Citroen driver Jesus Puras has scored his first victory at FIA World Rally Championship level on the 12th round of this year's series, the Tour de Corse, which finished in Ajaccio this afternoon.

The multiple Spanish champion maintained a steady but fast pace through today's four stages, held in changeable conditions that kept the crews and teams guessing until the very last corner. His victory was also the first for the Xsara WRC in the FIA World Rally Championship.

With Citroen not registered for manufacturers points, Peugeot drivers Gilles Panizzi and Didier Auriol finished second and third respectively to move the French marque into second in the makes series. But in the drivers' championship, Subaru dropped fourth-placed Petter Solberg behind his team-mate Richard Burns to ensure that the Englishman picked up an extra point and moved ahead of Carlos Sainz into third in the series, six points behind joint leaders Colin McRae and Tommi M?kinen.

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Overnight leader Jesus Puras adopted a cautious approach on today's opening stage - too cautious, he'd later admit - and he handed six seconds to Gilles Panizzi as a result. But he responded on the second test by setting fastest time and when the weather conditions worsened for the second run over the pair of tests this afternoon, Puras was able to consolidate an advantage of more than half a minute to score his first FIA World Rally Championship victory.

Jesus Puras said: ''It was so difficult over the final couple of stages but the feeling is unbelievable. When I saw the rain coming I couldn't believe it and I started to get nervous but then I just told myself, 'You have a 30-second lead' and I tried to drive perfectly and not make mistakes. The last stage seemed to last forever - after every corner I wanted it to be the finish but there was always another one! Then eventually I saw the red finish board and I realised then that we've done it. This means a lot to me and it's a fantastic result for Citroen too. Our goal this year was to win one of the four WRC events that we entered and now we've achieved that.''

At Peugeot the 206 WRCs of Gilles Panizzi and Didier Auriol have been reliable today. Panizzi might have had thoughts of victory after he scalped six seconds from Jesus Puras's lead on today's opening stage but once the Spaniard responded on the very next test, the leading 206 WRC driver knew he'd have to settle for second overall and maximum manufacturers' points for Peugeot. His team-mate Didier Auriol started this morning's stages with little more to gain and under no real threat from the Subarus behind, and he measured his pace as the conditions deteriorated to finish in third, securing a maximum manufacturers' points haul for his team.

Gilles Panizzi said: ''I couldn't really push harder over the last couple of stages because it would have been really stupid of me to put the car into the trees when chasing Jesus. It was a difficult day today, though - just keeping the car on the road was pretty difficult when the heavy rain arrived. There was a lot of standing water and it was going sideways even on the straights. I thought after Sanremo that the Citroen might have a small advantage here and that's been proved correct. I'm glad we got the best possible finish for Peugeot, though.''

His team-mate Didier Auriol added: ''If I hadn't had rain when I was sitting on the startline of SS7 yesterday then I think I could have had a fight for second place with Gilles. But I think a victory would have been much more difficult because Jesus and the Citroen were very fast. But our aim here was to score as many manufacturers' points as possible for Peugeot and we've achieved that.''

The Subaru Impreza WRC2001s of Petter Solberg and Richard Burns have been reliable today, with Burns pronouncing himself particularly pleased with revised suspension settings. Markko Martin's car suffered from uneven brakes in the first pair of tests but it ran without troubles thereafter.

Solberg started today's stages knowing that he'd probably have to fight off Fran?ois Delecour and his cause wasn't helped by a spin in the opening test. But once the Frenchman hit brake problems, the young Norwegian was able to relax and bring his car back to Ajaccio in fourth. Subaru then told him to check into the final control two minutes early and the resulting penalty dropped him to fifth, allowing his team-mate Richard Burns to score an extra world championship point. Burns had already eased past the third Impreza of Markko Martin earlier in the day and his three points move him ahead of Carlos Sainz in the drivers' championship.

Petter Solberg said: ''It's been a difficult rally but I'm delighted with my performance and my finish. I really think this has been one of my best drives so far, and I've learnt so much. The car's been very reliable and we've definitely made a big step forward in set-up since Sanremo. I know I still need more experience - it was hard today in the changeable conditions, for starters - but that will come in time.''

Richard Burns added: ''If you'd said on Friday after I made that mistake and hit the wall that we'd come away from here with fourth place I wouldn't have believed you. It obviously helps us in the championship and I'd like to thank Petter and Phil (Mills, the Norwegian's navigator) for what they've done at the end.''

Markko Martin noted: ''I'm glad just to get to the finish because the conditions at the end were similar to the ones in which I went off in Sanremo. I wasn't too happy when I saw the rain! But it's been good experience for me and I've been fairly happy with my performance.''

