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Rallye Catalunya - Costa Brava
Round 4 of the 2001 FIA World Rally Championship
22 - 25 March 2001
Official FIA Press Release
Sunday, 25 March 2001
Reigning FIA World Rally Championship manufacturers' title-holder Peugeot has scored a one-two success on the fourth round of this year's series, the Rallye Catalunya-Costa Brava, which finished in northern Spain this afternoon. Former world champion Didier Auriol scored his first success for the team he joined at the start of this year, with fellow 206 WRC driver Gilles Panizzi second and Mitsubishi's Tommi Mäkinen third. The Finn duly extended his lead in the drivers' championship standings. Large crowds flocked to the hills north of Barcelona expecting a tight battle between Auriol and overnight leader, Citroen driver Philippe Bugalski, but the Xsara pilot received time penalties as he struggled with clutch problems and he eventually finished fourth.
Technical: The 206 WRCs of Didier Auriol and Gilles Panizzi have run without major problems today.
Sporting: Didier Auriol admitted to taking huge risks on this morning's first stage but it proved counter-productive as the Frenchman dropped time to leader Philippe Bugalski. But once the Citroen driver had received his two minutes' penalties, Auriol was placed in a commanding lead and he paced himself during the afternoon to score his first victory since the China Rally in 1999. Team-mate Gilles Panizzi, meanwhile, set fastest time in that first stage to ease clear of Tommi Mäkinen and secure third place. But Bugalski's problems promoted the second 206 WRC to the runners-up spot.
Quotes: Didier Auriol: "We've had bad luck earlier this year but that's the way of life. All through my career I've had spells where you have five or six months' bad luck, then some victories. The car has been perfect. It's like a magic car, really - you just put a driver in it and it wins! This afternoon I concentrated on not making mistakes, not cutting the corners too much and it worked. I'm delighted!"
Gilles Panizzi: "The car has been really good since we changed the centre differential settings yesterday. I'm happy with second, because it gives Peugeot 16 points. I think our manufacturers' championship could really start now, and I think Didier and Marcus (Grönholm) will be a strong combination for Peugeot in Argentina."
Technical: Both Mitsubishi Lancer Evos have performed reliably today.
Sporting: Tommi Mäkinen tried hard to close the gap to Gilles Panizzi this morning but the four-times world champion was unable to catch the Frenchman. Bugalski's problems did promote him to the final podium place, however. Team-mate Freddy Loix started the day in seventh but he won a thrilling fight with Carlos Sainz and François Delecour to finish the event in fifth. The young Belgian was faster than his illustrious team-mate on half of today's stages.
Quotes: Tommi Makinen said: "I'm disappointed not to be a bit higher but it could have been much worse. At least we have taken some points and extended our lead in the drivers' championship. Freddy has also driven a good event so Mitsubishi has taken a useful score too."
Freddy Loix: "It's great to get into a fight like that and come out on top, particularly when it's with guys like Carlos and François. I have a really good feeling with the car, although I was still a bit surprised at how good the times were on some stages. I seem to keep saying this on every rally but my confidence is building on each event. I can't wait for Argentina now."
Technical: Philippe Bugalski's Xsara WRC started to lose its clutch between this morning's first and second stage and although the Frenchman effected running repairs, he received time penalties when he was unable to take the start of the third test in time. His team was able to fix the problem at lunchtime service, and the car performed reliably thereafter.
Sporting: Philippe Bugalski's hopes of winning appeared well-founded when he stretched his lead in today's first stage, but on the way to the second his Xsara's clutch started to malfunction and he lost time in that test. At the start of the third, he was unable to leave the line on his designated time and he picked up two minutes' penalties as a result. Although he reached service and set quick times all afternoon, the time penalty dropped him to fourth.
Quotes: Philippe Bugalski: "Of course I'm disappointed because I had high hopes of winning and I think we've proved that the car is quick enough to achieve that. Apart from this clutch problem - which is one we haven't had before - the only thing holding us back was little brake problems yesterday. I felt confident that I could have kept Auriol behind me. But we have to be positive - it's the car's first world championship event and we've led until the last few stages. It's been an encouraging rally for Citroen."
Technical: The Focus WRC01s of Carlos Sainz and François Delecour have been reliable during today's stages.
Sporting: Carlos Sainz and Francois Delecour started today determined to keep Freddy Loix and Richard Burns out of the points positions, but they only managed to stave off the latter. Sainz was troubled by tyres this morning, suffering two punctures and losing a little time before the mousse anti-deflation system worked. Delecour inched ahead of the Spaniard, only to incur a 10-second penalty for jumping the start on the day's third stage. That dropped him behind Loix, and Sainz reclaimed his status as top Ford to net sixth - ahead of Delecour - at the finish.
Quotes: Carlos Sainz: "The tyres have been difficult today, and there has also been a lot of gravel on the road at times as well. But a point is more than I thought possible after the first day. I'm looking forward to a gravel rally now."
François Delecour: "The clutch is like a switch and it just jumped forward, breaking the timing beam. It was a pity to end the fight like that, because I was enjoying swapping seconds with Carlos and Freddy. I think we need to work closely with Pirelli to improve our tyres before the two asphalt rallies later this year."
Technical: Richard Burns's Impreza WRC2001 was reliable today, but Markko Martin's example continued to suffer engine cut-out problems and they struck again on today's first stage. At lunchtime service, the Subaru team ran out of time as they made extensive efforts to finally discover a cure for the glitch, and Martin was forced to retire.
