Peugeot's Nicolas tells drivers to keep the faith

Peugeot team manager Jean-Pierre Nicolas has told his drivers to stay upbeat, despite the factory squad notching up its second 100 percent retirement rate of the season on last weekend's Rally Argentina

Peugeot's Nicolas tells drivers to keep the faith

All three cars failed to finish the season-opening Monte Carlo Rally in January - a feat repeated by the reigning manufacturers' and drivers' champions on the WRC's South American foray. Although all three Argentinian retirements were as a result of accident damage, prior to that, a string of mechanical problems had afflicted the trio.

World champion Marcus Gronholm and Catalunya Rally winner Didier Auriol had handling and turbo problems, with Gronholm also suffering hydraulic problems, while Harri Rovanpera suffered from gearbox and handling problems.

When the cars are reliable, the 206 WRC's speed is not in doubt, with Rovanpera and Auriol already winning a rally apiece this year, and Nicolas says its pace remains the machine's trump card.

"It has been a very bad rally," said Nicolas in . "We had far too many problems to be in the fight for the lead, but the important thing is that we know we still have the speed.

"We know there is no connection between the problems," he added. "The hydraulic system is not new, and this is the first time we have had a problem with it in eight months.

"We know the handling problems have been solved, because we remapped everything for the final day and Marcus and Didier were happy. That is good for the future. If we couldn't score points, the second most important thing was to know the car was quick enough. And it is. Now we must make it reliable."

Peugeot is optimistic that a parts supply delay will not prevent the debut of the latest homologation of its 206 WRC on the next round of the world championship, Cyprus in three weeks' time. The evolution of the current car has centred on increased durability for the series' roughest events - Cyprus, Safari and Acropolis - plus enhanced engine cooling.

The team's regular drivers have all tested the car, along with Gilles Panizzi, who is running a limited schedule with the team this season and believe it is an improvement over its double title-winning predecessor.

"It's not revolutionary, but it's a step forward," said Catalunya Rally winner Didier Auriol.

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