The Hyundai Accent WRC2s of Alister McRae and Piero Liatti have been ok today. Piero Liatti and Alister McRae both benefited from the problems that hit Fran?ois Delecour's Ford, and they duly picked their way through the deteriorating conditions to finish eighth and ninth respectively, earning three points for Hyundai in the manufacturers' championship. The highlight of the day for the team was probably Liatti's time in the last test, where the Italian was third fastest. McRae's sole makes' point was hard earned - the Scot had spent much of last night suffering from illness and a migraine headache.

Piero Liatti said: ''We knew that if it rained today we could stay in quite a good position because the car's set-up was quite good in changing conditions. Of course it was still very difficult near the end because there was a lot of heavy rain, we were on the wrong tyres and the car was moving everywhere. I'm quite pleased for the team that we have scored some points - it's clear that the car still needs more work on asphalt but it's been very reliable here.''

Alister McRae added: ''It hasn't been an easy rally but the reliability of the car means that we've come away from here with some points. That's a bit more than I expected after Sanremo. It's Australia next and the Accent was quite good there last year but I'm not sure the new seeding system will do us any favours.''

At Ford Fran?ois Delecour hit brake problems on both of today's loops of stages (and a puncture on the first slowed him further still), dropping the Frenchman from his overnight fifth place to tenth by the finish. Colin McRae's Focus RS WRC01 performed reliably today.

Fran?ois Delecour's Focus dropped from fifth to tenth today, as the Frenchman lost all of his brakes for each run over the longer 30km stage. Colin McRae's hopes of scoring manufacturers' points after his power steering problems yesterday really depended on front runners hitting problems but they didn't, and the Scot eventually finished 11th.

Colin McRae said: ''This certainly hasn't been the best rally for us. We haven't really been that competitive at all and the problems yesterday meant that we'd no real chance of points. We just have to regroup and be on better form once we get back onto the gravel in Australia.''

Fran?ois Delecour noted: ''The brake problems were very bad. I lost them about ten kilometres before the end of the first stage, then had to do the longer stage without any brakes at all. It was really difficult to do that, especially on the second run because the conditions were difficult. I'm very disappointed really, because I knew I could have pushed Petter Solberg today.''

The remaining Mitsubishi Lancer WRC of Freddy Loix has been reliable today and the Belgian pronounced himself happier with virtually every run as he experimented with differential settings.

Loix treated today's final four stages as an another extension of his rally-long 'test session' and the Belgian was encouraged by the increased pace and improved handling that the team discovered after differential set-up changes. He eventually finished in 12th.

Loix said: ''This has been a really hard event for the whole team, especially after Tommi's accident, but at least we can say that the car we ended the rally with is much better - much easier to drive - than the car with which we started it. We've definitely made a step forward and although there's obviously still a lot of work to be done, we've started to see the right direction for our development work.''

Of the other teams Sebastien Loeb secured the inaugural FIA Super 1600 Cup title today, after he fought off a determined challenge from his championship rival Andrea Dallavilla to secure the category spoils for the fourth time in five rounds. The Citroen Saxo driver watched his overnight lead dwindle to less than 10 seconds by the finish but he held on to cement his status as one of the world championship's men of the future. Cedric Robert's hopes of a top-three finish ended with engine failure this morning, so the battle between Niall McShea and Giandomenico Basso for fourth in the class turned into a scrap for third instead. It was settled in the Italian driver's favour on the penultimate stage.

In the Group N category for more standard machinery, Gustavo Trelles scored a relatively comfortable victory over Jean Marc Sanchez, with Stanislav Griazine's Mitsubishi in third. The top non-factory World Rally Car was driven by regular Peugeot works driver Harri Rovanper?, since the Finn brought his Grifone-run 206 WRC into seventh overall by the finish. Two other privateer WRC drivers - Achim Mortl and Neil Wearden - crashed out today.

Rally Statistics:
Starters: 60 cars (37 Group A + 23 Group N) restarted the rally Retirements: 10 non-seeded drivers

Today - Sunday 21 October: Leg 3 started from Ajaccio at 08h50 and covered 243.49km, including 111.68km on four special stages.

Stage by stage summary - Leg three:

SS13 Penitencier Coti Chiavari (24.05kms):
1. Panizzi (F) Peugeot 15m 10.6
2. Puras (E) Citroen 15m 16.4
3. Auriol (F) Peugeot 15m 23.3

Leaders after SS13:
1. Puras (E) Citroen 3h 02m 41.1
2. Panizzi (F) Peugeot 3h 02m 58.8
3. Auriol (F) Peugeot 3h 03m 37.9

SS14 Pont de Calzola (31.79kms):
1. Puras (E) Citroen 19m 10.4
2. Panizzi (F) Peugeot 19m 26.4
3. Burns (GB) Subaru 19m 37.2

