For Peugeot, the Cyprus Rally marks an important step in the 2001 World Championship; the French team will run the latest specification of last year's championship-winning 206 WRC for the first time.

As on all gravel rounds in 2001, Peugeot's colours will be defended by Didier Auriol, Marcus Gr?nholm and Harri Rovanper?, with Auriol and Gr?nholm nominated to score manufacturers' points for the team.

Going into round six of the calendar's fourteen events, Peugeot are currently lying third in the Manufacturers' World Championship standings, while Didier Auriol and Harri Rovanper? figure in the same position in the Drivers' table. The team hope that the latest edition of the 206 will soon see them back on top.

"We have big expectations for the three 2001-specification 206 WRC's. The car's progress in terms of performance and strength has been confirmed in testing," says Peugeot Sport Director Corrado Provera. "Naturally, these expectations are tempered by a certain amount of caution given that Cyprus will be the new car's competition debut and that we have lacked consistency since the beginning of the season. As a result, we are now in a situation where we must finish in the big points on each event, something we haven't managed to achieve on a regular basis so far."

The team's drivers have slightly differing views about the Cyprus Rally. Frenchman Didier Auriol enjoys the event: "The stages are slow, but the route is still demanding and selective. Personally, I like this rally. It contributes to the huge variety of challenges you get in the World Rally Championship."

Marcus Gr?nholm, like Auriol, got his first taste of the island in 2000: "I have to say I prefer faster events. Even so, we are likely to learn a lot in Cyprus. The evolution 206 WRC marks a step forward, but this will still only be its first competitive outing."

While Harri Rovanper? has no previous experience of the Mediterranean island, he is very much aware of the difficulties that await the top drivers over the coming weeks: "We face three particularly tough rounds on the trot where speed will count but where we will be less close to the limit than we are on other rallies. On events such as Cyprus, where you stand a bigger chance of having mechanical problems than elsewhere, success requires a little more luck than usual."