Sporting: Richard Burns tried hard to inch towards even a chance of a points finish on today's first three stages but although he gained time on the Sainz/Delecour/Loix battle in the first pair, he dropped it all again in the third. He closed in on Delecour towards the finish, but ultimately had to settle for eighth overall. Markko Martin's frustrating run ended with retirement in service after SS15.
Quotes: Richard Burns: "You can't expect to get in the points these days if you have problems with the car. We've had a few, including some with the gearbox, and we just haven't been able to challenge. I hope we can turn this around in the next event."
Technical: Having raised his Octavia's ride height to prevent it from hitting the sump guard when cutting corners, Bruno Thiry experimented today with his Octavia's springs and damper settings. The Belgian's trial-and-error approach was useful, given that he had little to gain or lose and he was racking up by far his greatest dry asphalt mileage with the Octavia to date.
Sporting: Bruno Thiry started today in 10th overall and effectively conducted useful experiments with his car's set-up as he maintained a steady pace to hold that position
Quotes: Bruno Thiry: "We've been close with the Hyundais, which has been useful because it's kept my concentration. I've learnt a lot about the Octavia on dry asphalt now and I think the car's got real potential, once we have found some more power from the engine."
Technical: Piero Liatti's Accent WRC2 was forced to retire this morning when it started to leak brake fluid and the Italian was unable to find the source of the problem. Alister McRae's car continued to be hampered by wastegate glitches and he also suffered from a slipping clutch at the start of the day's first stage.
Sporting: Alister McRae started today's final leg in 12th and he concentrated on staying out of trouble to keep clear of Adruzilo Lopes's private Peugeot. He achieved this, and the retirement of Piero Liatti promoted the Scot to 11th.
Quotes: Alister McRae: "The niggling problems haven't been great but the new car's definitely better than the old model. The break before the next event will allow us to get stuck into some serious development work."
Sebastien Loeb claimed maximum points in the first round of the inaugural FIA Super 1600 Cup. The Frenchman's Citroen Saxo finished nearly three minutes clear of the Fiat Punto of Giandomenico Basso. His nearest rival yesterday, Spaniard Sergio Vallego, was excluded last night for a technical infringement.
In Group N, Argentine driver Gabriel Pozzo took maximum points after category leader Gustavo Trelles lost a tyre this morning. The Uruguyan had been fighting with Marcos Ligato until the event's halfway point, when the Argentina driver crashed out.
1 Auriol Peugeot 206 WRC 3:40:54.7
2 Panizzi Peugeot 206 WRC 3:41:17.9
3 Makinen Mitsubishi Lancer Evo 3:41:56.1
4 Bugalski Citroen Xsara WRC 3:42:20.4
5 Loix Mitsubishi Carisma GT 3:43:11.4
6 Sainz Ford Focus RS WRC 3:43:30.4
7 Delecour Ford Focus RS WRC 3:43:38.4
8 Burns Subaru Impreza WRC 3:43:57.5
9 Jean-Joseph Peugeot 206 WRC 3:45:54.0
10 Thiry Skoda Octavia WRC 3:46:58.6
1 Pozzo Mitsubishi Lancer Evo 4:04:36,1
2 Feghali Mitsubishi Lancer Evo 4:06:23,3
3 Blomqvist Mitsubishi Lancer Evo 4:07:13,5
1 Loeb Citroen Saxo 4:00:18.6
2 Basso Fiat Punto 4:03:09.3
CHAMPIONSHIP POINTS (provisional standing after 4 of 14 rounds):
FIA World Rally Championship for Drivers:
Mäkinen (FIN) 24
Sainz (E) 17
Auriol (FR) 10
Delecour (F) 8
Radstrom (S) 6
Panizzi (FR) 6
Gardemeister (FIN) 5
Gronholm (FIN) 4
Burns (GB) 3
Bugalski (FR) 3
Schwarz (D) 3
Loix (B) 3
Solberg (N) 1
FIA World Rally Championship for Manufacturers:
FIA World Cup for Drivers of Production Cars:
Pozzo (RA) 13
Gillet (CH) 10
Walfridsson (S) 10
Da Silva 10
Blomqvist (S) 8
FIA Teams Cup
Toyota Team Denmark (DK) 10
Team Toyota Castrol Finland (FIN) 10
David Sutton (Cars) (GB) 6
Oman Arab World Rally Team (OM) 6
Yiannis Papadimitriou (GR) 4
Marlboro Ford Mobil 1 Team Poland (PL) 4
World Rally Hire (GB) 4
Toyota Team Saudi Arabia (SA) 3
Frederic Dor Rally Team (F) 2
FIA Super 1600:
Loeb (F) 10
Basso (I) 6
Fontana (I) 4
Stenshorne (N) 3
Dallavilla (I) 2
Chemin (I) 1
SS16 Martin Subaru Impreza WRC Gearbox
SS14 Liatti Hyundai Accent WRC Mechanical
SS11 Puras Citroen Xsara WRC Fuel Pressure
SS8 Schwarz Skoda Octavia WRC Mechanical
SS6 C.McRae Ford Focus RS WRC Engine
SS4 Gronholm Peugeot 206 WRC Mechanical
SS3 Solberg Subaru Impreza WRC Accident
SS13 - Panizzi, SS14 - Auriol, SS15 - Bugalski, SS16 - Auriol, SS17 - Panizzi, SS18 - Bugalski
SS 13, Coll de Bracons 19.66 km
1 Panizzi Peugeot 206 WRC 12:51,3
2 Bugalski Citroen Xsara WRC 12:55,7
3 Loix Mitsubishi Carisma GT 12:58,0
4 Burns Subaru Impreza WRC 12:59,7
5 Makinen Mitsubishi Lancer Evo 12:59,8
SS 14, Osor 13.26 km
1 Auriol Peugeot 206 WRC 8:12,4
