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Citroen setbacks seal Peugeot one-two.

Ford Martini team director Malcolm Wilson said: ''Everyone felt so confident before the rally but unfortunately we weren't strong enough to reach the podium. Having said that, both Carlos and François maintained their 100 percent finishing record and we have from now until the Sanremo Rally in October to find a way of getting back onto the podium on asphalt.''

The Subaru camp has even less to shout about with Petter Solberg crashing out on Day 1 and Markko Martin going OTL after a prolonged gearbox change on Day 3. The make's only finisher was Richard Burns but irregular stage times relegated the British driver to a disappointing eigth overall.

Driving a Kronos-run Peugeot 206 WRC-Michelin, Frenchman Simon Jean-Joseph was the best placed privateer at the finish in ninth position, one slot clear of Skoda-Michelin's Bruno Thiry whose consistent run bagged tenth at the finish.

Throughout the three-day event, Thiry had been locked in a thrilling three-way battle with the two factory run Hyundai Accents driven by Piero Liatti and Alister McRae. The Skoda driver always held the upper hand finally finishing 26.7 seconds in front of McRae.

Liatti had started Sunday's final leg just 12 seconds behind the Octavia, but the Italian's hopes of catching Thiry faded – along with the brakes on his Hyundai – at the end of stage 13.

''Of course I'm delighted to have finished my first true Tarmac rally for the team with a top ten result,'' says the 38-year-old Thiry. ''We have been keeping a close watch on the Hyundais – you need some competition to keep you focussed. We did lose a little time when the ATS anti-puncture mousse in the tyres caused a bad vibration during a couple stages on Saturday but otherwise the car and the Michelins have worked perfectly right from the start.

“To help us get the best out of the softer compound tyres on the longer stages, we have made some small improvements to the chassis during the rally and I'm sure these lessons learned will be of great benefit to the team in the future as we push ahead with our on-going development programme. The car now handles really well and clearly it has great potential once we have found some more horsepower from the engine ''

“Taking into account the high quality entry that included no fewer than seven top class manufacturer teams – many of these each fielding three factory cars – it was always our objective to achieve a top ten finish here in Spain, so I'm pleased that we have met our target,” added Pavel Janeba, Skoda Motorsport team manager.

“Moreover, when you compare our stage times on this year's rally to those we set 12 months ago here in Catalunya, it's clear that we have made some significant progress towards the front. However, it's equally evident that we still need to make some more strides forward before we can start to challenge the leaders consistently on rallies like this on dry asphalt.”

After their heroics in Monte Carlo, Armin Schwarz and Manfred Hiemer were aiming for another strong asphalt showing in Spain and the dynamic German duo made an encouraging start. At the end of the opening 101km leg Schwarz was hot on the heels of Thiry heels in a solid 12th place; however a small problem with the power steering system forced him to retire his Octavia WRC from the Iberian event early on Saturday morning.



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