Peugeot driver Gilles Panizzi has scored a dominant victory on the fourth round of the FIA World Rally Championship, the Rallye Catalunya-Costa Brava, which finished in Spain today.

The Frenchman and his navigator, brother Herv?, eventually finished 37.3 seconds clear of their team-mates Richard Burns/Robert Reid after leading from the first stage on Friday morning.

Burns resisted the temptation to try and close on his fellow 206 WRC driver, but the world champion was quick enough to fend off third-placed Philippe Bugalski anyway.

Today's six stages again brought good weather but little drama among the top crews. Sebastien Loeb crashed out on this morning's second stage, gifting fourth place to Marcus Gr?nholm and handing the injured Colin McRae a hard-earned point for sixth overall.

The Peugeot 206 WRCs of Gilles Panizzi, Richard Burns and Marcus Gr?nholm have been reliable today.

Panizzi matched Richard Burns to the tenth of a second on today's opening stage, then controlled his pace thereafter to secure his second WRC win in two events by a comfortable 37-second margin. In a display of unshakable confidence, the Frenchman even had time to turn a half-spin into doughnuts for the huge crowds at the bridge on the Villadrau test this morning.

Burns, meanwhile, inched further clear of Philippe Bugalski to make his second position secure and guarantee Peugeot's third maximum score in a row in the manufacturers' championship. The third 206 WRC driver Marcus Gr?nholm had to fend up Petter Solberg but the 2000 world champion soon halted the Norwegian's charge and consolidated his fifth position. That became fourth when Sebastien Loeb crashed out, so Gr?nholm now leads the drivers championship by one point from Panizzi. Meanwhile, Peugeot's fourth regular driver Harri Rovanper? secured seventh overall on the final stage, driving a 206 WRC run by private team Bozian.

Gilles Panizzi said: ''I'm really pleased. It's a great result for me, Herv? and the whole Peugeot team. This was an easier event to drive than Corsica because the conditions were more consistent, but the actual competition was just the same. I had good confidence this morning and we had a good advantage on the stage that had the bridge, so when I went wide I thought I would grab the handbrake and please the crowds. They went crazy! It's good to win on asphalt again but now I want the chance to gain more experience and speed on loose surfaces.''

Team-mate Richard Burns continued: ''I had no real chance to catch Gilles today, but I'm reasonably happy with second. I'm still getting used to the car - in some ways, it was easier to be on the pace here than it was in Corsica. I'm pleased at how the start of the season's going because we're scoring points, and now we move to gravel. I won't have too much testing time before Cyprus but hopefully the learning curve won't be quite as steep as it was around Monte Carlo time.''

Marcus Gr?nholm added: ''I haven't had the same level of confidence here that I had in Corsica. I think the problem has been the corner cutting - there's far more of that on this event but about 60 percent of the cuts in my notes have been wrong. So every time I come to a corner I have to think, or even guess, if the note is actually right or not. But at least we've taken some points.''

The remaining Citroen Xsara WRCs of Philippe Bugalski and Sebastien Loeb have been reliable today, but Loeb broke a wishbone when he rolled in SS14 and he had to retire after the stage finish. Loeb was the second works Citroen to retire after team-mate Thomas Radstrom slid off on a gravel-strewn corner in SS6 on Friday and broke his car's rear suspension.

Bugalski was unable to make serious inroads into the deficit to second-placed Richard Burns this morning, so the Frenchman elected to settle for third overall. Team-mate Sebastien Loeb didn't fare so well: the reigning French champion came under pressure from Gr?nholm after today's first stage and on the second, he was caught out in a fast section and rolled his Xsara, breaking a wishbone and retiring.

Philippe Bugalski said: ''I had hoped to maybe put Richard under some pressure but that wasn't possible, because he was basically at the same speed as me. I also lost a little time when Sebastien went off, because I found his car lying in the middle of the road and I had to slow to go around it. So we have third position, which is quite good. We didn't do so well on the first day, though, because I didn't feel confidence in the car.''

Sebastien Loeb added: ''It was a fast left-hand corner with a cut, the car bounced wide, we touched the front corner and rolled. We ended up back on our wheels, but we had broken a wishbone, so we had to stop.''

Petter Solberg's Subaru Impreza WRC2002 has been reliable today, although the Norwegian did suffer an EMI mousse insert break-up seven kilometres into today's third stage. He had to complete the remaining 28km with a vibration.