2 Panizzi Peugeot 206 WRC 8:13,1
3 Makinen Mitsubishi Lancer Evo 8:17,4
4 Burns Subaru Impreza WRC 8:18,8
5 Sainz Ford Focus RS WRC 8:19,0
SS 15, Collsesplanes 14.76 km
1 Bugalski Citroen Xsara WRC 16:28,0
2 Panizzi Peugeot 206 WRC 16:30,1
3 Makinen Mitsubishi Lancer Evo 16:32,9
4 Auriol Peugeot 206 WRC 16:33,1
5 Loix Mitsubishi Carisma GT 16:37,9
SS 16, Coll de Bracons 19.66 km
1 Auriol Peugeot 206 WRC 12:56,1
2 Bugalski Citroen Xsara WRC 12:56,8
3 Panizzi Peugeot 206 WRC 12:59,5
4 Loix Mitsubishi Carisma GT 13:00,5
5 Makinen Mitsubishi Lancer Evo 13:01,7
SS 17, Osor 13.26 km
1 Panizzi Peugeot 206 WRC 8:10,9
2 Bugalski Citroen Xsara WRC 8:13,0
3 Loix Mitsubishi Carisma GT 8:14,3
4 Makinen Mitsubishi Lancer Evo 8:14,5
5 Delecour Ford Focus RS WRC 8:16,2
SS 18, Collsesplanes 14.76 km
1 Bugalski Citroen Xsara WRC 16:33,3
2 Panizzi Peugeot 206 WRC 16:40,3
3 Makinen Mitsubishi Lancer Evo 16:44,7
4 Auriol Peugeot 206 WRC 16:44,8
5 Delecour Ford Focus RS WRC 16:49,2
Rallye Catalunya: End of Leg 2
French manufacturers Citroen and Peugeot are dominating the fourth round of the FIA World Rally Championship, the Rallye Catalunya-Costa Brava, which continued in northern Spain today. Local Citroen driver Jesus Puras occupied the top position, until he retired with low fuel pressure leaving the lead to his French team-mate Philippe Bugalski. But the Peugeots of Didier Auriol and Gilles Panizzi remain in touch, ahead of four-times world champion Tommi Mäkinen. Again encouraged by sunny skies, huge crowds flocked to the fast asphalt roads south of Tarragona to catch the action.
Technical: The main Xsara WRC's problem today has been stopping: Philippe Bugalski complained of a long brake pedal on this morning's opening stage, and the problem recurred during the day's longest test. Jesus Puras, meanwhile, had to pump his brake pedal for more than 15km of SS9 after it went to the floor. However,he was forced to retire after SS11, when his Xsara WRC stopped with low fuel pressure.
Sporting: Fastest time on this morning's opening stage increased Jesus Puras's overnight lead but he spun and stalled on the second test, handing team-mate Philippe Bugalski another sniff of victory. The Frenchman responded, setting fastest time on the first run through the day's longest stage to grab the lead. Throughout their battle, the two Xsara WRCs have pulled further clear of the Peugeots of Didier Auriol and Gilles Panizzi. Second-placed Puras entered tonight's final stage 22 seconds clear of Auriol.
Quotes: Jesus Puras: "The brake problem was not so nice, because it was hard to commit to corners when you to stop."
Philippe Bugalski: "I'm pleased to be in the fight for victory but it's very hard to have confidence when the brake problems are continuing. The team has been trying everything to fix the brakes but so far, it keeps coming back. I know I could push a little harder if we solve this."
Technical: The 206 WRCs of Didier Auriol and Gilles Panizzi haven't experienced any major technical problems today.
Sporting: The 206 WRCs of Didier Auriol and Gilles Panizzi haven't been able to catch either of the Citroens today, but they have remained a match for rivals from Mitsubishi, Ford and Subaru. Auriol has stayed closest to Bugalski and Puras and the 1994 world champion is still charging for the lead . Third-placed Panizzi, however, is not yet completely clear of a threat from Tommi Mäkinen.
Quotes: Didier Auriol: "All I can do is keep trying. Today's been quite good for me because at least I have a bit more of a lead over Gilles, but Bugalski is probably too far ahead now. I won't give up - of course not - but it looks like second for me unless something happens to him."
Gilles Panizzi: "In the long stage, I attacked more than I've done on any other stage of the rally. When I crossed the line, (navigator) Herve told me he thought the time would be good and I agreed. But then I saw the leading three cars' times and I couldn't understand it. Of course I'll keep trying, but I don't think we can catch them."
Technical: Tommi Mäkinen's Lancer has again performed reliably, but Freddy Loix's example suffered from a centre differential problem that made it unpredictable under braking. The unit was changed at service accordingly.
Sporting: Tommi Mäkinen opted for harder tyres than his rivals this morning but he felt that gravel (pulled onto the road by the cars in front) and cooler conditions meant it was probably the wrong choice. The Finn recovered for the long stage before lunch, though, and began to narrow the deficit to fourth-placed Gilles Panizzi. Freddy Loix's centre differential problems cost him time this morning and when the problem was cured, he suffered an ATS mousse insert failure in the long stage and lost further seconds. He dropped into the sights of François Delecour and Carlos Sainz as a result, but he remains in the points.