Leaders after SS14:
1. Puras (E) Citroen 3h 21m 51.5
2. Panizzi (F) Peugeot 3h 22m 25.2
3. Burns (GB) Subaru 3h 23m 28.3

SS15 Penitencier Coti Chiavari (24.05kms):
1. Panizzi (F) Peugeot 15m 08.2
2. Puras (E) Citroen 15m 10.5
3. Auriol (F) Peugeot 15m 10.7

Leaders after SS15:
1. Puras (E) Citroen 3h 37m 02.0
2. Panizzi (F) Peugeot 3h 37m 33.4
3. Burns (GB) Subaru 3h 38m 39.0

SS16 Pont de Calzola (31.79kms):
1. Burns (GB) Subaru 20m 32.8
2. McRae (GB) Ford 20m 42.4
3. Liatti (I) Hyundai 20m 50.3

Leaders in Ajaccio after SS16:
1. Puras (E) Citroen 3h 58m 35.5
2. Panizzi (F) Peugeot +17.5
3. Auriol (F) Peugeot +1m 11.9
4. Burns (GB) Subaru +4m 53.1
5. Solberg (N) Subaru +4m 53.9
6. Martin (EE) Subaru +5m 21.6
7. Rovanper? (FIN) Peugeot +7m 26.9
8. Liatti (I) Hyundai +8m 09.2
9. A. McRae (GB) Hyundai +8m 52.7
10. Delecour (F) Ford +10m 06.1

Super 1600 Leader after SS16:
1. Loeb (F) Citroen 4h 16m 16.4
2. Dallavilla (I) Fiat +8.5s
3. Basso (I) Fiat +5m 09.3
4. McShea (GB) Citroen +5m 31.5
5. Vallejo (E) Fiat +7m 57.0
6. Stenshorne (N) Ford +9m 35.7

Group N leaders after SS16:
1. Trelles (ROU)Mitsubishi 4h 22m 51.3
2. Sanchez (F) Mitsubishi +52.1
3. Griazine (SU) Mitsubishi +6m 08.2
4. Mercier (F) Renault +7m 32.5
5. Bourcier (F) Renault +14m 20.9
6. Ayme (F) Mitsubishi +17m 13.7

Rally final statistics:

Event: The rally covered 854.59km, including 304.04km on 16 special stages (eight, each run twice). All stages were on asphalt roads closed to other traffic.

Starters: 85 cars (53 Group A + 32 Group N) started the rally

Finishers: 50 cars (30 Group A + 20 Group N) finished the rally

Stage winners:
Puras (SS2-3-6-9-10-11-12-14)
Panizzi (SS1-4-7-13-15)
McRae (SS8)
Burns (SS16)
SS5 cancelled

Rally leaders:
SS1 Panizzi
SS2-16 Puras

FIA World Championships (provisional standings after 12 of 14 rounds):

FIA World Rally Championship for Drivers:
McRae (GB) & M?kinen (FIN) 40, Burns (GB) 34, Sainz (E) 33,
Rovanper? (FIN) 27, Panizzi (F) 22, Auriol (F) 19, Gr?nholm (FIN) 16,
Delecour (F) 15, Solberg (N) 11, Puras (E) 10, Loix (B) 9, Schwarz (D) 7,
R?dstr?m (S) & Loeb (F) 6, Gardemeister (FIN) 5, Arai (J) & Martin (EE) 3, Travaglia (I) 2, A. McRae (GB) & Hagstrom (FIN) & Bugalski (F) & Pozzo (RA) 1.

FIA World Rally Championship for Manufacturers:
Ford 83, Peugeot 76, Mitsubishi 67, Subaru 55, Skoda 15, Hyundai 13.

FIA World Cup for Drivers of Production Cars:
Pozzo (RA) 65, Trelles (ROU) 36, Ligato (RA) & Stohl (A) 22, Blomqvist (S) 14, Gillet (CH) & Walfridsson (S) & Da Silva & Fiorio (I) & Sanchez (RA) 10, others.

FIA Teams Cup (after 5 of 6 rounds, this event not counting):
Lundgaard (DK) 30, Hagstrom (FIN) 20, Bakhashab (SA) 15, Papadimitriou (GR) 14, Blomqvist (S) 10, Barratt (GB) 7, Al Wahaibi (OM) 6, Heath (GB) 4,
Dor (F) 2.

FIA Super 1600 Cup (after 5 of 6 rounds):
Loeb (F) 40, Dallavilla (I) 30, Basso (I) 10, Stenshorne (N) 8, Cols (B) 7,
Fontana (I) & Duval (F) & McShea (GB) 6, Valimaki (FIN) & Magaud (F) 4,
Robert (F) & Cols (B) 3, Vallejo (E) 2, Chemin (I) & Ceccato (I) & Galanti (PY) 1.

Next event: November 1-4 2001 Telstra Rally Australia, Perth, Australia.