Solberg had hoped that slightly softer tyres this morning would help him to eat into Marcus Gr?nholm's advantage, but the 2000 world champion was faster than his rival on two of this morning's first three stages. Solberg did benefit from the retirement of Sebastien Loeb, though, so he finished fifth overall, claiming four manufacturers' points for Subaru.

Petter Solberg said: ''It would have been nice to have passed Marcus but in the end, it wasn't quite possible. The mousse break-up definitely cost me a bit of time because there was quite a bad vibration, but it was always going to be a difficult challenge anyway. I'm still happy with the result, though - it's good to get more points for me and for Subaru. We've learnt a lot about the car since Corsica and you have to set it up quite differently for the roads here in Spain - you must drive in a very smooth way here.''

His team-mate Tommi Makinen went out yesterday [Saturday] after his car finally succumbed to the accident damage and overheating that it suffered after SS6 Friday afternoon.

Makinen noted: ''The car started normally in Parc Ferme this [Saturday] morning and it was not smoking. But suddenly something broke and we could go no further. It's definitely something to do with our problems last [Friday] night. We've gathered some useful information on this rally about our tarmac tyres but now we need to concentrate on the gravel.''

At Ford meanwhile Colin McRae's Focus RS WRC02 has been ok today. Team-mate Markko Martin suffered brake fade in today's first stage but that aside, the Estonian's car has run without major problems.

McRae started today's final six stages with little hope of making up positions on pace alone, but Sebastien Loeb's accident promoted the Scot into sixth overall and give him a point - a rich reward after his drive with a broken finger in his left hand. Team-mate Markko Martin had been given strict instructions to reach the finish and secure manufacturers' points for Ford and the Estonian did exactly that, even dropping behind the non-registered Harri Rovanper? in the later stages. He eventually finished in eighth overall.

Carlos Sainz did not make the finish - he lost any chance of scoring a point when he slid off and crashed out on Saturday in SS10. He and stand-in navigator Marc Marti escaped unhurt from the incident.

Sainz noted: ''It was a fifth-gear corner with cars on the inside and outside of the bend. I corrected my line but there was a car with two wheels on the tarmac and two on the grass, so I forced a sixth-gear spin. I was very lucky to recover from that but I was going backwards and the car hit a really big stone, so we had to stop. It was stupid to risk running that stage. It would have been better to be safe. I want to thank Marc Marti for all his efforts on this event, though - up to the incident this stage was going 100 percent for us.''

Team-mate Colin McRae meanwhile was delighted to finish sixth overall on Sunday. He said: ''One point is almost like a victory. I came here hoping to take something from this rally, but until this morning it looked like we would get something for Ford but not for ourselves. It obviously helps us a little in the championship. We have to work hard in time for Cyprus. At least I will have time to recover slightly before then.''

Markko Martin added: ''I definitely lost a few seconds this morning because the middle pedal went quite soft. In the end Malcolm told me to concentrate on finishing and score manufacturers points, so Harri was able to pass me this afternoon. I'm still quite happy though because I've been quite close to the pace of Colin and Carlos.''

The Mitsubishi Lancer Evo WRCs of Fran?ois Delecour and Alister McRae have been generally reliable today [Sunday]. Delecour was involved in one of the few battles in the top ten on Sunday, the Frenchman passed both Freddy Loix and Toni Gardemeister and he then had to fight them off as they retaliated in the closing three stages. He managed that to finish ninth and score a manufacturers point for Mitsubishi. Alister McRae endured another difficult day, spinning down an escape road on today's opening stage. The Scot eventually finished in 13th.

Fran?ois Delecour said: ''I'm happy to get a point for Mitsubishi, but we know that this has been a very difficult event for us, we've learnt a lot about the Lancer on asphalt, Now we really need to make use of this as we work on the next homologation of the car.''

The Hyundai Accent WRC3s of Freddy Loix and Armin Schwarz have been reliable today, although Schwarz continued to complain about his car's shock absorbers softening on bumpier stretches of road.

Loix closed in on and passed Toni Gardemeister this morning, but at the same time he dropped behind Fran?ois Delecour. The Belgian tried to pass his French rival in the closing three stages, ultimately his Accent finished exactly two seconds behind Delecour's Lancer. Armin Schwarz finished 16th after struggling with his Accent's suspension settings. The third Hyundai driver, Tomasz Kuchar didn't even start the event, a consequence of a recce accident on Wednesday.