Quotes: Tommi Makinen said: "This morning, there was a lot more gravel being pulled out onto the roads by the first four cars than I'd expected, and that caught me out a bit. The harder tyres were certainly the wrong choice for the first stage of the day. I still think we can get higher up the leaderboard than this, though, so we'll keep trying. Victory is too far away but the podium is still a possibility."
Freddy Loix: "You get a vibration when the mousse breaks up inside the tyre and this time it was so bad that the car started to change gear by itself. It was a frightening on the fast sections because you never knew if it was going to go back down from sixth to fifth. If we get more clean runs, then I think we have a chance of getting back up."
Technical: Ford has attributed the fuel pressure problems that forced Colin McRae to retire yesterday, and hampered the efforts of Carlos Sainz and François Delecour, to a batch of faulty fuel pumps. The Focus WRCs have been more reliable today.
Sporting: Carlos Sainz and François Delecour have both been happier with their Focuses on the abrasive roads near Tarragona. Sainz in particular has put in a charge to move closer to a points placing by lunchtime service. He experimented with suspension and camber settings in an effort to find crucial seconds. Delecour lost time with a tyre mousse insert failure this morning, but he remained in touch with the points positions.
Quotes: Carlos Sainz: "We have a little problem with the tyre tread wear so we've been trying different camber to see if it cures it. Apart from that it's going okay today - our times have been closer and we've been pushing as hard as possible."
Technical: Subaru technicians discovered a turbo problem with Richard Burns's Impreza WRC2001 at final service yesterday, and the Briton's car has been more reliable today. Team-mate Markko Martin continues to suffer from ignition and gearbox problems, however: his Impreza cut out more than five times in the first run over today's longest stage, and he had to jam the 'box in third on a few occasions.
Sporting: With a more reliable car under him, Richard Burns started to inch towards his realistic target of a points position. But although his times compared more favourably with the leaders than yesterday, he still had Carlos Sainz, Francois Delecour, and Freddy Loix standing in his way. And like many, he was becoming concerned by spectator control. Markko Martin's continuing technical problems dropped the Estonian out of the top ten, however.
Quotes: Richard Burns: "The crowds in the day's long stage were very bad. I had to consciously back off on some corners because I knew if I went off, I'd take a lot of people out. When the car's reliable, we can do reasonable times. But it's going to be hard to move much higher."
Technical: Armin Schwarz was forced to retire his Octavia WRC with steering problems in this morning's opening stage. The German had experienced difficulties on the road section from Lloret de Mar to first service but although the team changed the steering rack, the glitch re-occurred in the first test and he retired on the spot. Bruno Thiry's example has been more reliable, although the Belgian suffered a bad vibration in today's first stage when he suffered a mousse break up in one of his tyres. He damaged the car's rear suspension in SS9 as well.
Sporting: Armin Schwarz retired with technical problems this morning, while Bruno Thiry's early problems dropped him to the fringes of the top ten. He was fighting hard to stay in touch with François Delecour and Carlos Sainz, but also found himself scrapping with Peugeot privateer Simon Jean-Joseph.
Quotes: Bruno Thiry: "The vibration was incredible, and the car was a real handful when I damaged the suspension. The spectators have been crazy as well today - if we have an accident with crowds like that I wouldn't like to think about the consequences."
Technical: Piero Liatti's Accent WRC2 has been generally reliable today, but Alister McRae's example suffered from an overheating wastegate on this morning's opening pair of stages. Disabling the car's anti-lag system helped ease the problem, and the unit was changed at service.
Sporting: Hyundai continues to gain valuable data on how the latest evolution Accent works on asphalt, but neither Alister McRae or Piero Liatti has been able to break into the top ten positions. The pair are still behind Bruno Thiry's Skoda, and the private Peugeot of Simon Jean-Joseph.
Quotes: Alister McRae: "The wastegate problem meant I had to rev the engine very hard to get any boost at all, which was frustrating. It's heat-related so switching off the anti-lag system helped but it cost us a lot of time."
Engine problems hampered the overnight leader in the FIA Super 1600 Cup section, Frenchman Sebastian Loeb. He changed a faulty crank sensor after today's first stage but the time lost already dropped him behind local driver Sergio Vallejo. He however stormed through the afternoon stages to once again take the lead. Giandomenico Basso should have been ideally placed to capitalise but the Fiat driver lost a tyre on a rock. In the Group N section for production cars, multiple category champion Gustavo Trelles held a narrow lead over Marcos Ligato this afternoon.
