Peugeot Sport boss Corrado Provera is nothing if not gracious in defeat, acknowledging that his team had been beaten to the World Rally Championship manufacturers' title by a better team this year.

Despite being beaten by sister company Citroen, which was undertaking its first full season in the WRC, Provera recognised that Peugeot had had neither the luck nor the overwhelming success rate of recent seasons as it ended the campaign empty-handed for the first time in four years.

"Before the start of the Wales Rally GB, things were looking good," Provera told French newspaper l'Equipe, "We had won as many events as Citro?n, there was only a five-point gap between us, and Richard Burns was again in line for the drivers' title. Then, before the rally had even started up, Richard was victim of a health problem - of which no-one really knows the exact severity. He had won the event three times before, so had to be a favourite. Then Marcus Gronh?lm went out of the event as early as the second special stage on Friday, and, there and then, we understood that the championship was finished."

Provera refused to blame the ageing 206 WRC for the defeat, claiming that it had proven competitive more than once during the season.

"If the car had not been competitive, it would never have won four rallies, or recorded fastest stage times," he said, "I also believe, however, that the competition has progressed very well. Citro?n put to profit the time that it had at its disposal while doing [a limited] world championship campaign in 2001 and 2002, and gave good cars to a trio of drivers that know how to win. It is necessary to recognise - and applaud - this."

The feisty sporting director admitted that it was harder to have been beaten by a Citroen team that employed its drivers' title contender - Sebastien Loeb - to secure valuable points rather than go for the individual crown than it would have been to have lost to the team with Loeb winning the title for himself.

"I regret it because S?bastien is a fantastic boy," he said, "He really deserved to have been allowed to fight for the drivers' title."

Despite the disappointment, however, Provera insisted that Peugeot would be back fighting for the title with the new 307 CC next year.

"Of course there is vexation and disappointment, because we believed [in our chances] to the end, but never doubt our motivation," he said, "We will have to tighten our procedures, and put others into place, but you will rediscover Peugeot Sport as determined as it has been for these past four seasons.

"This title has not left France, and does not go very far from Peugeot, so it will be so much simpler for us to recover it next year!"



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