Freddy Loix said: ''It was a good day today but not quite good enough. Unfortunately my neighbour (Delecour lives close to Loix's French home) was a bit too quick for me this morning and even though we could pull back the odd half second here and there, we couldn't get ahead of him. We did learn a lot about the car here, though, and I'm quite optimistic that we can put in a good performance in Cyprus next month.''

Armin Schwarz added: ''Freddy has shown here what we can do with the car. We didn't get the handling right until the last day and that was quite frustrating for me.''

The Skoda Octavia WRC of Kenneth Eriksson has been reliable today. Toni Gardemeister's car ran without problems until after the final service, when its oil pressure dropped alarmingly and it stopped just over a kilometre from the final parc ferme. Gardemeister and navigator Paavo Lukander pushed the car over the remaining distance to finish the event.

Gardemeister slipped behind both Freddy Loix and Fran?ois Delecour this morning. The Finn lost confidence in his car's handling. Suspension tweaks improved matters for the final three stages, but Gardemeister was unable to reclaim his position. He finished 11th, despite a late scare when his car's oil pressure dropped and it stopped 1.1km from the final parc ferme.

Kenneth Eriksson started today's stages with little to gain apart from further experience of the Skoda on dry asphalt. The Swede achieved this, reaching the finish in 17th. As for the third Skoda driven by Stig Blomqvist, his car hit alternator troubles and retired on the road section back to Lloret de Mar on Friday evening.

Toni Gardemeister said: ''I'm sorry that I just missed out on a point for Skoda. This morning we tried some new tyres and maybe the car's suspension was too soft. It was sliding everywhere with a lot of understeer and I felt I couldn't trust it.''

Of the other entries Daniel Sola claimed a thrilling victory in the Junior World Rally Championship category, but the Spaniard's success looked unlikely until the very last stage. Sola, who'd barged past Andrea Dallavilla's similar Citroen Saxo to take the category lead yesterday [Saturday], suffered a puncture in SS15. That allowed his Italian rival past and it seemed certain that Dallavilla would claim the class win. But in SS18, he suffered a puncture too, allowing Sola to score a popular home victory by more than 50 seconds.

Two more Italians - Giandomenico Basso and Gianluigi Galli - finished third and fourth in their Fiat Puntos. Pre-event favourite Fran?ois Duval endured another difficult day today, meanwhile - the Belgian suffered two punctures in SS15 and dropped from fourth in the class to sixth. He still leads the championship after two rounds, but his advantage over Sola is now just a single point.

Rally statistics - Leg three:

Starters: 45 cars (37 Group A and 8 Group N) restarted the rally.

Retirements: Loeb (F) and three other drivers.

Today - Sunday 24 March:
Leg 3 started from Lloret de Mar at 06h15 and covered 499.62km, including 106.26km on six special stages.

Stage by stage summary - Leg three:

SS13 La Trona 1 (12.90kms):
1. Panizzi (F) Peugeot 8m 18.8
1. Burns (GB) Peugeot 8m 18.8
3. Gr?nholm (FIN) Peugeot 8m 20.3

Leaders after SS13:
1. Panizzi (F) Peugeot 2h 36m 45.5
2. Burns (GB) Peugeot 2h 37m 29.9
3. Bugalski (F) Citroen 2h 37m 49.3

SS14 La Roca 1 (5.05kms):
1. Puras (E) Citroen 3m 02.1
2. Solberg (N) Subaru 3m 02.4
3. Gr?nholm (FIN) Peugeot 3m 03.3
3. Martin (EE) Ford 3m 03.3

Leaders after SS14:
1. Panizzi (F) Peugeot 2h 39m 51.4
2. Burns (GB) Peugeot 2h 40m 33.3
3. Bugalski (F) Citroen 2h 40m 54.8

SS15 Viladrau 1 (35.18kms):
1. Burns (GB) Peugeot 21m 14.9
2. Gr?nholm (FIN) Peugeot 21m 20.6
3. Bugalski (F) Citroen 21m 23.3

Leaders after SS15:
1. Panizzi (F) Peugeot 3h 11m 17.0
2. Burns (GB) Peugeot 3h 11m 48.7
3. Bugalski (F) Citroen 2h 12m 18.1