1 Bugalski Citroen Xsara WRC 2:24:42,3
2 Auriol Peugeot 206 WRC 2:25:10,0
3 Panizzi Peugeot 206 WRC 2:25:52,7
4 Makinen Mitsubishi Lancer Evo 2:26:05,1
5 Sainz Ford Focus RS WRC 2:27:05,8
6 Delecour Ford Focus RS WRC 2:27:06,2
7 Loix Mitsubishi Carisma GT 2:27:08,6
8 Burns Subaru Impreza WRC 2:27:28,1
9 Jean-Joseph Peugeot 206 WRC 2:28:31,7
10 Thiry Skoda Octavia WRC 2:29:27.9
1 Trelles Mitsubishi Lancer Evo 2:37:42,6
2 Pozzo Mitsubishi Lancer Evo 2:41:22,8
3 Feghali Mitsubishi Lancer Evo 2:42:08,9
1 Loeb Citroen Saxo 2:38:12,4
2 Vallejo Fiat Punto 2:38:45,8
3 Basso Fiat Punto 2:39:55,3
SS11 Puras Citroen Xsara WRC Fuel Pressure
SS8 Schwarz Skoda Octavia WRC Mechanical
SS6 C.McRae Ford Focus RS WRC Engine
SS4 Gronholm Peugeot 206 WRC Mechanical
SS3 Solberg Subaru Impreza WRC Accident
SS7 - Puras, SS8 - Bugalski, SS9 - Bugalski, SS10 - Bugalski, SS11 - Auriol, SS12 - cancelled
SS 7, Pratdip 31.57 km
1 Puras Citroen Xsara WRC 19:12,0
2 Bugalski Citroen Xsara WRC 19:21,3
3 Burns Subaru Impreza WRC 19:24,3
4 Auriol Peugeot 206 WRC 19:26,5
5 Panizzi Peugeot 206 WRC 19:31,5
SS 8, Escaladei 14.43 km
1 Bugalski Citroen Xsara WRC 10:26,6
2 Auriol Peugeot 206 WRC 10:31,2
3 Panizzi Peugeot 206 WRC 10:32,7
4 Makinen Mitsubishi Lancer Evo 10:35,3
5 Puras Citroen Xsara WRC 10:37,7
6 Delecour Ford Focus RS WRC 10:37,7
SS 9, La Riba 35.89 km
1 Bugalski Citroen Xsara WRC 21:56,6
2 Auriol Peugeot 206 WRC 22:05,0
3 Puras Citroen Xsara WRC 22:05,0
4 Delecour Ford Focus RS WRC 22:12,1
5 Makinen Mitsubishi Lancer Evo 22:16,6
SS 10, Pratdip 31.57 km
1 Bugalski Citroen Xsara WRC 19:17,8
2 Puras Citroen Xsara WRC 19:19,8
3 Auriol Peugeot 206 WRC 19:26,7
4 Burns Subaru Impreza WRC 19:28,2
5 Makinen Mitsubishi Lancer Evo 19:33,8
SS 11, Escaladei 14.43 km
1 Auriol Peugeot 206 WRC 10:44,5
2 Bugalski Citroen Xsara WRC 10:46,4
3 Panizzi Peugeot 206 WRC 10:47,0
4 Puras Citroen Xsara WRC 10:48,0
5 Delecour Ford Focus RS WRC 10:51,6
SS 12, La Riba 35.89 km
Rallye Catalunya: End of Leg 1
The world's top rally stars have thrilled huge crowds on the opening day of the fourth round of the FIA World Rally Championship, the Rallye Catalunya - Costa Brava. Citroen celebrated its arrival in the series by leading from the opening stage, thanks to the efforts of Spanish champion Jesus Puras. Team-mate Philippe Bugalski boosted the French manufacturer's joy further by moving into second by the end of the day. But the Peugeots of Gilles Panizzi and Didier Auriol, and Mitsubishi's Tommi Mäkinen, are all poised to challenge the Xsara WRCs tomorrow. Reigning title-holder Marcus Grönholm and Ford's Colin McRae are not, however - they both retired this afternoon.
Technical: The Xsara WRC has been generally reliable on its first day of World Rally Championship competition, but Philippe Bugalski's example suffered a broken brake disc on the road section to first service this morning. Although the team replaced the offending item, it took a couple of stages for the Frenchman to gain more confidence in the car's braking.
Sporting: Spanish champion Jesus Puras grabbed the lead on this morning's opening stage and extended his advantage as the day progressed. His team-mate Philippe Bugalski struggled with his car's brakes on the opening two stages but then set a fastest time in SS3 and began to improve his overall position thereafter. A string of fast times this afternoon moved Bugalski into second overall, behind his team-mate.
Quotes: Jesus Puras: "I'm a bit surprised to be leading, because there's a lot of loose gravel getting pulled out into the road in the corners and I've been taking risks. But I know if we're to have any chance we need to be further up the running order tomorrow so I've been pushing accordingly. It's a great day for Citroen."
Philippe Bugalski: "The first couple of stages were hard but it's got better ever since. I've got a good feeling with the car now, and now that we've moved up the running order we have a chance."
Technical: The 206 WRCs of Didier Auriol and Marcus Grönholm haven't experienced any serious technical problems today, although Grönholm did admit that too much left-foot braking made his brakes overheat in the morning. Gilles Panizzi was less satisfied, as the Frenchman complained that the rear end of his 206 was nervous, particularly under braking.
Sporting: Marcus Grönholm made good use of clean roads and increasing confidence on asphalt to hold a top three position for most of this morning. But on the repeated long stage this afternoon, he ripped the left-rear wheel from his car on a concrete post and was forced to retire for the third time in four outings. His team-mates have had to dig deep to beat crews running further up the order and improve their chances of clean roads tomorrow. Didier Auriol helped his cause with second and fourth fastest times this morning, while Panizzi moved into a points placing with third fastest time in the third stage. They inched ahead of Mäkinen this afternoon to hold third and fourth overnight
Quotes: Marcus Gronholm: "„We got caught out on a slow corner. It was maybe only second gear, but we couldn't stay on the good surface. We slid wide, hit the gravel and then went further. The rear of the car hit a concrete post and that was it. I'm disappointed, obviously, because it was going well up to that point."
