Asphalt aces key to silly season

Gilles Panizzi's double success in Corsica and Sanremo means asphalt experts could hold the key to world rallying's 'silly season', according to this week's Autosport magazine

Asphalt aces key to silly season

Fledgling teams like Hyundai, Citroen and Skoda are all being linked to proven sealed-surface experts like Bruno Thiry and Jesus Puras in order to maximise their chances of success on the series' asphalt rounds.

With competition in the championship now so close, success on asphalt is seen as crucial to mounting a title challenge - but sealed-surface stars are at such a premium that they could be offered limited gravel programmes as a further carrot to signing up.

Hyundai team boss David Whitehead confirmed he had spoken to a number of asphalt experts, adding: 'We've made no secret of the fact that we're looking at a three-driver line-up, although we probably wouldn't run three cars at any one time.'

The Korean marque is tipped to add Puras to its current line-up of Alister McRae and Kenneth Eriksson, with the Spanish champion replacing Eriksson on four asphalt rounds - but also appearing on up to eight gravel rounds.

Belgian asphalt expert Thiry is being targeted by Skoda to replace Luis Climent, but neither he nor Puras will commit until Citroen's plans are known. Thiry said: 'I'm open and talking to everybody, but there are a lot of guys out there.'

Peugeot star Panizzi, meanwhile, is being tipped to join Italy's crack Grifone squad for a full world championship programme with a factory-spec Peugeot 206.

'If they [Peugeot] decided to ask Grifone to run me, then it would be OK with me, as long as the car was full specification," he said.

Peugeot's works team is expected to sign Didier Auriol in a three-car pool alongside current drivers Marcus Gronholm and Francois Delecour.

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