2001 WRC Season Commentary

2001 WRC Summary by Chris Biewer :

The same events as the previous year were forming the calendar, although there have been some significant changes to the dates and order. The new Rally Cyprus is moved further towards the beginning of the year, taking the Safari slot while the Safari is moved into July for the first time to get the event out of the monsum rain season (and such make the Safari far less challenging), and NZ is moved to later in the year to move away from the New Zealand winter.

There have meanwhile been so many confusing rule changes and U-turns, that this one is by now largely forgotten. If you read through the 1998 season round up, you find that there was a rule change to allow new teams score points even if they don't compete all season rounds. That rule has now been U-turned, and incredibly that U-turn came after the 2001 season started, but with effect on the 2001 makes points! So to recall: In 1997 Toyota was not eligible for points. In 1998 Seat was eligible. In 1999 Skoda and Peugeot were eligible. In 2000 Skoda and Hyundai were eligible. In 2001 Skoda and Hyundai still are eligible to score makes points but Citro�n are not! This means in 2001 there were 3 new teams without a full season that were treated totally differently for the points! Try to make sense of this.

Had Citro�n been eligible to score points in their incomplete seasons, for 2001 that would not have shown effect, but in 2002, when only Citro�n has an incomplete season, they would have beaten Skoda, Hyundai and Mitsubishi with 34pts!

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This was one of the closest fought seasons ever - reason enough for the FIA to change the points system one year later. As well all lead drivers had their fair share of bad luck, so much so that never before have so few points been enough to claim the drivers title. In fact Richard Burns even left Subaru, for despite winning the title he was disgusted by the car's poor reliability. At no point during the season has Burns been better than 3rd in the championship. Perfect example of this "bug" seems the last event: 4 drivers were battling for the title of which 3 retired on the first day. And Burns would have been out too with the title gone to Colin McRae, had this not been the only time in recent history of a car needing outside assistance to fire up in parc ferm� not being penalised with exclusion!

Richard Burns at title winning 44 points was a full 21 points down on last year's title winning points score. It's the lowest title winning score in history. The makes title however goes to Peugeot by a convincing margin. Again most drivers stayed with their traditional teams.

The biggest news may be Didier Auriol to drive for the 3rd team in 3 years. This was the first time in Didier's long history he would be doing the WRC in a French team. However it didn't turn into the love story everybody expected. There was some major friction when Didier Auriol claimed Peugeot never gave him a car set up to his liking while Peugeot was disappointed by Didier's testing and set up abilities.

Another surprise at the Peugeot team was the sudden last minute sacking of Francois Delecour and replacing him by Harri Rovanper� who was unemployed during 2000 (all happened during Rally GB 2000, read also last chapter of the 2000 season description). Francois was rescued by Ford, but he didn't seem too happy driving a #3 car.

We have already seen a first taste of Subaru's 2 new youngsters at the end of 2000, it still was a major disappointment for many when that meant Juha Kankkunen was without a drive. At Hyundai the only news was employing a tarmac specialist in Piero Liatti, although that didn't seem to improve the Accent's tarmac performance while here Juha Kankkunen at least found a one off drive in his home event.

At Skoda eventually Bruno Thiry was dragged in, replacing Luis Climent, but disappointingly, Bruno could never match his 1999 Rally GB performance in the Skoda.

New for 2001 was the Super 1600 Championship, designed to be a Junior WRC, while the F2 Cup is dead. The dominant driver in the series is S�bastien Loeb in a Citro�n Saxo, who is already under a Citro�n works contract anyway. The series has its draw backs straight away. As a groupA kit car formula it is no surprise really the cars surpass the intended price tag by far.

Citro�n itself shows very convincing performances and even celebrate their first outright win with a WRCar, Jesus Puras on the Tour de Corse. They keep their traditional drivers Philippe Bugalski and Jesus Puras as well as their gravel test driver Thomas Raadstr�m.
 

2001 WRC Factory Team and Driver Line Ups :
 

Peugeot Peugeot, 2001 - Peugeot Sport with Total : 1st on 106 points.
 
Peugeot entered all events this year.
 

No

Team Driver

Commentary
#1 Finland Marcus Grönholm All, but non-nominated in Monte Carlo, Catalunya, Corsica & San Remo
#2 France Didier Auriol All, but non-nominated in Safari, Finland, Australia & GB
#16 France Gilles Panizzi Nominated works cars in Monte Carlo, Catalunya, Corsica & San Remo, Grifone cars in Portugal, Cyprus, Acropolis, Finland, Australia & GB
#16 Finland Harri Rovanperä All except Monte Carlo & Catalunya, Grifone only in San Remo & Corsica, nominated in Safari, Finland, Australia & GB
Ford Ford, 2001 - Martini Ford RS Rallye Sport Team : 2nd on 86 points.
 
Ford entered all events this year.
 

No

Team Driver

Commentary
#3 Spain Carlos Sainz All
#4 United Kingdom Colin McRae All
#17 France Francois Delecour All except Great Britain
#17 United Kingdom Mark Higgins Great Britain Only
#00 Italy Paolo Andreucci San Remo Only
Mitsubishi Mitsubishi, 2001 - Marlboro Mitsubishi Ralli Art Eur. : 3rd on 69 points.
 
Mitsubishi entered all events this year.
 

No

Team Driver

Commentary
#7 Finland Tommi Mäkinen All
#8 Belgium Freddy Loix All
#19 Sweden Thomas Raadström Sweden only
#19 Finland Toni Gardemeister Finland & NZ only
#19 Japan Katsuhiko Taguchi Cyprus only
Subaru Subaru, 2001 - Subaru World Rally Team : 4th on 66 points.
 
Subaru entered all events this year.
 

No

Team Driver

Commentary
#5 United Kingdom Richard Burns All
#6 Norway Petter Solberg all, but non-nominated in Monte Carlo
#6 Estonia Markko Märtin all except Argentina, Cyprus, Safari, NZ & Australia, nominated in Monte Carlo
#18 Japan Toshihiro Arai all except Monte Carlo, Sweden, Catalunya & Finland
#00 Austria Achim Mörtl Corsica, San Remo, Australia only
#00 United Kingdom Neil Wearden GB only
Skoda Skoda, 2001 - Skoda Motorsport World Rally Team : 5th on 17 points.
 
Skoda entered all events this year.
 

No

Team Driver

Commentary
#11 Germany Armin Schwarz All
#12 Belgium Bruno Thiry All
#21 Czech Republic Roman Kresta Safari, San Remo & GB only
#21 Sweden Stig Blomqvist Finland only
Hyundai Hyundai, 2001 - Hyundai Castrol World Rally Team : 6th on 17 points.
 
Hyundai entered all events except the Safari in their final lead in year.
 

No

Team Driver

Commentary
#9 Sweden Kenneth Eriksson all except Monte Carlo, Catalunya, San Remo & Corsica
#9 Italy Piero Liatti Monte Carlo, Catalunya, Cyprus, San Remo, Corsica & GB, non-nominated in Cyprus & GB
#10 United Kingdom Alister McRae All
#20 Finland Juha Kankkunen Finland only