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French sweep Sanremo WRC

On the charge: Gilles Panizzi heads for the win.

Tarmac tearaway Gilles Panizzi scores top points for Peugeot in the Sanremo world rally round

Peugeot logo8 Oct 2001

ASHPHALT experts have dominated the Sanremo world championship rally in Italy, with Peugeot's Gilles Panizzi taking the win for the second consecutive year ahead of sensational Citroen debutante Sebastien Loeb.

Panizzi's Peugeot 206 teammate Didier Auriol completed a top three sweep for French drivers and manufacturers.

The 27-year old Loeb was very much the surprise of the event. Usually, he drives a Citron Saxo in the Super 1600 championship, but stepped up to the Xsara WRC car with brilliant effect, taking 20 seconds from Panizzi in the second last stage before eventually finishing 11.4 seconds behind.

"It was really difficult today because the roads were in a very slippery condition and of course, I knew Sebastien would be closing on me," said Panizzi after the event. "I was a bit too cautious in the stage before last but running first on the road wasn't easy. I was finding all of the slippery bits underneath the trees and on the leaves, and it would have been easy to slide off the road.

"I'm delighted with the result - it's good for me to win again and Didier's finish means it's a fantastic day for Peugeot. I can't wait for Corsica." Loeb was surprisingly cool and calm about his result: "I wasn't really thinking of victory this morning - I was just trying to keep a good speed and not make any mistakes in the difficult conditions," he said. "I hope that I get another chance in this car soon so I can get more experience, because that was the most difficult thing for me." The overall results make little difference to the world championship standings, with Ford's Colin McRae only managing to finish eighth to stay on 40 points.

Co-championship leader Tommi Makinen's debut of the Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution ended on three wheels two stages from home after crashing in a sudden rain burst, while Subaru's Richard Burns was out just four kilometres into the first day when he crashed.

His young teammate Markko Martin fared even worse, ending the rally 80 metres down a ravine after hitting a wall in his Subaru Impreza.

Carlos Sainz was the only world championship contender to score points, McRae's teammate finishing fourth in his Focus RS and clawing to 33 points overall.

His and McRae's finishes push Ford further clear of Mitsubishi in the manufacturers' championship.

Italian privateer Renato Travaglia did well in his Peugeot to finish fifth, while Francois Delecour completed the top six in his Ford Focus RS.

Defending world champion Marcus Gronholm would have finished much higher than seventh in his Peugeot if not for power steering problems that cost him almost two minutes.

Meanwhile, the Group N Championship was decided on the penultimate stage. Uruguayan driver and four-time champion Gustavo Trelles crashed out of the event after taking a bizarre tyre choice (dry slicks on the front and intermediates on the back) and handed the title to his only rival, Argentina's Gabriel Pozzo.

RALLY RESULTS
1 Gilles Panizzi (Peugeot) 4hr05:49.5
2 S Loeb (Citroen) +11.4
3 D Auriol (Peugeot) +54.9
4 C Sainz (Ford) +1:11.9
5 R Travaglia (Peugeot) +1:32.1
6 F Delecour (Ford) +2:28.6
7 M Gronholm (Peugeot) +2:47.3
8 C McRae (Ford) +3:53.7
9 P Solberg (Subaru) +3:59.9
10 S Jean-Joseph (Peugeot) +4:01.5 DRIVERS' CHAMPIONSHIP
1 T Makinen (FIN) 40
1 McRae (GB) 40
3 Sainz (ESP) 33
4 R Burns (GB) 31
5 H Rovanpera (FIN) 27
6 Gronholm (FIN) 16
6 Panizzi (FRA) 16
8 Delecour (FRA) 15
8 Auriol (FRA) 15
10 Solberg (NOR) 9
10 F Loix (BEL) 9 MANUFACTURERS' CHAMPIONSHIP
1 Ford 83
2 Mitsubishi 67
3 Peugeot 60
4 Subaru 48
5 Skoda 15
6 Hyundai 10 Next rally: WRC Rd 12, Tour de Corse (France), October 18-21

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