After scoring points on the Monte Carlo Rally, Peugeot Sport came away from Sweden with a remarkable one-two result that saw it move to the top of the Constructors' World Championship points table. Round 3 of the series takes teams to the Tour of...
After scoring points on the Monte Carlo Rally, Peugeot Sport came away from Sweden with a remarkable one-two result that saw it move to the top of the Constructors' World Championship points table. Round 3 of the series takes teams to the Tour of Corsica, an event organised much later in the season than has been the case in recent years. Marcus Grönholm, Richard Burns and Gilles Panizzi, winner of the Mediterranean island event in 2000, go into this rally determined to maintain the French team's status as provisional championship leader.
This year, with the calendar switch of the asphalt classic to early March, there is a big question mark concerning how the weather conditions will be on the day. This unknown factor is sure to add even more suspense to an event that already has the makings of being a spectacular showdown given the remarkably high level of the 2002 World Rally Championship. Coming soon after the Monte in the season, the Tour of Corsica will nevertheless be the first 'clear' asphalt round of the year and promises to provide an interesting pointer to the current potential of the various teams on this type of surface. Peugeot enjoys a strong record on sealed surfaces, including three superb maximum points hauls in 2001 in Catalonia, Corsica and Sanremo.
"I hope we still have the edge over our championship rivals on asphalt," says Peugeot Sport's rallies director, Jean-Pierre Nicolas. "But will this be the case? If you look at the way the Monte Carlo went, it seems our rivals have progressed. But the Monte took place in different weather conditions; the stages were often damp and the temperature fluctuated between -5° and +5°C. On top of that, our car was not at its peak because of a set-up problem which has since been resolved. It will therefore be interesting to see how we go in Corsica. Gilles Panizzi is a remarkable expert of this type of event, while Marcus Grönholm put in a strong performance on the Monte Carlo and has now found his marks on asphalt.
As for Richard Burns, like Marcus, he shouldn't be that far behind Gilles in Corsica. I believe we have a good chance of going well there."
Following his outright win in 2000 and a second place in 2001, Gilles Panizzi clearly stands out as one of the favourites for victory this year in Corsica where he intends to avenge the unhappy hand fate dealt him on January's Monte Carlo: "In addition to the technical problem that dropped us down the leaderboard even before the rally had started in anger, we weren’t particularly competitive in the French Alps. However, we have since identified the origin of our counter-performance which was due the set-up of the car. That problem has now been cured, so I feel quite confident. OK, Philippe Bugalski's Citroën could prove difficult to beat on this type of surface but we have put in a great deal of work to ensure we have the best chance possible."
Richard Burns admits that the twisty island roads do not figure amongst his favourites: "The Tour of Corsica is a good rally but I have to say that I prefer gravel. Even so, I'm rather looking forward to this year's event and I profited from recent testing to fine-tune the set-up of my car. We achieved some very positive work. Also, the engineers have modified my seat and steering-wheel position and I feel more comfortable with my driving position." The British driver has already put in some strong performances on the Mediterranean island. Last year, he finished fourth and first non-Michelin runner. In 2000, he finished in the same position, just ahead of his new teammate Marcus Grönholm