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Panizzi wins Peugeot duel.

''I'm quite happy that I've finished the rally,'' he said understatedly, ''Two points for the manufacturer is good for us. This rally was very interesting for me, because I got to understand more about the car - it was my first Tour de Corse and I got to the finish. In San Remo I will try to do my best, and I will go there much more confident than I was here. I will try to do at least the same as I have done here - and why not better!''

Also missing out on drivers' points, but adding them to its meagre manufacturers' totals was SEAT. Didier Auriol, a six-times winner on the island was as relieved to have finally got the Cordoba WRC to the end of an event as he was to have picked up the team's first score for some time, and inspired the Spanish outfit with second fastest time to Sainz on the final test.

''The car worked well during the entire rally and, apart from some problems with the suspension and the engine power, it was good,'' the Frenchman related, ''The set-up on wet asphalt was also more competitive than on the dry, but it is very positive that we finished with both cars and that I scored one more point for SEAT.''

Team-mate Toni Gardemeister missed out on a top ten place by just 0.1secs, and had to be content with trailing French island experts Sebastien Loeb and Fabrice Morel across the line. Nevertheless, the young Finn had broken his retirement streak, and will head to Italy in greater heart.

Alister McRae plugged way at the wheel of the Hyundai accent but, hampered by the team's lack of tarmac knowledge, was unable to close on either Gardemeister or a championship point for the Malaysians. The Scot nevertheless felt that the car had improved over its debut showing in Spain, despite understeering, and suffered no mechanical problems on the event.

''The delay at the start of the day's second stage [SS14] meant we had to start on cold tyres, which didn't help us,'' he said, ''and there was also a lot of gravel and mud on the roads, thrown up by previous cars, which made things tricky. With the understeer, we knew we couldn't get close to the leader's pace, so we treated the rest of the event as a test for the up-coming San Remo rally and were trying various combinations of settings to get more grip. We managed to make real improvements to the car, and we know there is still more speed to be found. So now we'll be trying to get closer to the pace we've shown on gravel, to end the year with a bit of a boost.''

The delay to SS14 was caused by Tommi Makinen's exit from the rally - and the world championship battle. The Finn crashed out close to the spot where Mitsubishi team-mate Freddy Loix had done the same on day one, and the aftermath of his impact injured a photographer who had to receive attention before being moved. It was another disappointing end for the reigning champion, but Makinen had already admitted that he was unlikely to be able to challenge the Peugeots.

''I started to brake as we went into a tightening right corner, but too late, and the car went sideways and we slid off,'' he said, ''Already it was a bit over for us, and our target was to do some testing today. We thought we had a good chance here, but we just couldn't find the best performance. If you make a mistake in any event it can be a problem, but this rally - being based in the mountains - if something happens, it can be quite big. It's the most difficult tarmac rally.''

Manfred Stohl maintained his rally-long advantage in Group N to put a smile back on Mitsubishi's faces, and extend his championship lead over the similarly-mounted Gustavo Trelles into the bargain. The Argentine driver followed his Austrian rival across the line to claim second, with Jean-Marie Santoni reclaiming a podium spot on the last day from Krisztian Hideg.

The Teams' Cup success went to Hamed Al Wahaibi of the Arab World team, following the third leg demise of Serkan Yazici after an impact with an unknown object ripped the wheel of the leader's Toyota Corolla.



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