Less than two weeks after the Sanremo Rally, this weekend sees rallying's superstars travel to the Mediterranean island of Corsica for another all-asphalt showdown.

Which prompts the obvious question: are we about to see a straight repeat of the scenario played out in Italy - where French drivers, cars and tyres dominated from flag to flag - or will the other teams succeed in stemming the tricolor tidal wave?

For the ability, or otherwise, of the non-French runners to turn the tables on their rivals on home soil is sure to play a decisive role in the way the final phase of the 2001 World Championship unfolds.

The recent success of Gilles Panizzi and Peugeot in Sanremo extended Michelin's current unbeaten run on asphalt that dates back to the Autumn of 1998. Indeed, the products of the Clermont Ferrand based firm monopolised the business end of the leaderboard throughout the three-day event before scoring an all-podium finish on the Sunday afternoon.

On paper, everything points to a similar story as the championship switches to the contour-hugging roads around Ajaccio. After all, Panizzi and the 206 WRC dominated the Tour of Corsica in emphatic fashion last year and, if last March's Catalonia Rally and the Sanremo are anything to judge by, the only real threat to the defending champions looks like it will come from Peugeot's sister firm, Citro?n-Michelin.

Having said that, nothing can be taken for granted, if only because the Tour of Corsica counts amongst the toughest rounds of the calendar. And even if this year's event is the shortest in the French classic's history, the so-called "Rally of the 10,000 Corners" puts exceptional constraints on men and machinery alike and the 59 km group of stages programmed twice this weekend are likely to push that point home yet again! With challenges like that on the menu, being able to count on the proven qualities of Michelin's latest generation asphalt range promises to be a particularly welcome trump card.

In Italy, Peugeot and Citro?n were the French tyre maker's most prominent partners, but Corsica could well prove to be the opportunity Mitsubishi is hoping for to reveal the true potential of its all-new Lancer WRC-Michelin which was slowed by teething troubles in Sanremo. The chances of the Japanese make, like those of Peugeot, of clinching the Manufacturers' crown at the end of the year could well depend on how successful they are in pushing their common rival, Ford, which has rarely been on form on asphalt this season, down the final standings - and out of the big points - this weekend in Corsica...

Tour of Corsica in brief:

Rally headquarters: Ajaccio, France.
Total distance: 891.59 km
Total 'stage' distance: 394.04 km
Surface type: Asphalt
Number of stages: 16

Competitors on the 45th Tour of Corsica can look forward to a particularly compact format, with nearly 45% of the event's total length made up of special stages. That's one of the highest stage-to-roadsection ratios ever seen in WRC history.

To achieve this, the organisers have come up with the shortest ever Tour of Corsica, while cars will never stray more than 30km from host town Ajaccio where a site alongside the airport will serve as the sole service park for each of the three legs. However, with a view to adding a little extra spice to the weekend, the route includes a loop comprising 59km of stages without service, something of a record in modern day World Championship terms.

A major unknown concerns the weather. Organised in May from the early eighties, the French round switched to a date straddling September/October in 2000. This year, despite its favourable Mediterranean location, the 2001 event could well take place in much less hospitable conditions than has been the case in the recent past.