Corsica 2001, End of Leg 2

From Chris Biewer [ 20/10/2001 ].
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The way the WRC rules are done means the deservedly winning team doesn't neccessarily get the points they deserve to go with it. This is the case with Citroen on this occasion and therefore Peugeot has applied some rather strange sounding team orders. Peugeot told their drivers today NOT to chase for victory, as Peugeot Sport director Corrado Provera confirms: "Gilles and Didier have order that they should take maximum points for the manufacturer WRChampionship. We have a different target to our sister team. While Citroen wants to celebrate a victory, for us points are more important."

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This actually is quite a sensible move. Both drivers don't feature any longer in the drivers title chase, the Citroen doesn't matter for manufacturer points and the next nominated manufacturer entry is already 1m48.5s down on both the Peugeots. Further while Peugeot is on course for a maximum 16 points bar major drama on the last 4 stages, Ford and Mitsubishi are currently outside manufacturer points positions. Therefore Peugeot has indeed a very good chance to move up to 2nd in the manufacturer standings and close the gap to the leading Ford team to only 7 points! For the last 2 rounds in Australia and GB there are still a maximum 32 points available and both, Marcus Grönholm and Harri Rovanperä have a fair chance to do well there.

OK, you do rely a bit on Ford's bad luck and Citroen non-scoring in Corsica, on the other hand for the same rules Peugeot didn't get the 10 points for Harri's victory in Sweden. So it all levels out again somehow.

However Marcus Grönholm's last hope to defend his World Champion status is eventually over! He retired after todays SS8 and therefore will still be 24 points down on the Championship leader while after Corsica are only maximum 20 points available. This leaves Harri Rovanperä as the sole Peugeot driver with a slim hope on a personal title.

Marcus Grönholm felt several times during the event that he could still go faster in many places. Maybe he didn't realise just how well he was doing. Let's Marcus tell us himself what happened on SS8: "We did a small mistake. Our pace notes had a note on a downhill passage that we could go faster than last year there. In a left hander we had to slightly cut over the edge. When we came back on the track our car was launched in the air with the inside wheels by the tarmac edge and we hit the rock on the outside. Since a left hand wheel was ripped off, we had to give up after the stage. Shame, all in all I was satisfied with my stage times."

For the 2 nominated Peugeot drivers Didier Auriol and Gilles Panizzi most of the day went according to plan. Gilles started the day with a tiny 0.8s ahead of his team mate and after the day's 1st stage of 36.73km this was exactly the margin Didier was faster than Gilles and both of them were tied by a tenth of a second! However on the next stage it was the weather to decide that battle. Just as Didier was to start the stage with Gilles already close to the finish of the short 11km SS7, it started bucketing down and with the wetter and slippier conditions Didier lost 26.9s to Gilles. Didier Auriol seems to be able to live with his fate: "Todays leg went very well. However we lost some 20secs when it suddenly started to rain. Therefore we lost touch to Gilles. We did drive fast but didn't take any risks."

Interestingly we don't find Didi complain about that 5-speed gearbox so much any more. Maybe he got used to it now? On the other hand, for Corsica I can cope for myself with a car with 3 gears: 1st, 2nd and reverse (Lol)!

And finally Gilles, who seems to have settled for his 2nd overall behind Puras, just had a brilliant day alround: "My Peugeot 206 WRC runs perfect! The rally is a lot of fun!". Than he added: "If it rains tomorrow, a win might still be possible."