This weekend’s event through the forests of central Scotland will go down as one of the world’s toughest gravel fixtures. Its fast, undulating yet narrow stages left drivers with absolutely no margin for error, while the little grip that was available was further reduced by the persistent rain and muddy conditions which turned out to be a hallmark of the three-day RAC Rally of Scotland. These gruelling conditions only served to add to the value of the podium finish collected by Peugeot France’s Bryan Bouffier and Xavier Panseri.

Peugeot 2011

An awesome challenge

“Never in my life have I have contested such a tough gravel rally,” admitted Bryan Bouffier whose pride in finishing third outweighed the disappointment felt when he failed to defend the second place he had held on Saturday evening. “The stages were incredibly complex, notably Sunday’s tests and their countess blind corners, low grip and cut-up conditions, especially second time round. You had to keep adjusting your rhythm and taking care over the roughest portions. It wasn’t at all easy…”

2011 Peugeot

Hands-on repair work by Bryan Bouffier!

Sunday morning saw the Peugeot France driver and his co-driver Xavier Panseri fall back from overnight second place, and an incident on SS12 prevented them from recovering that position. “We had a brake hose problem which was probably caused by a stone. My foot went straight to the floor on a downhill section. Somehow, I managed to keep the car under control and finish the stage! On the following road section, I isolated the hose and we completed the loop with brakes on three wheels only.” Bryan Bouffier and Xavier Panseri overcame the handicap to claim the second-fastest time which enabled them to make sure of a podium finish, despite being handed a 10-second penalty for lateness after their repair work.

2011 Peugeot

Thierry Neuville salvages sixth place…

Thierry Neuville and Nicolas Gilsoul concluded the event in sixth place. “I got away to a good start on Sunday with a fourth-best time on SS9. Things went downhill after that, however, when I smacked a stone on the inside of a corner over a crest. I hit it hard and span. The incident must have cost me around a minute. After that, the conditions were so complex that I decided to concentrate on defending my position, except on the last two stages in town when I did all I could to pass Gardemeister into sixth place.” Having fallen as far back as eighth, Thierry effectively succeeded in gaining two places by claiming the last two stages of the day.

A late retirement for Guy Wilks

After falling back to 15th spot as a result of their troubles the previous day, Guy Wilks and Phil Pugh profited from the final leg to fight their way back up to ninth place. “My sole aim was to bring my car safely to the finish,” reported the Peugeot UK driver. “I am disappointed with my result and by the incidents that led up to it. My 207 S2000 was easily quick enough for me to fight for the win if I had had a trouble-free run.” The British driver made a last-minute mistake which pulled a wheel off his car on the final stage, spelling retirement…

2011 Peugeot

The 207 S2000 competitive on every type of surface

“The final result does not mirror how much the 207 S2000 has improved on the loose,” notes Frédéric Bertrand, the manager of Peugeot Sport’s Customer Competition Department. “Not only did Bryan Bouffier finish on the podium, but Guy Wilks and Thierry Neuville also posted some excellent stage times, despite making some mistakes. The outstanding work of our engineers on the car’s suspension was of an extremely high quality, and all our drivers reported that the 207 S2000 was a joy to drive despite the challenging conditions. We are obviously disappointed with today’s result because we had the potential to keep the fight for the Manufacturers’ crown going down to the wire. Congratulations to Skoda for making sure of the title with one round to go.”

Next round: Cyprus (November 3-5, 2011)

Final positions:

Rally of Scotland
1. Andreas MIKKELSEN – Ola FLOENE Skoda Fabia S2000    1h55’17’’2
2. Juho HANNINEN – Mikko MARKKULA Skoda Fabia S2000   26’’4
3. Bryan BOUFFIER – Xavier PANSERI Peugeot 207 S2000   1’35’’3
4. Craig BREEN – Gareth ROBERTS Ford Fiesta S2000   2’05’’1
5. Jan KOPECKY – Petr STARY Skoda Fabia S2000   2’11’’7
6. Thierry NEUVILLE – Nicolas GILSOUL Peugeot 207 S2000   3’10”4
7. Toni GARDEMEISTER – Tapio SUOMINEN Skoda Fabia S2000   3’11’’5
8. Alastair FISHER – Daniel BARRITT Ford Fiesta S2000   4’59’’9
9. Toshihiro ARAI – Dale MOSCATT Subaru Impreza Sti R4   8’17’’6
10. Matthias KAHLE – Peter GOBEL Skoda Fabia S2000   9’36’’1

2011 Peugeot

Championship positions

1. Skoda 316,5 pts
2. PEUGEOT, 241,5
3. M-Sport, 107
4. Subaru, 94
5. Ralliart, 73…

1. J. Kopecky, 131 pts
2. J. Hanninen, 125
3. T. Neuville, 115
4. A. Mikkelsen, 111,5
5. B. Bouffier, 110,5
6. F. Loix, 103
7. G. Wilks, 47…

2011 Peugeot