Former Citroen factory driver Philippe Bugalski passed away on Friday following a fall near his home in Vichy. The Frenchman was 49.

Bugalski, who was the first driver to win a WRC event overall in a Citroen, made his competition debut in the mid-1980s and 'le Petit Bug', as he was nicknamed, quickly became one of the brightest rising French rally stars.

With his name already established he joined Citroen Sport at the end of 1997. He was a cornerstone of the development programme for the Xsara Kit Car, immediately winning two French Championship titles with it in 1998 and 1999.

The 1999 season was highlighted by two World Championship victories in Catalunya and Corsica. These triumphs, plucked from under the noses of the four-wheel drive turbocharged World Rally Cars, would prove fundamental to Citroen's decision to graduate to the highest level of the sport.

From 2000 the team embarked on the development of the Xsara T4, which allowed its star driver to claim a third consecutive French Championship title.

In 2001, Citroen began its first World Rally Championship campaign with a limited four-round programme.

Bugalski was the first driver to score a point with the Xsara WRC (on the Acropolis Rally) and acted as mentor to Sebastien Loeb when the future champion made his debut with the car in Sanremo.

He was part of the factory WRC line-up on asphalt rallies over the following seasons before calling time on his professional career at the end of 2003. His passion however remained undiminished, as he divided his time between his horses, running the Autom?ca team, and his role as test driver for Citroen Racing. extends its deepest sympathies to Philippe's family and friends at this very difficult time.