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Panizzi wins Peugeot duel.


Team orders once again influenced the result of a round of the World Rally Championship, but produced an emotional home win for Peugeot and Gilles Panizzi.

The French tarmac expert had been recalled to the team to help bolster both its, and team-leader Marcus Gronholm's, championship challenges, and ended up leading a comprehensive 1-2-5 result. Panizzi did not have it all his own way, however, despite taking the majority of stage wins, as fellow countryman Francois Delecour remained on his tail right until the order to hold station arrived.

Regaining the initiative after falling behind Delecour overnight, Panizzi quickly opened up a gap at the head of the field on the opening stage of the day, and then consolidated his position with a series of consistent times around the tricky mountain roads of the Mediterranean island, putting himself into the pole seat for when the opposition stopped posing a threat to the two leading Peugeots.

This happened over stages 14 and 15, when Ford's Carlos Sainz, who had held a strong third place since the demise of team-mate Colin McRae, lost his power steering and conceded a further minute to the two pace-setters. With the pack closing in behind the Focus, it was a struggle for the Spaniard to hold onto his rostrum spot, but allowed the Peugeot team to call for positions to be maintained at the front.

''I have told both drivers that the positions are not to change, and that Gilles is to win,'' team boss Corrado Provera confirmed to the press, ''He has driven a fantastic rally and deserves his first WRC victory. We are happy, too, to take our first 1-2 finish.''

While the move naturally pleased Panizzi, Delecour was far from happy, having closed back to within a second of his team-mate by the end of SS14. Annoyed, he reluctantly agreed to allow Panizzi to win but, just to prove a point, promptly took the overall lead by blasting to a faster stage time than his rival on SS15!

''I'll let Gilles win if I am told to,'' he admitted, ''but I don't like team orders. I just don't understand why we must do this, because it is not sport.''

Abiding by the team's decision, however, Delecour ensured that he lost enough time over the final tests to put Panizzi back at the head of the field, while making sure that he did not fall back into the clutches of a recovering Sainz.

The Spaniard had conceded almost a minute to Subaru's Richard Burns during his steering dramas, but was flying again once it had been fixed at service. Fastest time on the streaming wet final stage proved his pace, but came too late to make any difference to the final result.



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