Peugeot scores one-two in Italy Peugeot 206 WRCs have claimed first and second places on the 11th round of the FIA World Rally Championship, the Sanremo Rally, which finished in northern Italy this afternoon. Gilles Panizzi and his ...
Peugeot scores one-two in Italy
Peugeot 206 WRCs have claimed first and second places on the 11th round of the FIA World Rally Championship, the Sanremo Rally, which finished in northern Italy this afternoon. Gilles Panizzi and his navigator, brother Herve, secured their third successive win on the asphalt event, while Marcus Grönholm and Timo Rautiainen extended their lead in the world championship by finishing second. Another 206 WRC crew, Richard Burns and Robert Reid, secured fourth.
Today's schedule comprised just four stages, held to the north of coastal resort Imperia. Panizzi was still struggling with his injured shoulder and he had Grönholm breathing down his neck all morning, but the Frenchman held his nerve, using the split times to match his team-mates' pace and secure his second victory of the season.
Gilles said: "I'm delighted, of course. 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 stage 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."
Grönholm had realised at the end of yesterday's action that it would be tough to catch Panizzi in dry conditions and with the stages bathed in sunshine this morning, the Finn elected to adopt a steady yet fast pace, keeping third-placed Petter Solberg at a safe distance to claim second overall. The result extended Grönholm's lead in the drivers' championship to 23 points, and it also secured a seventh maximum manufacturers' score of the season for Peugeot.
Marcus said: "When I saw the dry roads this morning I knew there was no chance to catch Gilles. But six points is good for me in the championship and we've got another maximum score for the team. If we hadn't had problems in the first day we could have been closer to Gilles but he would have been very hard to beat."
Burns closed in on Solberg this morning but in the end, the Briton had to settle for fourth overall. He said: "If we'd been 10 seconds behind this morning we would have had a better chance, but with 20 seconds to make up it was too much. At least I've worked out why we lost speed earlier in the event."
Peugeot's joy was increased further by Harri Rovanperä and newcomer Cedric Robert, who ensured that half of the top 10 cars were 206 WRCs.
Team Total Peugeot Director Corrado Provera said: "We are totally happy. What Gilles and Herve have done here has been quite remarkable. Gilles has coped with his shoulder superbly, and Marcus and Richard have both driven very well, too. It's true that the manufacturers' and drivers' championships are not decided mathematically but we would be crazy to lose them from this position."
The FIA World Rally Championship now moves back to loose surfaces for its final three rounds, starting with the Rally New Zealand on October 4-6. Both Grönholm and the whole Peugeot team will make the long trip with high hopes of the strong result that could secure a drivers' and manufacturers' title double.