Didier Auriol: "It's hard to make an impression on the leaders and improve my road position when I'm running this far back. The leading crews are cutting corners a lot and pulling gravel into the road. But I had to try. I'm pleased. "
Technical: The Lancer Evolution of Tommi Mäkinen jumped out of gear on today's second stage and suffered some brake overheating during the afternoon tests. Freddy Loix's example suffered from a sticking throttle in SS2 but both cars performed reliably otherwise.
Sporting: Four-times World Champion Tommi Mäkinen has been close to the event lead all day, helped by a fastest time in the second stage. He held second overall by lunchtime service, although reigning title holder Marcus Grönholm was only a few tenths of a second adrift. Brake problems in the afternoon cost him time, though, and he dropped behind both Citroens and the Peugeots of Didier Auriol and Gilles Panizzi, to hold fifth. Freddy Loix, meanwhile, has been displaying his usual strong form on the Spanish asphalt to occupy a top ten placing throughout.
Quotes: Tommi Makinen said: "It's been a difficult day but obviously I'm encouraged by the speed. We're competing with our championship rivals and although we're not leading, we're well enough up to get a good position on the road tomorrow. I don't know what we can do about the Citroens and Peugeots, but we'll try.
Technical: Colin McRae complained of a lack of engine response this morning, while Carlos Sainz's Focus RS WRC suffered from a slight misfire that the team attributed to a fuel pump problem. All three Focuses suffered from apparent fuel pressure problems this afternoon, though, and McRae was forced to retire when his car refused to re-start at the start control for SS6.
Sporting: Ford gambled on a slightly harder tyre compound this morning but team management felt that it left the Focus scrabbling for grip on the early stages. Carlos Sainz in particular complained of understeer throughout, as he, Francois Delecour and Colin McRae struggled to stay in touch with the points positions. McRae was subsequently forced to retire with a fuel pressure problem.
Quotes: Carlos Sainz: "It's been very hard because we had understeer everywhere. I'm not sure if it was all the tyres but we clearly have to find something. The car had a misfire on the last stage today and the road section back, which was worrying.
François Delecour: "The engine has been losing power a lot today, and the misfire was very bad this
Technical: Richard Burns lost time when his Impreza WRC2001's gearbox malfunctioned in the second and third stages this morning. The unit was changed at lunchtime service as a result. Markko Martin hit problems in the same stage when his car's ignition cut-off stalled his engine.
Sporting: Richard Burns held a top-six placing after the first stage but dropped out of contention when he hit gearbox problems on the very next test. A broken wheel cost him even more time this afternoon. His team-mate Petter Solberg fared worse - the young Norwegian set respectable times in SS1 and SS2, but then slid off the road, into a ditch and into retirement in SS3. The other works Impreza driver, Markko Martin, felt his car's handling was unpredictable on the first stage and he lost time with ignition cut-off problems in SS2, but he stayed in touch with the top ten regardless.
Quotes: Richard Burns: "The gearbox started to select neutral of its own accord. At the end of SS2 and SS3 I had to lock the gearbox in fifth to keep going, and I spun at one hairpin when I arrived in fifth gear."
Technical: Neither of the two Octavia WRCs, driven by Armin Schwarz and Philippe Bugalski, suffered from major technical problems today. Thiry's example did encounter overheating brakes this morning, but a switch of brake bias cured the problem.
Sporting: Both Skoda drivers would have preferred changeable conditions to negate any power disadvantage but they fought hard to keep the points placings in sight.
Quotes: Armin Schwarz: "It doesn't look like we're going to get our wish on the weather. The handling of the car is fine, it's just that we're losing out in the uphill sections where raw power counts."
Bruno Thiry: "We have a good set-up now, so I'm hopeful for tomorrow. The handling is very nice, since we changed some shock absorber settings."
Technical: The set-up of Hyundai's 'interim' asphalt-specification Accent WRC2 has been tweaked throughout the day after the team started without an extensive test session. Alister McRae's example suffered from understeer, while Piero Liatti felt his car was down on turbo boost this morning. The turbo was changed at first service as a result.
Sporting: Hyundai's biggest problem today seemed to be the long uphill sections on some stages, where the Accents of both Alister McRae and Piero Liatti lost time to their rivals. Accordingly, both cars were outside of the top ten but both drivers were keen to experiment with settings on the still-new evolution version of the car.
Quotes: Alister McRae: "I've got a bit of understeer in long corners but I think the biggest problem is sheer power. We lose time uphill and then match the rest on the downhill bits, so at least we know what we have to do."
In the FIA Super 1600 Cup, Frenchman Sebastian Loeb has grabbed the initial advantage in his Citroen Saxo. He leads Giandomenico Basso's Fiat Punto by more than half a minute, with reigning Group N world champion (and recent convert to the new category) Manfred Stohl third, a further six seconds behind.
