The Rallye Sanremo is one of rallying's most famous fixtures. For 30 years, it counted towards the World Rally Championship and was respected by all the drivers. Since 2008, its organisers (ACI Sanremo) have chosen the event to be a round of the Intercontinental Rally Challenge.
Following Bryan Bouffier's win on January's Rallye Monte-Carlo and Thierry Neuville's success on the Tour de Corse in May, Peugeot's representatives will be looking for another victory in order to take the marque's score to three wins on the calendar's most prestigious rounds.
The last two visits to the Italian classic saw 207 S2000 drivers take the spoils, with Kris Meeke coming first in 2009, and Paolo Andreucci following in his footsteps in 2010. This time round, Peugeot's subsidiaries will be looking to extend that run with another success.
A world class event run at an awesome pace
The ninth round of the IRC takes place exactly four weeks after the 'Barum' and a fortnight after the recent trip to Hungary. The teams have consequently had little time to prepare for this legendary event and re-fettle their respective cars. The Sanremo features night-time action which will force the drivers to adapt their driving styles to the conditions.
This year's event starts at 1:20 pm on Friday, September 23, with the podium ceremony following just before 6:00 pm on Saturday, September 24, after more than 225km of competitive action in the mountains which tower over the Ligurian coast.
A highlight of the event will be Friday evening's 'Ronde' which takes the form of a night-time visit to the three stages contested during the afternoon. The 'Ronde' takes its name from the fact that the test starts and finishes in more or less the same place after passing through three villages – Baiardo, San Romolo and Perinaldo – which are linked by twisty, narrow and treacherously tricky roads.
Outright victory: the overriding objective of Peugeot's drivers
"It will be difficult for us to win this year's title, but our aim in Sanremo will be to notch up another win on the third of the IRC season's three classics," says Frederic Bertrand, manager of Peugeot Sport's Customer Competition Department.
"The last two visits to Sanremo were won by 207 S2000 drivers and we have the car and drivers to take that score to three in a row. The list includes Thierry Neuville who, following his performances in the Czech Republic and Hungary, where victory escaped him by the tiniest of margins, will have his sights set on just one objective: winning. He contested the 2010 rally and enjoys the stages.
"After his result in Corsica, I believe he is ripe to collect another win this year. Our colours will also be defended by Bryan Bouffier. Although he wasn't at his most competitive on the recent Mecsek Rallye, he is perfectly capable of producing the sort of display that made him a front-runner during the early part of the year.
"Meanwhile, Guy Wilks will be looking for revenge in Italy on two accounts: first of all to shake of the spell of ill-luck that has been plaguing him recently, and also to make up for his retirement on this event in 2010. Last but not least, Bruno Magalhaès will be looking to profit from his experience of the past 12 months. "
Maximum attack from the start
Both in the Czech Republic and in Hungary, the 207 S2000 runners dropped time early on as a result of their relative lack of experience of the two events. That won't be the case in Italy.
"We have comprehensive data for the Sanremo," says Bertrand Vallat, the Peugeot Sport engineer responsible for the design and development of the 207 S2000. "This information will be validated during our different pre-event work."
"We will have a full day's test," say Thierry Neuville and Nicolas Gilsoul whose 207 S2000 is entered by Peugeot Belgium-Luxemburg.
"The session will continue during the evening to give us some time running in darkness to round off our preparations for the 'Ronde'."
Peugeot UK's Guy Wilks and Phil Pugh will benefit from the same groundwork, while Bryan Bouffier and Xavier Panseri, who compete in the colours of Peugeot France, and Bruno Magalhaès, co-driven by Paulo Grave in the Peugeot Portugal 207 S2000, will be hoping to profit from their experience of the 2010 event.
"In 2010, my pace was on a par with that of the front-runners," recalls Bryan Bouffier. "Hopefully, it will be the same again this year, because I want to win."