WRC » 5 October 2003
Loeb takes gold on the 'Italian Job'.
McRae added: "The conditions were incredible, probably the worst I have ever driven in. It wasn't raining all of the time, but when it was, it was just a case of keeping the car on the road. This hasn't been a great rally, now we look ahead to Corsica and Catalunya to set what we can do there."
All three Peugeot 206 WRCs meanwhile ran without any problems through the final leg, but Gronholm crashed out of the rally on the final stage.
The rain might have cost the team third place, with Gronholm's crash, but at the same time it earned them second place for Panizzi who made the right tyre choice. The Finn went off the road in heavy rain at the start of stage 14. He continued down the road, but the damage to the car was too bad for him to continue.
Panizzi's rise through the leaderboard took him from fifth to fourth on the penultimate test. On the 21-kilometre over Colle d'Oggia, however, he was 1m 16.7s faster than anybody, which was enough for him to pass Martin and move into second place.
Burns had dropped back to tenth place on the penultimate stage, but joint eighth fastest time through the last stage elevated him into seventh, where he clinched two championship points.
Panizzi said: "Those stages were amazing, so much water in the last one. Of course they were very difficult to drive and we did have quite a few moments in there. I am happy for the team and I am sad for the team. Happy because I have made the points to help Peugeot in the championship, but at the same time it was a pity for Marcus, he drove a very good rally until the last stage."
Burns added: "I feel like we have stolen these points. The car felt good for me this morning, better on the second of the two stages, but then on that last stage of the rally I don't know what happened. It could be that we got the best of the weather, maybe it rained more for those around us. To end this event with some points is great for me. It's also good that I'm going to Corsica in a better frame of mind than I might have done."
Over at Ford the two Focus RS WRC03s of Markko Martin and Francois Duval ran without any problems today. Mikko Hirvonen retired his 2002 version on the opening day.
Martin maintained his second place through the opening loop of stages, admitting he was pushing harder on the second stage of the loop. The Estonian lost his runners-up spot on the rally's final test, running on dry-weather tyres, Martin was powerless to stop Panizzi coming past him.
Duval was another driver to benefit from Gronholm's retirement, moving into fifth place after a trouble-free final day. The Belgian was happy with his result, having predicted that he would finish in fifth place before the rally started.
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