Peugeot driver Gilles Panizzi has won the 11th round of the FIA World Rally Championship, the Rallye Sanremo, which finished in northern Italy this afternoon.

The Frenchman and his navigator, brother Herve, had led from the second stage on Friday morning and despite suffering from a shoulder injury, he consolidated his advantage throughout the remaining tests.

He polished off today's four remaining special stages to win by just over 20 seconds from his team-mate, Marcus Gronholm. The result earned Peugeot another maximum score in the manufacturers' championship to take the team to within a few points of a third successive makes crown, and Gronholm's second overall extended the Finn's lead in the drivers series.

The Peugeot 206 WRCs of Gilles Panizzi, Marcus Gronholm and Richard Burns have been reliable. Panizzi overcame any nagging pains from his injured shoulder to tick off Sunday's four remaining stages and win the Rallye Sanremo for the third year in succession. The Frenchman and his navigator, brother Herve, used the split times this morning to ensure that their times matched those of team-mate and closest rival Marcus Gronholm.

Gronholm settled for second overall at the finish, extending his advantage in the drivers world championship. Richard Burns, meanwhile, took a few seconds from third-placed Petter Solberg this morning but in the end, the reigning world champion had to settle for fourth overall, a result that moves him up to second in the drivers' standings.

''I'm delighted,'' said Panizzi. ''This was a difficult victory because my shoulder injury made me quite tired and it's always harder to concentrate in that situation. I had a lot of pressure from Philippe Bugalski in the early stages and then Marcus was always there, too. But the car has been perfect for me - everyone in the whole Peugeot team has done a very good job.''

Team-mate Marcus Gronholm added: ''If it had been wet this morning then maybe I would have had a chance to catch up with Gilles but in the dry, I knew it would be impossible. We're very close to his speed on asphalt but there are just a few places where he still has a little bit more speed. Of course, though, this result is good for me in the championship.''

Peugeot Total Team Director Corrado Provera continued: ''We're totally happy. What Gilles and Herve have done here is quite remarkable, especially with Gilles's injury. The championships are not mathematically guaranteed yet but we would be crazy if we lost them from this position.''

At Subaru meanwhile the remaining Impreza WRC2002 of Petter Solberg was reliable. Solberg started the final four stages knowing that he'd need to push to fend off a charging Richard Burns, but fastest time on the day's opening test was probably enough to ease the pressure slightly. Even in this afternoon's warmer conditions, where Solberg felt his Pirellis might lose out against Burns's Michelins, he was able to fend off the Englishman to secure a podium finish.

Petter Solberg said: ''I'm really, really happy. The first thing is that we've had a clean, reliable run with no problems from the car whatsoever. The second thing is that we've found some improvements in the set-up, just by making small changes as the rally went on, and we gained some more speed because of that. And finally, I'm really glad to have been able to push, get involved in a fight with Richard and still come out with a podium finish. We can take some of what we've learned here to New Zealand and I can't wait for that rally now. This is a really important result for me.''

Solberg's team-mate's Tommi Makinen and Achim Mortl went out on Friday and Saturday. Makinen was the first to go with a broken front left drive-shaft, well Mortl crashed out in SS10 and retired after it.

Over at Ford the Focus RS WRC02s of Markko Martin and Colin McRae have run reasonably well. Martin knew that he'd have to push hard this morning if he was to make any impact on fourth-placed Richard Burns, but when the Englishman eked out a few more seconds in the opening stages, the young Estonian elected to aim for a finish, two drivers' points for himself and three crucial points for Ford in the manufacturers' series.

Colin McRae, meanwhile, had little to gain today, since he started this morning more than a minute and a half behind seventh-placed Cedric Robert. As a result, the Scot backed off and cruised towards the Sanremo finish in eighth, scoring two manufacturers' points for Ford but ceding a further six to Gr?nholm in the race for the drivers' championship.

Markko Martin commented: ''I'm quite pleased and maybe a little surprised with how well it's all gone here. We clearly found a good set-up for the car and we've had no real problems either. I had hoped to fight Petter because we were on the same pace as him in the early stages but he found more speed and we couldn't match him.''

Team-mate Colin McRae added: ''We didn't really have anything to gain by taking big risks today so we just had a steady run. The car's clearly better on asphalt, as we've seen from Markko's times, but the gap is still there to the Peugeots. We can just concentrate on trying to win the last three rallies now, because the championship chances are practically gone.''

The other works Focus driven by Carlos Sainz retired on Friday, a engine oil leak ending his Sanremo Rally after only three stages.

