Bouffier leads Peugeot’s bid in Zlin

After day one

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27 August 2011 - 21:36
Bouffier leads Peugeot’s bid in (...)

Despite being run in darkness, Friday evening’s spectacular show stage was attended by an estimated 80,000 spectators.

The roar of engines and piercing lights through the streets of Zlin got the 41st edition of the Barum Rally off to a flying start, while today’s close battle points to a thrilling finale on Sunday.

Performance and consistency…

Peugeot France’s Bryan Bouffier completed the first of the weekend’s two legs in fourth place, a mere 3.7s behind Loix and Hänninen who are equal second. The Frenchman is still very much in contention.

“In terms of outright performance, the 207 S2000s are up there with the best,” says Frédéric Bertrand, the manager of Peugeot Sport’s customer competition department, “as confirmed by Guy Wilks and Bryan Bouffier who were both faster than all their rivals once each. We have simply been less consistent and we will need to push hard tomorrow… It should be an interesting day!”

Assault spearheaded by Bouffier/Panseri!

Bryan Bouffier/Xavier Panseri wrapped up Saturday’s action as the best-placed Peugeot runners, 23.4s behind the local specialist Jan Kopecky and just 3.7s down on Juho Hänninen and Freddy Loix who are equal second.

“It’s been a good run for us, despite a spin on the today’s third stage. We’ve been in the fight from the start, and I posted a fastest time this morning. We then gambled on rain for this afternoon’s second loop, but the conditions stayed dry. Happily, we didn’t lose too much ground. We’re now 23 seconds adrift of Kopecky, while Loix and Hänninen are only 3s ahead of us, so there’s still everything to play for, especially if we end up getting rain on the last day. But we will need to push hard even if the weather stays the same…!”

Wilks and Neuville in difficulty

The pattern of the event so far has had something of a familiar ring to it for Guy Wilks and his co-driver Phil Pugh. The Britons spent most of the first day challenging for first place but saw their chances of victory disappear when they were forced to stop and change a punctured tyre on the day’s penultimate stage.

“It’s like there was a curse on us,” said the Peugeot UK driver. “I punctured twice again today. This morning, I only dropped a few seconds because it happened close to the finish, but I was forced to change wheels this afternoon since we still had a fair distance to cover.” Guy Wilks and Phil Pugh are provisionally 12th overall. “I think I can gain five places tomorrow, but that won’t be enough to give me a top finish,” added Guy.

Thierry Neuville and Nicolas Gilsoul have also had something of a dramatic day and are currently fifth, 1m51.3s down on the leaders.

“My position is more or less what I was expecting it to be given my lack of knowledge of this event. That said, I didn’t expect to be this far back in time terms,” admitted the Peugeot Belgium-Luxemburg driver. “The set-up of my car isn’t ideal and I found the stages far bumper than the roads we used for our pre-event test. I still need to find my marks, which goes to show yet again that nothing can replace actually competing.” On top of that, SS6 saw the young Belgian make a mistake which cost him 30 seconds.

Pavel Valousek: accident

The Peugeot Czech Republic team’s Pavel Valousek and Zdenek Hruza crashed into a tree on SS3.

“Pavel had such high hopes for this event,” observed Frédéric Bertrand, “but he had a big off on his favourite stage, Pindula, where he established a new record in 2010.”

The Czech driver escaped with a fractured wrist. “It must be as hard for him as it is for us because we were counting on the support of his Peugeot Czech Republic-entered 207 S2000,” noted Frédéric Bertrand.

The second leg of the 2011 Barum Rally on Sunday, August 28, features no less than 115.08km of competitive action. Rain is expected throughout the night, so the conditions are likely to be particularly treacherous and a great deal can still happen.

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