1 Puras Citroen Xsara WRC 1:02:43,6
2 Bugalski Citroen Xsara WRC 1:02:53,6
3 Auriol Peugeot 206 WRC 1:02:56,1
4 Panizzi Peugeot 206 WRC 1:03:03,4
5 Makinen Mitsubishi Lancer Evo 1:03:09,0
6 Loix Mitsubishi Carisma GT 1:03:36,4
7 Canellas Seat Cordoba 1:03:48,8
8 Delecour Ford Focus RS WRC 1:03:52,8
9 Sainz Ford Focus RS WRC 1:03:56,4
10 Martin Subaru Impreza WRC 1:04:05,1
1 Ligato Mitsubishi Lancer Evo 1:08:16,2
2 Trelles Mitsubishi Lancer Evo 1:08:20,1
3 Pozzo Mitsubishi Lancer Evo 1:09:01,2
1 Loeb Citroen Saxo 1:07:47,4
2 Basso Fiat Punto 1:08:24,0
3 Stohl Fiat Punot 1:08:30,8
Apologies for the lack of the usual information. This is due to involvement at the launch of the new Toyota Formula 1 car in southern France - please see www.toyota-f1.com for details.
The world's top rally drivers are poised to enjoy a change of conditions on the fourth round of this year's FIA World Rally Championship, the Rallye Catalunya-Costa Brava, which starts from the Spanish seaside resort of Lloret de Mar tomorrow. After torrential rain turned the last round in Portugal into a struggle for organisers and crews alike, the first 'true' asphalt rally of the year looks set to be blessed with more favourable weather.
Four-time world champion Tommi Mäkinen starts the event narrowly ahead of Carlos Sainz in the drivers standings but both will have to fight hard to extend their advantage over their rivals. Ford and Subaru were both strong in Catalunya in 2000 while Peugeot won two asphalt rallies towards the end of last season. The event also marks the world championship debut of Citroen's World Rally Car, the Xsara WRC, which has been undefeated in any of its warm-up outings on national events.
Following discussions with local farmers and government officials over concerns about foot and mouth disease, the event organisers have elected to prevent spectators from attending one of tomorrow's stages, La Trona. Cars and motorhomes from France and Great Britain will also be asked to remain outside an exclusion zone.
MITSUBISHI (1st - 33 points)
Technical: The Lancer Evolution remains largely unchanged, but this is the first 'true' asphalt rally where the heavily-revised rear suspension - introduced in Monte Carlo - will be used.
Sporting: Four-time world champion and current series leader Tommi Mäkinen will be supported by Belgian Freddy Loix in the second Lancer as usual.
Quotes: Tommi Mäkinen said: „This is a rally that I really like. The year's started pretty well for us but it's too early to say we're on our way to another championship. On dry asphalt, I'd expect drivers like Didier Auriol and Colin McRae to be fast but there are so many guys who could win here. It won't be easy.
Freddy Loix said: „I like the asphalt rallies, so perhaps it isn't a surprise that I've had some of my best world championship results here. In testing, the car feels much improved since we last ran on asphalt, in Sanremo, on the old rear suspension. I'm optimistic we can score a good finish
FORD (2nd - 20 points)
Technical: Ford is continuing work on engine response and its fly-by wire throttle, and engineer Guenther Steiner insists that no major technical leaps will be made until the most recently-introduced technology can be made to work as effectively as possible.
Sporting: Carlos Sainz and Colin McRae are nominated for manufacturers' points, with Francois Delecour fighting for drivers' points only.
Quotes: Carlos Sainz said: „It's good to be driving at home but the speed of the watches is the same here as anywhere else! The fans are great but they can't push my car any more quickly! The championship is still completely open - I don't think it'll be any clearer after this, regardless of what happens. We saw last year that Richard (Burns) led in mid-season and people said it was all decided, and then Marcus (Gronholm) won the title. Anything can still happen.
HYUNDAI (3rd - 8 points)
Technical: After the debut of the Hyundai's Accent WRC2 in Portugal, the car appearing in Spain this weekend is more of an 'interim' version between it and the original example. Although they use the new-specification engine and much of its revised transmission technology, the two Accents for Catalunya will continue to feature asphalt suspension settings devised last year. The full asphalt-spec example of the WRC2 is not expected to appear until the final quarter of this season.
Sporting: Alister McRae will be joined by Hyundai's asphalt specialist Piero Liatti, who replaces Kenneth Eriksson for this event
Quotes: Alister McRae said: „I don't think we'll be able to accurately gauge where the new car is until the middle of the season. My testing for this event amounted to four runs over the shakedown stage, so you could hardly say that I've got a good feeling for it on asphalt yet. I think the likes of Carlos (Sainz), Richard (Burns) and Colin (McRae) will be in contention for victory, but the Peugeots and Citroens are likely to be strong.
Piero Liatti said: „I feel the new car is definitely better but like Alister says, it's hard to predict where we can finish because we just don't know where we stand.
SUBARU (4th 7 points)
Technical: Subaru has modified the anti-lag system on the Impreza's engines and drivers report much-improved response from the motor.
Sporting: Richard Burns and Petter Solberg are nominated to score manufacturers' points for Subaru in Spain, with Markko Martin aiming for drivers points only.
Quotes: Richard Burns said: „We've made quite a big step forward with the engine now and it feels good. The new ALS system has transformed it, in fact. The response out of corners feels very good. Road position could make a difference here again, though. I remember from last year that running just one car behind Colin (McRae) on the final day was a disadvantage.
Petter Solberg said: „I'm pleased to be nominated for manufacturers' points, even though it puts a bit more pressure on me. I don't necessarily think I'd be any better than Markko here, but it's the team's decision. This is only my fifth rally on asphalt but I like the surface, so we'll see. I want to show speed but also get more experience on asphalt.