At Mitsubishi Fran?ois Delecour adopted a cautious strategy this morning, as the Frenchman aimed for a top-10 finish and a valuable manufacturers' point for Mitsubishi. He duly secured this, finishing 10th overall to lift the Japanese manufacturer above Skoda in the makes' series.

Delecour said: ''We had to make sure we reached the finish today, because there was the chance of a point for Mitsubishi and maybe we didn't expect to get that on this rally. I'm really happy that we have moved above Skoda now, but at the same time it was frustrating to lose so much time with the turbo problems that we had, because if we hadn't had that then I know we could have been fighting two or three places higher up the field.''

His team-mate Alister McRae, was withdrawn from the event on medical grounds on Friday night. The Scot crashed while mountain biking last week and he was clearly exhausted by the end of Friday's action. With little to gain after his self-induced smashed windscreen, McRae flew home Saturday morning to enjoy a couple of extra days' recuperation before he flies on to Rally New Zealand.

The Skoda Octavia WRCs of Kenneth Eriksson and Roman Kresta had no problems during the final leg. Both of Skoda's drivers, Kenneth Eriksson and Roman Kresta, had little to gain but experience today. But they both knuckled down, experimented a little with driving style and car set-ups and reached the finish. Eriksson, who'd tried to introduce a new driving style for asphalt events, finished 11th, while Kresta gained valuable experience of the Sanremo stages as he claimed 12th.

Kenneth Eriksson said: ''We had a clean run today and I've still managed to learn a lot about how differently you can drive on the asphalt. But it's a shame that we haven't been able to score a point for Skoda - we just weren't quick enough to do that. However, there are three good events coming up where the Octavia should be a stronger package. It's New Zealand next and I've won there in the past so hopefully we can have reliability, take advantage of road position and surprise a few people.''

Team-mate Roman Kresta continued: ''I found the roads here very difficult. Sometimes the surface has lots of grip and then it will change, even in the same corner, to very slippery. I know I could have been quicker in places but the idea was always to get a good look at the stages and learn more about the Octavia on asphalt, and we've done that.''

The third Skoda piloted by Toni Gardemeister was going well when disaster struck yesterday, when he slid off the road and out of the event. Up to that point he was running tenth overall, and on course for a manufacturers' point.

Freddy Loix's Hyundai Accent WRC3 was reliable today, as the Belgian played with anti-roll bar settings after his major time loss yesterday afternoon.

After his accident and substantial time loss yesterday afternoon, Loix knew he'd have to treat today's closing four stages as an extended test session, and that's exactly what he did. The Belgian played with the anti-roll bar settings on his Accent throughout the day, adjusting it between stages to experience as many options as possible. He finished 28th overall.

Loix said: ''It was a shame that we lost so much time in the accident last night - I feel really bad for everyone in the team, because we have clearly made some more progress and found some more performance. Today was all about trying some new things, some different settings and experimenting. After the time loss yesterday, position didn't really matter. I'm not even going to talk about the next round in New Zealand and what we might achieve there - I'm just going to go there, try my best and see what happens.''

His team-mate, Armin Schwarz crashed out on day one, in stage one. Not a good rally then for Hyundai.

Of the other entries Jesus Puras won a hotly-contested fight to be the top privateer World Rally Car driver on this event. The Spanish champion's Xsara finished sixth overall after he consolidated his overnight placing today. He finished 22 seconds clear of the young Frenchman Cedric Robert, who bagged seventh on his first world championship appearance in a customer-specification Peugeot 206 WRC.

In the Junior World Rally Championship Italian driver Andrea Dallavilla took the class win, beating Giandomenico Basso by ten seconds. Daniel Sola was third. Dallavilla's win puts him top in the JWRC table, one point ahead of Sola, with one round to go.

Rally Statistics - Leg three:

Starters: 36 crews (35 Group A and 1 Group N) started this morning.

Retirements: 1 non-seeded driver.

Today - Sunday 22 September: Leg 3 started from Sanremo at 06h00 and covered 327.28km, including 88.02km on four special stages.

