Neuville secures Peugeot's 4th Corse win

Neuville secures Peugeot's 4th Corse winFrom Peugeot Press [ 15/05/2011 ].
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Following the wins of Bruno Saby in 1986 (205 Turbo 16) and Gilles Panizzi in 2000 and 2002 (206 WRC), it was the turn of Peugeot Belux’s youngsters Thierry Neuville and Nicolas Gilsoul to put Peugeot on the top step of the podium on this year’s Tour de Corse.

Thierry Neuville/Nicolas Gilsoul uncatchable

The third and final day of the 54th Tour de Corse was also the longest, with a menu of 138.44km competitive kilometres. Thierry Neuville and Nicolas Gilsoul momentarily relinquished the lead on Saturday when they dropped 8.9s on the day’s opening test. Apart from that, however, they kept up an unrelenting pace throughout the first two legs. On their way to claiming their first international victory, the Belgian pair won eight of the three-day rally’s 13 special stages. ”From Saturday afternoon I started to choose when and where I wanted to push,” reveals the Peugeot Belgium-Luxemburg driver. ”When I was sure of my pace-notes and when knew where the hazards were, I drove flat out. Through the portions that I knew to be more delicate, I purposely lifted so as not to take any unnecessary risks. And I was still setting fastest times, so I kept up the same approach all the way to the finish…”

Peugeot’s successful weekend in Corsica was rounded off by the performance of local privateer Pierre Campana whose result, along with Neuville’s win, allowed the brand to close to within two points of Skoda in the IRC’s provisional Manufacturers’ standings. ”All our drivers were competitive during the event and Thierry was competitive, too, in the Canary Islands not all that long ago,” notes Frédéric Bertrand, the manager of Peugeot Sport’s Customer Competition department. “This weekend, he was quite simply exceptional. He’s only 22 years old, so he’s certainly got a bright future ahead of him.” 2/3

A bright prospect brought to the fore by Peugeot Belux

By all accounts, at the age of just 22, Thierry Neuville is the youngest ever winner of the Tour de Corse. His skill was initially noted at the end of 2007 by Belgium’s motorsport governing body (RACB) following a talent-scouting programme. He then made a name for himself in the 2008 Fiesta ST Trophy, before winning the following season’s Citroën Racing Trophy in Belgium driving a C2 R2 Max. In 2010, he won the J-WRC class in Bulgaria (Citroën C2 S1600), while continuing his apprenticeship of the IRC in the Peugeot Belgium-Luxemburg-entered Peugeot 207 S2000 (3rd at Ypres, 4th in Sardinia). Last month, he notched up his first IRC podium finish outside of his home country (3rd, Canary Islands) before winning this weekend’s Tour de Corse.

An off for Bouffier on the final stage

Bryan Bouffier fell out of contention for victory on Friday morning after collecting a puncture on SS5 while in the lead. The incident dropped him to sixth place, but Bryan and his co-driver Xavier Panseri succeeded in fighting their way back up to fourth spot before crashing out on the very last stage of the rally. ”I got off to a strong start and I believed that I stood a chance of winning this year’s Tour de Corse,” commented the Peugeot France driver. ”After my puncture, I was no longer in the same frame oif mind but I continue to push hard in otrder to climb as far back up the leadebrod as possible. On the last stage, I was caught out while driving flat out in a bid to defend fourth place which I had just won back.”

Campana, the second-best Peugeot finisher

The first IRC outing of Pierre Campana and his co-driver Sabrina De Castelli was in a privately-run 207 S2000 prepared by Munaretto Sport. ”I stuck to my gameplan and I am very pleased with the progress I made,” says the Corsican driver. ”I gradually modified the set-up of my car in order to eliminate its slightly lazy handling which slowed me during the early part of the rally. The fact that I had to stop to change a wheel on the final stage didn’t affect my position and I am delighted with my result today.”

”In addition to underliing his talent, Pierre’s result provides further evidence that the 207 S2000s run by proivateer teams are able to play a leading role on events like this,” underlines Frédéric Bertrand. Peugeot also saw a third 207 S2000 finish indide the top-five in the hands of Bruno Magalhaès/Paulo Grave. “I am pleased with my position, but the bgap which separates mpe from the leaders is too big,” recognises the Peugeot Portugal driver. ”To improve, and become fully confident, I really need to fine-tune the quality of my pace-notes.”

207 Super 2000 runners notch up the highest number of stage wins in Corsica

Peugeot 207 S2000 runners claimed 10 of the 13 stages contested this week (Neuville 8, Wilks 1 and Bouffier 1). ”If anybody doubted our car’s competitiveness then they should be reassured by that statistic,” points out Frédéric Bertrand. ”The 207 S2000 was absolutely on the pace and we have every intention of recovering the IRC Manufacturers’ Challenge at the end of the year. To help us, we can count on the services of Bouffier and Neuville, of course, but also on those of Guy Wilks and, I hope, Bruno Magalhaes!”