The Peugeot Sport team will leave New Zealand with distinctly mixed feelings. Although the French marque brought home all three cars in the points, they feel they could - and should - have won the event.

Drivers Harri Rovanpera, Marcus Gronholm and Didier Auriol finished in third, fifth and sixth respectively at the end of an event dominated by tactical manoeuvring, as crews tried desperately to avoid running first on the road and sweeping loose gravel clear for their rivals.

Gronholm and navigator Timo Rautiainen started today's eight stages in fifth overall, but he suffered misfortune in the day's second test. The reigning world champion spun just after a fast right-hand bend and he had to jockey his car and forth before he could rejoin the stage.

He was soon charging again, though, and despite suffering a late scare when he clouted a rock, Marcus inched closer to both Rovanpera and third-placed Carlos Sainz. He eventually set fastest times to overhaul his teammate and he even moved ahead of Sainz in the last stage.

However, heartbreak would follow when it then emerged that the Finn had jumped the start on that test and the resulting 10s penalty dropped him back to fifth.

"It's been a tough rally," admitted Gronholm. "We lost too much time on the opening day and the last two days have been difficult as a result. After my win in Finland last month, it shows we're moving in the right direction with performance and reliability.

"I knew I'd made a mistake on the last stage with the jump start, but these things sometimes happen when you are trying," said the Finn.

Rovanpera and navigator Risto Pietilainen started today's eight stages in third overall, but the Finn stalled his engine under braking for a tight right-hand bend in the second test, and dropped behind Carlos Sainz into fourth.

The Swedish Rally winner tried everything in the closing six stages to regain his podium placing and a mistake from Sainz on virtually the final corner moved Rovanpera back into third.

"This morning's stages were hard because they were new to me and I found the roads very slippery after running on cleaner stages yesterday," said Rovanpera. "I came to the corner, stamped the brakes but then the car stalled and I did a half-spin as I tried to sort everything out.

"Of course we'd have liked to have finished a bit higher but it was always going to be hard because we started so high up the field on the first day."

The third 206 of Didier Auriol finished sixth after a trouble free run today. The Frenchman started this morning's stages knowing that he faced an uphill struggle to improve his position, but also that his nearest rival Tommi M?kinen was too far behind to challenge him for the final points placing.

He paced himself accordingly to finish sixth, claiming a point for him and two for Peugeot in the manufacturers' championship. Today's result leaves Peugeot fourth in the series.

Despite the treble point's finish, Team Peugeot Director Corrado Provera confessed to feeling both joy and despair.

"We have a strange taste in our mouths because while the car has been both quick and reliable here, we have to say that we made some mistakes, especially on the first day," said Provera, referring to Gronholm and Auriol being given incorrect timing info. As they tried to manoeuvre themselves into a strong starting slot for leg two. Gronholm was too fast and so had to sweep the loose gravel from the roads, while the opposite incorrect information saw Auriol ease off far too much.

"We should have won here, and we could have won. All three of our drivers have done fantastic jobs in difficult conditions and for that we thank them," concluded Provera.