The first of the two legs of the 45th Mecsek Rallye, round eight of the 2011 Intercontinental Rally Challenge, saw Thierry Neuville and Nicolas Gilsoul emerge as the best-placed 207 S2000 runners. The Peugeot Belgium-Luxemburg crew are currently third overall in Hungary, just 21 seconds behind the leaders.
|The Mecsek Rallye’s host town Pécs is located in the south of Hungary, close to the country’s border with Croatia. The hilly stages are essentially wide and fast, although the asphalt surface is of a poor quality in places, so a perfectly-balanced car is important. “We changed the set-up of our 207 S2000 at the lunchtime service halt in an attempt to make the front end more precise and responsive,” reported Thierry Neuville at the end of the day’s action. “That enabled me to match the pace set by Andreas Mikkelsen and Jan Kopecky.”
|With co-driver Nicolas Gilsoul sitting alongside in the Peugeot Belgium-Luxemburg-entered 207 S2000, Thierry Neuville completed the opening leg in third place. “I decided to ease off on the last stage because it was particularly bumpy, narrow and lined with trees. I didn’t want to take any risks. There is still a long way to go and I really want to be at the finish, hopefully on the podium.”
|Bryan Bouffier and Xavier Panseri follow in fifth place and are on target for a top finish, although the gap that separates them from the sharp end of the leaderboard seems too big for them to join in the fight for victory. “I didn’t really feet comfortable all day,” admitted the Peugeot France driver. “I can’t fault my car, it’s just that I don’t feel 100 percent at ease on these stages.” Even so, a determined run enabled the Rallye Monte-Carlo winner to complete Day 1 in fifth spot. Meanwhile, Guy Wilks and Phil Pugh were sidelined by engine trouble on SS5.
|Bruno Magalhaès and Paulo Grave had trouble finding the ideal rhythm. “I decided to run with a short ratio ‘box, but I think that was a mistake on such a fast rally,” recognises the Peugeot Portugal driver. “On top of that, the rear of my car snapped out of line after a compression on SS3. That was quite a scary moment, and not great for my confidence.” After making adjustments to the set-up of his 207 S2000, the Portuguese driver profited from the afternoon’s stages to end the day just shy of the top 10