Peugeot 1-2, title fight wide open

Gilles Panizzi and Francois Delecour took their second consecutive 1-2 at the San Remo Rally, but with two rounds of the World Rally Championship left, there are still five drivers in with a shout of the title

Peugeot 1-2, title fight wide open

Marcus Gronholm still leads the provisional championship standings with just two events left. The Finn has 49 pts, five ahead of Richard Burns, who in turn is just on point ahead of Ford pair Colin McRae and Carlos Sainz. Tommi Makinen still has an outside title chance, 17pts behind Gronholm.

Panizzi and Delecour could barely look each other in the eye at the end of the rally. Despite Panizzi leading the second Peugeot 1-2 in succession on this season's World Rally Championship, he has been under fire since the start of the pre-event recce when Delecour believed his team mate to have practiced the roads outside the official hours.

The pair nearly came to blows on the first day and their anger was kept at near boiling point throughout the event.

Nevertheless Delecour praised his rival at the finish in what was seen by many as a peace-keeping gesture. So far Peugeot has not yet named its drivers for 2001 and speculation suggests that one of these two will get the chop for next season.

Peugeot is in serious talks with Didier Auriol for next year and while the SEAT driver says he's signed nothing it is widely believed that he will tackle the 14 events in a 206WRC. Team boss Jean-Pierre Nicolas was rumoured to have asked Malcolm Wilson if Ford wanted one of his drivers for next year. Wilson is reported to have said yes, but only if it was Marcus Gronholm!

Behind the Peugeots came Tommi Makinen and the reigning World Champion has rekindled a faint hope of the title. He laughed when this was suggested and believes that only a wipeout of his four title rivals would save the day but promised to push hard just in case. "I'd forgotten how good it feels to stand on the podium," he admitted.

Star drive in Italy went to Colin McRae who said that his single point for sixth place was the hardest one he'd ever earned. He's still very much in the hunt, tied for third place with team mate Carlos Sainz and snapping at the heels of Richard Burns who failed to finish in San Remo.

Burns goes to the final two events knowing that he won both last year. He'll need much the same performance to head off Gronholm from the title. Gronholm began the season as a bit-part player in Peugeot's line-up but now faces the possibility of ending the season as champion.

Battle resumes in Perth just three weeks away. Between then drivers have commitments at the Motor Show's motorsports days and then the long-haul flight to Australia to start preparations for one of the most technical events in the series. How the result pans out will determine who gets to fly home First Class..

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Panizzi wins San Remo Rally

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