SS16 La Trona 2 (12.90kms):
1. Panizzi (F) Peugeot 8m 17.9
2. Solberg (N) Subaru 8m 19.0
3. Gr?nholm (FIN) Peugeot 8m 19.1

Leaders after SS16:
1. Panizzi (F) Peugeot 3h 09m 34.9
2. Burns (GB) Peugeot 3h 10m 10.5
3. Bugalski (F) Citroen 3h 10m 41.5

SS17 La Roca 2 (5.05kms):
1. Martin (EE) Ford 3m 04.6
1. Panizzi (F) Peugeot 3m 04.6
3. Gr?nholm (FIN) Peugeot 3m 05.2

Leaders after SS17:
1. Panizzi (F) Peugeot 3h 12m 39.5
2. Burns (GB) Peugeot 3h 13m 16.6
3. Bugalski (F) Citroen 3h 13m 48.6

SS18 Viladrau 2 (35.18kms):
1. Solberg (N) Subaru 21m 23.7
2. Panizzi (F) Peugeot 21m 29.5
3. Burns (GB) Peugeot 21m 29.7

Leaderboard after SS18 - Leg three:
1. Panizzi (F) Peugeot 3h 34m 09.0
2. Burns (GB) Peugeot +37.3
3. Bugalski (F) Citroen +1m 13.5
4. Gr?nholm (FIN) Peugeot +1m 42.7
5. Solberg (N) Subaru +2m 01.6
6. C. McRae (GB) Ford +3m 27.3
7. Rovanper? (FIN) Peugeot +3m 40.1
8. Martin (EE) Ford +3m 43.9
9. Delecour (F) Mitsubishi +5m 28.6
10. Loix (B) Hyundai +5m 30.6

Junior WRC Leaderboard after SS18:
1. Sola (E) Citroen 3h 52m 11.5
2. Dallavilla (I) Citroen +50.3
3. Basso (I) Fiat +2m 14.1
4. Galli (I) Fiat +6m 34.8
5. Tuohino (FIN) Citroen +7m 19.8
6. Duval (B) Ford +7m 21.6
7. Chemin (I) Fiat +7m 43.7
8. Galanti (PY) Ford +10m 28.7
9. Schelle (D) Suzuki +12m 23.7
10. Doppelreiter (A) Peugeot +14m 14.3

Final Rally Statistics:

Event: The rally covered 1948.95km, including 394.98km on 18 special stages (nine, all run twice). All stages were on asphalt roads closed to other traffic.

Starters: 68 cars (58 Group A and 10 Group N) started the rally

Finishers: 41 cars (34 Group A and 7 Group N) finished the rally

Stage winners:
Panizzi (SS2, SS3, SS4, SS5, SS6, SS9, SS11, SS12, SS13, SS17)
Solberg (SS10, SS18)
Burns (SS13, SS15)
Puras (SS14)
Martin (SS17)
SS1, SS7 and SS8 were cancelled due to spectator congestion.

Rally leaders:
Panizzi (SS2-SS18)

FIA World Championships:

FIA World Rally Championship for Drivers (after 4 of 14 rounds): Gr?nholm (FIN) 21, Panizzi (F) 20, Burns (GB) 13, M?kinen (FIN) 10, Sainz (E) 9, Bugalski (F) 7, Rovanper? (FIN) 6, Loeb (F) 6, C. McRae (GB) 5, Solberg (N) 5, A.McRae (GB) 2.

FIA World Rally Championship for Manufacturers (after 4 of 14 rounds): Peugeot 52, Ford 25, Subaru 20, Mitsubishi 6, Hyundai 1, Skoda 0.

FIA Junior World Rally Championship (after 2 of 6 rounds): Duval (B) 11, Sola (E) 10, Caldani (I) 6, Dallavilla (I) 6, Feghali (RL) 4, Basso (I) 4, Carlsson (S) 3, Galli (I) 3, Doppelreiter (A) 2, Tuohino (FIN) 2, Schelle (D) 1.

FIA Production Car World Championship (after 2 of 8 rounds, this event not counting): Sohlberg (FIN) 10, Ferreyros (PE) 10, Iliev (BL) 6, Arai (J) 6, Rowe (GB) 5, Ipatti (FIN) 4, Fiorio (I) 3, Trelles (E) 3, Girdauskas (LIT) 2, Harrach (A) 2, Marrini (I) 1.

Next event: April 18-21, 2002: Cyprus Rally, Limassol, Cyprus.