Peugeot's Gilles Panizzi has finally claimed a predictable victory in the Rally of Catalunya this afternoon after dominating the event from start to finish. The Frenchman claimed his second consecutive win of the season having raced to an early lead over teammate Richard Burns on day one and built on that start to beat the reigning world champion by 37.3 seconds.
Citreon's Philippe Bugalski finished third, while Marcus Gronholm was fourth, giving the Finnish Peugeot driver a one-point lead over Panizzi in the world championship standings after four races. Panizzi's triumph marked an impressive hat-trick for his Peugeot team who have now won the last three World Rally Championship events to pull clear in the manufacturers' title race.
Panizzi was unchallenged throughout the three days and was only beaten on four of the 18 stages of the rally, which also had several stages cancelled because of overcrowding. Subaru's Peter Solberg finished fifth and Ford's Colin McRae braved the pain of an injured finger to score the final drivers' championship point by finishing sixth.
The World Rally Championship now abandons asphalt and heads onto the loose gravel surfaces of Cyprus, Argentina, Greece, Kenya and Finland - five events where Ford and Subaru should up the pressure on the French outfits.
Filed by Shane Murray