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Peugeot pair still on top in San Remo

21 October 2000


Gilles Panizzi fished the second leg of the San Remo Rally 21.4secs ahead of his teammate Francois Delecour, despite the Peugeot stranglehold being broken by the likes of Makinen and Jean-Joseph.

A road accident, which caused the event to over run by 30mins, led to the cancellation of the last stage of the second leg. However even without this chance to catch Panizzi it seems unlikely that anyone would have been able to eat into his huge lead. His advantage having been gained predominantly on the first leg, and further consolidated today.

Panizzi said, “You have a choice over the two stages, basically. You can find a good pace over them both and stick to it, or take it easy in the first to preserve your tyres and then push like crazy. That's what Makinen's been doing, but with the lead we have I prefer to find a steady rhythm and keep it. I didn't have such a good feeling with the car in the middle pair of stages, because of the tyre choice.” Panizzi can now afford a reserved drive, with the pressure on his pursuers to make up the deficit.

Francois Delecour pushed as hard as he could to make up the overnight gap to Panizzi (caused mainly by Delecour suffering a loss of power on stage one), but the two were too evenly matched for either to pull away/catch up. “I pushed very hard but on the new bits of stage, Gilles is very fast. We're on the same tyres but it doesn't look like I can beat him. I'd say the battle for the lead is finished already.” Delecour admitted.

The only driver who could have challenged the lead pair was Richard Burns (third after the first leg), who damaged his radiator when he hit a rock on stage ten. He managed to finish the stage – only dropping ten seconds to fastest driver Makinen, unfortunately the damage was already beyond repair. The Subaru was towed away to the service area with a blown Gasket that would be beyond repair, caused by soaring water and oil temperatures.

Tommi Makinen would end the day third after showing promise in several of today's stages, taking two stage wins. He said “It was a very good day for us but also a difficult morning because one of the rear wheels was incorrectly aligned. The long stage in particular has been a very good one for us and we've set good times every time we did it. On the last stage this evening though we were trying a bit too hard and nearly went off. Obviously Richard and Piero's (Liatti – engine failure SS12) retirements have helped us, but tomorrow will be very difficult and we have to keep the concentration''.

Marcus Gronholm (fourth at the end of leg two) seemed to gain confidence from the demise of his nearest championship rival (Burns), and steeped up his pace – even managing a stage win. He was though the first to admit that a win wasn't his main priority. “I seem to be on the same speed as the people close to me - but I don't think I can do much more. I'm probably not pushing quite as hard as I did when I first came to Italy last year but then, I have a championship to think about and I think I know the limit a bit better now. I'm concentrating on getting to the finish and taking at least a point from here,” he said.

Simon Jean-Joseph also had an impressive showing today – winning two stages in succession, before dropping down the order to seventh after a poor final stage. Freddie Loix (eighth overall) was not enjoying the same success as his teammate and suffered from tyre problems, he said, “I'm not so happy with my day, I seem to be wearing out a lot of tyres and I don't really know why. I had to take the hard compound this afternoon and that lost me a lot of time on the short stages. At the end tonight it was a bit better, but now we have to go flat out.”

Renato Travaglia (eleventh at the end of leg two), driving the Peugeot 306, had some very good stages managing top ten times on occasions “My aim is to win the 2 wheel-drive category. I am the first Italian. I hope it stays like this,” he said.

In group N Gianluigi Galli caught up and passed overnight leader Alex Fiorio only for Fiorio to fight back. The two would trade fastest times all day, in what had become a tense battle between two evenly matched drivers in similar cars. Galli took the final stage and with it the lead heading the final leg. Galli said, “Today has been very good. We had a little problem with the transmission, but the mechanics fixed that really fast and otherwise I am very happy, although I am a bit concerned about Fiorio's time in the last long stage!”

Fiorio added, “It was annoying to lose a bit of time with the boost problem, but otherwise the car has been very good and I knew that we still had a good chance. There have been some long stages so we have at least been able to catch up a bit.”

Tomorrow's final stage will feature just two stages finishing on San Remo's seafront at midday. Peugeot will be looking for their second one-two finish in a row – enough to move them to the top of the Manufacturers' championship with two rounds left.


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