Spanner in Auriol's Safari entry

Former World Rally Champion Didier Auriol has been dropped from Peugeot's manufacturer points nominations for the forthcoming Safari Rally. Although the Catalunya Rally winner will compete in a 206 WRC as usual, the French marque will be represented in the makes' championship by Finns Marcus Gronholm and Harri Rovanpera

Spanner in Auriol's Safari entry

The move sparks fresh speculation concerning Auriol's future - the 1994 title-holder has endured a dismal start to the year and he is already being tipped to retire at the end of the season. But Peugeot sources insist that the Safari decision is based on mechanical knowledge rather than a long-term plan.

A team spokesman said: "Jean-Pierre Nicolas [Peugeot's team manager] believes that Harri is a good mechanic and that if he encounters any problems with the car, he will be able to repair it more effectively than Didier. And as far as Didier is concerned, the move will reduce any pressure on him for this tough rally."

Peugeot's decision is based on sound footing, since on current form Rovanpera is pretty likely to hit problems. The latest evolution of the 206 WRC, introduced in Cyprus, has only scored one finish from a possible six.

Ironically, the last time Auriol was dropped from a manufacturer nomination, he won. Toyota opted for Freddy Loix instead of out-of-form Didier on the 1998 Catalunya Rally, but the temperamental Frenchman blitzed the field in one of the most dominant performances of the World Rally Car era.

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