Sunday 5 June 2011

IRC - Prime Yalta Rally : A tough rally

IRC - Prime Yalta Rally : A tough rally

image Bryan Bouffier’s objective on the last day of the 2011 Prime Yalta Rally was to fight for the win, while at the same time refraining from taking any risks that might jeopardise his chances of reaching the finish. He ended up second overall and the best-placed Peugeot representative to score valuable IRC points. The organisers of the Prime Yalta Rally took the decision to clean up the stages during the night, which meant that the last leg of the event was less of a challenge than many had feared. Indeed, the overall positions changed very little during the day and the top-six finishers included three Peugeot runners.

More points for Bryan Bouffier

After recovering 8.2 seconds overnight following their incident on Friday when they caught two course cars, Bryan Bouffier and Xavier Panseri lost a little ground to the leader Juho Hänninen early on Saturday morning. They responded, however, by claiming two fastest times to close to within 5.1 seconds of the Finn with three stages remaining. “I will give it everything I can without going over the top. My last two events, in the Canary Islands and Corsica, didn’t go very well, so it is vital for me to score big points this weekend in order to get back into the chase for the IRC title,” explained the Peugeot France driver. “If I find myself taking big risks, I will just settle for second place. It is important to finish here, both for myself and for Peugeot.” image

A spin on the penultimate test effectively incited the Frenchman to lift, although the Peugeot France crew did post one last fastest time on the final stage. Peugeot continues to hold second place in IRC’s provisional Manufacturers’ standings, 12 points behind the leaders. Meanwhile, Bouffier has climbed to third spot in the Drivers’ points table and is the best-placed Peugeot runner. image

A steady run from Guy Wilks

The incidents that affected Guy Wilks/Phil Pugh and Thierry Neuville/Nicolas Gilsoul on Friday had a big influence on the two Peugeot crews’ approaches on the final day. “I had little to gain and a great deal to lose today,” accepted Peugeot UK’s Guy Wilks. “I didn’t have a good feeling this morning and, like Thierry, I opted for soft-compound Michelin tyres. They weren’t the ideal choice, but that wasn’t really the problem. When you haven’t got anyone to battle against, it’s difficult to find the right pace. It’s not easy to stay focused when your sole objective is to reach the finish.” The British driver went on to claim fifth place, and he is still sixth in the provisional IRC Drivers’ standings. image

Thierry Neuville collects highest number of stage wins

After topping the order early on, Thierry Neuville ended up with the best score in terms of stage performances at the end of the IRC’s first visit to the Prime Yalta Rally (four fastest times, two second-best times and five third-best efforts). “I was unlucky on Friday,” pondered the Peugeot Belgium-Luxemburg driver. “It’s a shame, because my 207 S2000 was very competitive and I think I could have challenged for the win. My 207 S2000 is getting more efficient and easier to drive each time out…” Given that he had little hope of improving on his overall position, the Belgian profited from Saturday’s action to test different Michelin tyres and work on the set-up of his car with two spare wheels onboard. “That could well come in very useful later,” he said. image

A result which doesn’t mirror the Peugeot’s potential

Three of the four 207 Super 2000s which started the Ukrainian event succeeded in reaching the finish. Only Tempestini (flywheel) failed to complete the distance. “As expected, the Yalta Rally proved very difficult,” observed Frédéric Bertrand, the manager of Peugeot Sport’s Customer Competition Department. “When the stages are new for everyone, and when the drivers are all on a level playing field, they are very close in terms of their performance and the Peugeot 207 S2000 is as strong as ever. Bouffier/Panseri coped well with the need to push hard while making sure they obtained a good finish, while the runs of Wilks/Pugh and Neuville/Gilsoul were spoiled by their different incidents. At the end of the day, only Bouffier succeeded in strengthening his championship chances. As for Peugeot, we leave Ukraine with an even bigger gap to make up. We will absolutely have to put that situation right in Ypres. image

2011 Prime Yalta Rally – final positions:
1. HANNINEN/MARKKULA. Skoda Fabia S2000, en 2h54’04’’0
2. BOUFFIER/PANSERI. Peugeot 207 S2000, à 11’’7
3. KOPECKY/STARY. Skoda Fabia S2000, à 38’’7
4. MIKKELSEN/FLOENE. Skoda Fabia S2000, à 57’’3
5. WILKS/PUGH. Peugeot 207 S2000, à 4’00’’4
6. NEUVILLE/GILSOUL. Peugeot 207 S2000, à 5'01''5
7. GARDEMEISTER/SUOMINEN. Skoda Fabia 2000, à 7’59’’3
8. KRUUDA/JARVEOJA. Skoda Fabia S2000, à 10’01’’3
9. SANDELL/PARMANDER. Skoda Fabia S2000, à 18’08’’9
10. RAOUX/MAGAT. Renault Clio R3, à 21’42’’9

Championship positions:

1, J. Hänninen (58 points).
2, J. Kopecky (55)
3, B. Bouffier (49)
4, T. Neuville (48)
5, F. Loix (45)
6, G. Wilks (35)
7, A. Mikkelsen (28)
8, B. Magalhaès (14)
9, S. Sarrazin and P. Campana (12). Etc.

1, Skoda (146)
2, Peugeot (134)
3, Subaru (35)
4, Honda (28)
5, Ford/M-Sport (27)
6, Mitsubishi/Ralliart (14)

NEXT ROUND: YPRES (June 23-25, 2011)

Info and Photos: Peugeot Sport/acreditated and autorized media press.

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