Following heavy overnight rain, the difficult last leg of the 41st Barum Rally, promised a dramatic day’s sport and the 207 Super 2000 drivers effectively suffered a variety of incidents. The best placed Peugeot driver at the finish was Thierry Neuville who came fourth.
Attack mode for Bouffier
The best-placed 207 S2000 crew at the end of Saturday’s action was Bryan Bouffier/Xavier Panseri in fourth place overall – just 3.7secs off second spot – and the Peugeot France pair had every intention of challenging for the top prize when action resumed this morning. “The fact that Jan Kopecky hit trouble shows that we were right to believe in our chances,” underlined Bryan Bouffier after retiring from the event. “That’s why I pushed hard on this morning’s first stage.
Unfortunately, it soon became apparent that the soft compound tyre I had chosen wasn’t ideal for the conditions which turned out to be drier than I was expecting. Three kilometres from the end of SS10, I cut the apex of a fairly straightforward left-hand corner and drove over some wet grass. That caused my car to understeer and sent me ricocheting across the road where I hit a kerb.” The impact broke two rims and brought the French pair’s run to an immediate halt. They are still fourth in the championship, however, and continue to be the best-placed Peugeot crew in the provisional standings ahead of the forthcoming visit to Hungary.
Neuville wards off pressure
After a troubled first leg which included an off, Thierry Neuville and Nicolas Gilsoul ended up finding their marks on the Czech event. “The second day’s stages were different to those of yesterday,” observed the Peugeot Belgium-Luxemburg driver. “The stages are much less bumpy and I felt far more comfortable with the handling of my car.”
The Belgian driver was able to up his pace and was occasionally as fast as Jan Kopecky and Freddy Loix at a time when they were battling for victory. “When I heard that Bryan Bouffier had retired, I realised that it was more important than ever to make sure we reached the finish,” said Neuville, “but I still had to push quite hard in order to keep Andreas Mikkelsen at bay.” Thierry Neuville and Nicolas Gilsoul ended up accomplishing both missions and completed the rally in fourth place.
Guy Wilks: retirement
After falling back to 12th spot as a result of the two punctures they picked up on Saturday, Guy Wilks and Phil Pugh profited from Sunday’s first loop to fight their way back up to eighth place.
“That was just a start,” declared the Peugeot UK driver. “I was very happy with the balance of my 207 S2000 and I was thinking that sixth place was on the cards when my engine stopped on the first test of the last group of stages. I stopped to look under the bonnet and I saw that the alternator belt was in strips. As it broke, a bit of the belt had pulled off an engine sensor which caused the ECU to switch everything off because it wasn’t getting any information...”
A disappointing outcome
“We were always aware that this rally on our rival’s home soil would be a big challenge,” said Frédéric Bertrand, the manager of Peugeot Sport’s customer competition department. “The final result is clearly quite disappointing, even though the 207 showed that it is competitive. Only one of our cars finished in the big IRC Manufacturers’ points for Peugeot’s.
"That promises to make our job fairly complex towards the end of the season, although Bryan Bouffier and Thierry Neuville are still in the chase for the Drivers’ title, but only if they start winning again very soon.”