Stage by stage summary - Leg three:

SS15 Pantasina 1 (25.03kms):
1. Solberg (N) Subaru 14m 55.2
1. Panizzi (F) Peugeot 14m 55.5
3. Burns (GB) Peugeot 14m 56.1

Leaders after SS15:
1. Panizzi (F) Peugeot 3h 31m 13.3
2. Gr?nholm (FIN) Peugeot 3h 31m 36.9
3. Solberg (N) Subaru 3h 32m 12.7

SS16 Mendatica 1 (18.98kms):
1. Gr?nholm (FIN) Peugeot 12m 03.0
2. Burns (GB) Peugeot 12m 06.1
2. Panizzi (F) Peugeot 12m 06.1
4. Martin (EE) Ford 12m 11.2

Leaders after SS16:
1. Panizzi (F) Peugeot 3h 43m 19.4
2. Gr?nholm (FIN) Peugeot 3h 43m 39.9
3. Solberg (N) Subaru 3h 44m 24.9

SS17 Pantasina 2 (25.03kms):
1. Burns (GB) Peugeot 14m 51.4
2. Panizzi (F) Peugeot 14m 52.6
3. Solberg (N) Subaru 14m 53.4

Leaders after SS17:
1. Panizzi (F) Peugeot 3h 58m 12.0
2. Gr?nholm (FIN) Peugeot 3h 58m 35.5
3. Solberg (N) Subaru 3h 59m 08.3

SS18 Mendatica 2 (18.98kms):
1. Gr?nholm (FIN) Peugeot 12m 01.0
2. Burns (GB) Peugeot 12m 02.3
3. Panizzi (F) Peugeot 12m 03.6

Leaders in Sanremo after SS18:
1. Panizzi (F) Peugeot 4h 10m 15.6
2. Gr?nholm (FIN) Peugeot +20.9
3. Solberg (N) Subaru +1m 06.4
4. Burns (GB) Peugeot +1m 18.9
5. Martin (EE) Ford +1m 54.9
6. Puras (E) Citroen +2m 39.3
7. Robert (F) Peugeot +3m 01.3
8. C. McRae (GB) Ford +5m 17.5
9. Rovanper? (FIN) Peugeot +6m 18.9
10. Delecour (F) Mitsubishi +7m 24.4

JWRC Leaders in Sanremo after SS18:
1. Dallavilla (I) Citroen 4h 28m 26.4
2. Basso (I) Fiat +9.6
3. Sola (E) Citroen +29.7
4. Caldani (I) Fiat +30.1
5. Galli (I) Fiat +2m 08.2
6. Duval (B) Ford +3m 03.0

Final rally statistics:

Event: The rally covered 1407.04km, including 385.84km on 18 special stages (nine, all run twice). All stages were on asphalt roads closed to other traffic.

Starters: 53 crews (52 Group A and 1 Group N) started the rally.

Finishers: 36 crews (35 Group A and 1 Group N) finished the rally.

Stage winners:
Panizzi (SS2-3-4-5-6-7-8-10*-12)
Gr?nholm (SS1-9-10*-11-16-18)
Solberg (SS13-14-15)
Burns (SS17)

*notional time allocated by the organisers

Rally leaders:
SS1 Gr?nholm
SS2-SS18 Panizzi

FIA World Championships:

FIA World Rally Championship for Drivers (after 11 of 14 rounds): Gr?nholm (FIN) 57, Burns (GB) 34, C. McRae (GB) 33, Panizzi (F) 31. Sainz (E) 26, Solberg (N) 23, Loeb (F) 18, Rovanper? (FIN) 18, M?kinen (FIN) 15, Martin (EE) 12, Bugalski (F) 7, Radstrom (S) 4, A. McRae (GB) 2, Gardemeister (FIN) 2, Thiry (B) 2, Eriksson (S) 1, Puras (E) 1.

FIA World Rally Championship for Manufacturers (after 11 of 14 rounds): Peugeot 131, Ford 86, Subaru 46, Mitsubishi 9, Skoda 8, Hyundai 6.

FIA Junior World Rally Championship (after 5 of 6 rounds): Dallavilla (I) 28, Sola (E) 27, Caldani (I) 13, Tuohino (FIN) 12, Duval (B) 12, Basso (I) 10, Schelle (D) 5, Galli (I) 5, Feghali (RL) 4, Rowe (GB) 4, Baldacci (I) 3, Carlsson (S) 3, Doppelreiter (A) 2, Foss (N) 1, Katajamaki (FIN) 1.

FIA Production Car World Championship (after 6 of 8 rounds, this event not counting): Singh (MAL) 28, Ferreyros (PE) 20, Sohlberg (FIN) 16, Fiorio (I) 13, Arai (J) 12, Trelles (ROU) 12, Iliev (BG) 9, Rowe (GB) 5, Baldini (I) 4 De Dominicis (I) 3, Kollevold (N) 3, Harrach (A) 2, Ligato (RA) 2, Marrini (2).

Next event - October 03/06 2002: Propecia Rally New Zealand, Auckland, New Zealand.


Loading Comments...