First IRC victory for the new Peugeot 207 Evolution
Thanks to Paolo Andreucci
The latest Peugeot Sport-developed ’Evolution’ version of the 207 S2000 was present in Sanremo where examples were entered by the different Peugeot subsidiaries that are actively contesting the IRC. The newcomer lost no time revealing its potential when Kris Meeke emerged as the early leader, before Paolo Andreucci took over in front. The Italian briefly vacated top spot but went on to give the new 207 S2000 its first IRC victory… at first attempt.
Victory takes Peugeot Italy’s Paolo Andreucci a step closer to the Italian crown
Four-time Italian champ Paolo Andreucci may well be one of the sport’s veterans, but the joy expressed by the 45year old at the end of the 52nd Rallye Sanremo was that of a burgeoning youngster.
"I am contentissimo," beamed the Peugeot Italy driver. "Apart from a poor tyre choice on Friday evening, which dropped me briefly to second place, it was pretty much a perfect weekend for me, and I was greatly helped by my 207 S2000. Its handling is very consistent, it is really nicely balanced and it keeps getting better. I got a chance to evaluate the performance gain of the new engine when I won a recent round of the Italian Rally Championship. Here, I was able to profit from the new, lighter, more efficient brakes. In mountain territory like this, that’s a very handy asset!"
Andreucci’s win in Sanremo takes him a step closer to a fifth Italian title: "I was chasing my home title, so I would have been happy to settle for second place, but the different troubles encountered by the other drivers put victory within reach, and I just couldn’t let the opportunity pass…"
Kris Meeke emerges from fierce battle as early leader
Friday saw the Ulster-born reigning IRC champion Kris Meeke take the early lead by claiming two of the first three stages. He eventually finished the event in fourth place, 4.2s shy of the podium.
"I am disappointed because my car deserved better," observed the Peugeot UK driver. "I threw away my chances on Friday evening when I chose rain tyres for the night-time stage. The shower we were expecting just never happened. I tried to make amends by pushing as hard as I possibly could, but I dropped around 20 seconds in a spin and I calmed down after that…"
Rallying is a sport in which the final standings mirror not only the performance of the different cars and the skills of the drivers, but also the latters’ ability to steer clear of the events’ varied difficulties and pitfalls. Despite his relatively limited experience of the Sanremo, Bryan Bouffier produced a superb display and seemed to be heading for a top-three finish when a puncture relegated him to 10th overall. "I cut a corner that everybody else cuts, but I must have hit it at the wrong angle, because I picked up a puncture. After that, I made the mistake of not stopping at once and the tyre ended up damaging the suspension. It’s such a shame because my 207 S2000 had been running perfectly until then…"
The best-placed Peugeot behind the cars of Andreucci and Meeke was the Peugeot Belgium-Luxemburg-entered 207 S2000 of Thierry Neuville who profited from the final stage to squeeze past the experienced local specialist Gianfranco Cunico into eighth place. "This was my first attempt at the Rallye Sanremo and my first time in the new 207 S2000 Evolution," reported the Belgian youngster. "I spent the first day familiarising myself with its amazing balance. The new front suspension arrangement and damper valving felt very reassuring. After that, I concentrated on trying to get the most out of the new engine which is more responsive, more powerful and smoother. The further into the event I got, the more I found I was able to play with the car. It really is terrific fun to drive."
One of the lessons of this year’s visit to Sanremo was effectively that the new 207 S2000 Evolution is quick out of its box… "Our aim was to demonstrate that the Peugeot is the S2000 car to have to win in the IRC and that it will continue to be so in 2011. Victory today was the ideal way to show that," says the manager of Peugeot Sports customer competition department, Frédéric Bertrand.