Martin Rowe clinched the Production Car World Rally Championship [PCWRC] today after finishing third on the Tour de Corse in his Subaru Impreza WRX STI.

The 1998 British champion finished five points clear of Toshi Arai in another Impreza WRX STI, while Stig Blomqvist's fifth place was sufficient for third overall and gives Subaru a clean sweep of the podium places in the PCWRC.

Arai had to finish first or second in Corsica to have a chance of taking the PCWRC, which he managed under the difficult conditions thrown up by the changing weather conditions in Corsica over the three days.

But Rowe's calculated drive - he had to finish in the top five - thwarted Arai's title ambitions.

"It was a difficult rally," said Rowe. "Mentally it was as tough as the actual driving. We knew what we had to do, but you have to be very disciplined."

Rowe said finding the right pace in the suddenly changing weather conditions added to the pressure. On the second leg rain showers, some of them heavy meant that choosing an ideal tyre for the stages was almost impossible.

"We had to make do with what we had and knew everybody else was in the same position."

Rowe would like to defend his title next year. "These cars are the next best thing to a World Rally Car," said Rowe. "It's getting harder to get a seat in one of those now, so the PCWRC is the place to be."

Rowe's PCWRC winning efforts were a model of consistency. He finished in the points on all six rounds of the championship he contested - one of only two drivers to do so.

His efforts were a tribute to his own driving skills and the reliability of the Subaru Impreza WRX STI provided by the David Sutton Motorsport Team, which also ran Blomqvist's car.

Arai was philosophical about his second place in the championship and the final event.

"We drove as hard as we could," said Arai. "Sometimes we took the wrong type of tyres for the stages and that made it harder."

Arai's commitment to the task was ably demonstrated by the battle scars on the Impreza WRX STI. Twice during the second day he slid wide on corners, hitting banks on the side of the road and inflicting panel damage to the Subaru's left rear panels.

"We gave it everything we had," said Arai.

Next year's PCWRC starts at the Rally of Sweden in February.



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