can just concentrate on trying to win the last three rallies now, because the championship chances are practically gone."

Technical: François Delecour's Lancer Evo WRC2 has run without any major problems today.

Sporting: François Delecour adopted a cautious strategy this morning, as the Frenchman aimed for a top-10 finish and a valuable manufacturers' point for Mitsubishi. He duly secured this, finishing 10th overall to lift the Japanese manufacturer above Skoda in the makes' series.

Quotes: François Delecour said: "We had to make sure we reached the finish today, because there was the chance of a point for Mitsubishi and maybe we didn't expect to get that on this rally. I'm really happy that we have moved above Skoda now, but at the same time it was frustrating to lose so much time with the turbo problems that we had, because if we hadn't had that then I know we could have been fighting two or three places higher up the field."

Technical: The Octavia WRCs of Kenneth Eriksson and Roman Kresta had no problems today.

Sporting: Both of Skoda's drivers, Kenneth Eriksson and Roman Kresta, had little to gain but experience today. But they both knuckled down, experimented a little with driving style and car set-ups and reached the finish. Eriksson, who'd tried to introduce a new driving style for asphalt events, finished 11th, while Kresta gained valuable experience of the Sanremo stages as he claimed 12th.

Quotes: Kenneth Eriksson said: "We had a clean run today and I've still managed to learn a lot about how differently you can drive on the asphalt. But it's a shame that we haven't been able to score a point for Skoda - we just weren't quick enough to do that. However, there are three good events coming up where the Octavia should be a stronger package. It's New Zealand next and I've won there in the past so hopefully we can have reliability, take advantage of road position and surprise a few people."

Roman Kresta said: "I found the roads here very difficult. Sometimes the surface has lots of grip and then it will change, even in the same corner, to very slippery. I know I could have been quicker in places but the idea was always to get a good look at the stages and learn more about the Octavia on asphalt, and we've done that."

Technical: Freddy Loix's Accent WRC3 was reliable today, as the Belgian played with anti-roll bar settings after his major time loss yesterday afternoon.

Sporting: After his accident and substantial time loss yesterday afternoon, Freddy Loix knew he'd have to treat today's closing four stages as an extended test session, and that's exactly what he did. The Belgian played with the anti-roll bar settings on his Accent throughout the day, adjusting it between stages to experience as many options as possible. He finished 28th overall.

Quotes: Freddy Loix said: "It was a shame that we lost so much time in the accident last night - I feel really bad for everyone in the team, because we have clearly made some more progress and found some more performance. Today was all about trying some new things, some different settings and experimenting. After the time loss yesterday, position didn't really matter. I'm not even going to talk about the next round in New Zealand and what we might achieve there - I'm just going to go there, try my best and see what happens."

Other entries
Jesus Puras won a hotly-contested fight to be the top privateer World Rally Car driver on this event. The Spanish champion's Xsara finished sixth overall after he consolidated his overnight placing today. He finished 22 seconds clear of the young Frenchman Cedric Robert, who bagged seventh on his first world championship appearance in a customer-specification Peugeot 206 WRC.


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Series WRC
Drivers Colin McRae , Freddy Loix , Richard Burns , Gilles Panizzi , Marcus Gronholm , Petter Solberg , François Delecour , Jesus Puras , Kenneth Eriksson , Cédric Robert , Roman Kresta , Corrado Provera , Markko Martin