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Panizzi and Peugeot in a class of their own.

Delecour started the closing four stages with little to gain, but he had to fend off Armin Schwarz if he wanted to make eighth place - and a manufacturers' point - his own. He effectively achieved that in the first two stages by extending his advantage over the German to more than half a minute; then Colin McRae's retirement promoted him to seventh and two manufacturers' points. Alister McRae continued to struggle with brake problems and he lost out to Freddy Loix in the closing stages. The Scot eventually finished 10th.

Delecour said: ''Today we found that a slightly softer construction of tyres actually helps our car, because it allows us to keep better contact with the road on the bumpier sections. We still have to find a lot more speed but it's encouraging that we've found an improvement. I'm happy to get a finish in the top ten, though, and to get manufacturers' points for Mitsubishi.''

His team-mate Alister McRae added: ''We've still had problems with the brakes today. Although we haven't had as much fade as we did on Friday, I've been modifying my own driving style to try to make things better. But at the end of fast sections when you really need stopping power, I can feel that the brakes aren't quite as strong as I'd like. Obviously we've got a lot of work to do before Catalunya to keep improving our performance.''

Hyundai's Freddy Loix felt that his Accent WRC3 was handling badly under braking on this morning's opening stage. Armin Schwarz suffered excessive right-front tyre wear on both SS13 and SS14, meanwhile. He then had to complete the last 31.79km stage with no power steering after it failed just before the start.

Armin Schwarz started today's final four stages with hopes of catching François Delecour but instead, an overheating right-front tyre blistered and cost him time on this morning's first two tests. The German tried to find a solution to the problem (it had already occurred earlier in the event) but he'd already lost too much time to Delecour. Then power steering failure for the last stage cost him chunks of time, dropping the former European Champion to 13th at the finish.

Freddy Loix lost confidence in his Accent under braking this morning, but the Belgian concentrated on finding a good dry weather set-up for the car.

Freddy Loix said: ''It was strange this morning. The car felt quite unstable under braking from virtually the first corner of the first stage. It's easier to set good times with the car in the wet than it is in the dry. It's a shame that we haven't finished in the points with the car on its debut but we've still got a lot to learn about setting it up. I'm hopeful that things will be better in Catalunya.''

His team-mate Armin Schwarz added: ''The power steering failed just before the last stage and it was very, very hard work. Of course I'm disappointed to lose so much time near the finish because up to that point, the car had been pretty reliable on its debut. We've still got a lot to learn but I'm pleased at some of the progress that we've made here. Hopefully we can make further improvements to the set-up before Catalunya.''

At Skoda Kenneth Eriksson had to retire his Octavia WRC from the event on today's [Sunday's] second stage with gearbox failure. Toni Gardemeister suspected that his differentials weren't working perfectly but that aside, his and Roman Kresta's Octavias ran without major problems.

Neither Gardemeister or Kresta had much chance of breaking into the top ten today, so both consolidated their positions and tried to find better set-ups instead. Gardemeister eventually finished 12th, with Kresta more than seven minutes further back in 14th. Kenneth Eriksson retired his Octavia this morning with gearbox failure.



Related Pictures

Click on relevant pic to enlarge
Gilles Panizzi and co-driver Herve Panizzi [Peugeot 206 WRC] celebrate winning the Rallye de France / Tour de Corse [2002]
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Jacques Villeneuve in his Albatec Racing Peugeot [Pic credit: Gary Hawkins/Ebrey Photographic]
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