Peugeot Sport have today confirmed that Harri Rovanpera will not drive for the team in 2004, despite the fact the Finn has a contract for all 16 World Rally Championship events.

"We have decided not to keep him any more," Peugeot boss, Corrado Provera, told the official World Rally Championship website - www.wrc.com. "He has not performed like we would have wanted. Since he crashed out of Finland he seems to have had a mental imbalance in his mind."

Rovanpera's position at the team had been in doubt, along with that of Freddy Loix, following changes to the regulations.

Originally, when Peugeot confirmed their line-up for next season back in August, they confirmed that four cars would be entered, one for number driver, Marcus Gronholm, a second for Rovanpera and a third for Loix. The fourth would be a semi-works effort, for Daniel Carlsson.

Loix was given the number three entry, as at that point, the FIA had revealed that while third cars drivers would be allowed, the condition was that they "must not have been placed in the first three positions in an FIA World Rally Championship event in the previous three calendar years" - a criteria that Loix would pass, despite his quite considerable experience (he made his WRC debut in 1996).

This new situation though no sooner established was later thrown on its head, when the FIA ruled in September, that only two cars, entered per manufacturer would eligible to score points.

In a stroke then, Peugeot was left in an embarrassing situation, whereby they had signed three works drivers, and now only needed two.

Rovanpera's form this season though has done little to help his situation, his performance at the Wales Rally GB earlier this month, was mediocre to say the least, and Loix, drafted in at the last minute to replace Richard Burns, matched up well against the Finn, despite having had minimal time in the car.

Rovanpera, who now stands practically no chance of securing a drive for 2004, commented: "I don't understand this. We had talks in July and there was no problem. Now it looks like I have nothing for next season."

His only hope, and it's a long-shot, is if Subaru opt for him to replace Burns, who has been sidelined with a brain tumour. With other seemingly more promising options out there though - Colin McRae (if his Paris-Dakar move isn't too off putting), or Markko Martin (if Ford do pull out) or Tommi Makinen (if he can be persuaded to put off retirement for another season) - it means a year on the sidelines looms large.

A depressing end to 2003 for Harri then, following a less than good year.

 

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