SKODA (5th - 6 points)
Technical: Skoda sends the same two Octavia WRCs that were used in Monte Carlo. The team recently tested a heavily-revised engine, but has elected not to risk using the still un-proven unit. It should appear on the next world championship round, Argentina, in early May.
Sporting: Armin Schwarz and Bruno Thiry will drive the team's two Octavia WRCs as usual.
Quotes: Armin Schwarz said: „I'd prefer wet, maybe changeable conditions because I think that would give us a better chance. We set a fastest time in the damp last year. I'd have liked to use the revised engine because raw power is more important on dry asphalt, but the car ran well on shakedown anyway.
Bruno Thiry said: „We changed the roll bars in the shakedown and it improved the car's handling a lot - it had been oversteering a bit too much up to that point. I've obviously got quite a good record on asphalt but with this quality of entry, it's going to be tough.
PEUGEOT (6th - 4 points)
Technical: The 206 WRCs will start this event in essentially the same technical configuration used in Sanremo last year. The next substantial revisions to the car are not planned until the middle of the season.
Sporting: Reigning FIA World Rally Champion Marcus Grönholm is 'rested' from points nomination on this event, allowing him to concentrate on increasing his tally in the drivers' series. Peugeot will thus be relying on its two French drivers, Didier Auriol and Gilles Panizzi, o score manufacturers' points.
Quotes: Marcus Grönholm said: „It's going to be a hard event for me. More than half of the stages are new to me and some of them are very technical. It will be easy to make a mistake here and come away with nothing. My aim has to be to score some points but with the number of manufacturer entries here that won't be easy.
Didier Auriol said: „I hope that my championship can really start here, because we haven't had such good luck so far. But this is a rally where I've done well in the past and I have a good feeling for the car on asphalt. I think nine or ten drivers could win, so it's bound to be a good fight. There are quite a lot of new stages and I think the last day in particular will be difficult.
CITROEN (0 points)
Technical: The Xsara WRC has already been set up extensively during Citroen's substantial test programme prior to this event. Engineer Jean-Claude Vaucard reports no major changes in technical specification over the car that dominated last year's French championship in the hands of Philippe Bugalski.
Sporting: For its debut as an official World Rally Car manufacturer, Citroen has nominated its two regular drivers - French title-holder Philippe Bugalski and multiple Spanish champion Jesus Puras. Team management has reacted angrily to speculation accusing Puras of illegally recceing stages. The matter was to be the subject of a Stewards meeting this afternoon.
Quotes: Jesus Puras said: „This has happened every time Citroen comes to a rally like this with a new car. I would never make the mistake of practising illegally. What we did in practice was to use and modify old pacenotes, which we presented to officials at all of the checks during the recce. With this method, it means we can start with notes and modify them on each of our two passes instead of just the second run. I have nothing to hide and I have done nothing wrong. It is a pity that this situation has arisen during the debut of the Xsara WRC and for that, I apologise to Citroen, but it isn't my fault. I just hope we can forget about it now and do a good rally.
Team principal Guy Frequelin said: „Jesus is the subject of a concerted campaign to destabilise him. I want the entire situation to be clarified, even though I feel that the regulations on this issue are not necessarily suited to asphalt rallies. On the subject of a potential penalty for Jesus, it would first have to be proved that an illegal recce had taken e and that is simply not the case. I don't see how there can be any penalty. In a way, the whole thing is flattering for us because it proves people are scared.
This event marks the opening round of the FIA Super 1600 Championship, a cost-controlled series designed to introduce fresh, young talent to the World Championship. In total, 22 drivers (17 under the age of 27) will take the start in front-wheel drive, 1600cc cars from Peugeot, Ford, Fiat and Citroen. Reigning Group N World Champion Manfred Stohl, who has signed up to the new category, expects competition to be tough. „For me it's hard because I don't know front-wheel drive at all, he said, „but the winner could come from anywhere. Nobody knows what to expect. Frenchman Sebastian Loeb agrees. „Some people see me as one of the favourites because of my experience in the Saxo beforehand, he says, „but I think knowledge of the events will ultimately be more important. There are only six events in the series calendar and they a ll count, so it's crucial to finish.
Catalunya has attracted a large entry of privately-run World Rally Cars. Former works Ford and Skoda drivers Simon Jean-Joseph and Luis Climent switch to a Peugeot 206 WRC and Toyota Corolla WRC respectively. There are also private 206 WRCs for Adruzilo Lopes and Kris Princen.
Leg 1, Friday 23 March (459.82 km)
SS1 09:58 La Trona 12.90 km
SS2 10:33 Alpens - Les Llosses 21.80 km
SS3 11:33 Vallfogona 15.80 km
SS4 13:51 La Trona 12.90 km
SS5 14:26 Alpens - Les Llosses 21.80 km
SS6 15:26 Vallfogona 15.80 km
Leg 2, Saturday 24 March (898.30 km)
SS7 08:55 Pratdip 31.57 km
SS8 10:06 Escaladei 14.43 km
SS9 12:04 La Riba 35.89 km
SS10 14:34 Pratdip 31.57 km
SS11 15:45 Escaladei 14.43 km
SS12 17:43 La Riba 35.89 km
Leg 3, Sunday 25 March (478.81 km)
SS13 08:36 Coll de Bracons 19.66 km
SS14 09:53 Osor 13.26 km
SS15 10:27 Collsesplanes 14.76 km
SS16 12:18 Coll de Bracons 19.66 km
SS17 13:35 Osor 13.26 km
SS18 14:09 Collsesplanes 14.76 km