Fri 31 Mar 2023

Peugeot’s 206 WRC - A lion in sheep’s clothing

On this day, 23 years ago, Peugeot introduced the 2000 version of its 206 World Rally Car - and it proved to be highly successful.

However, the 206 did not always perform well on the WRC stages. After its debut in Corsica in 1999, despite its speed, the car was fragile and managed only one podium finish in its first six rallies, in Sanremo with Gilles Panizzi.

Peugeot's technical director Michel Nandan worked tirelessly on upgrades and improvements throughout the 1999 season in preparation for the new millennium. Although the World Rally Car regulations offered less engineering freedom than those of Group B, the 206 WRC still boasted flashes of brilliance beneath its surface.

While the car was not as groundbreaking as its predecessor, the 205 T16, one driver made it his own: Marcus Grönholm. The Finn climbed through the ranks without the support of a wealthy manager. As a former boxer, he knew how to fight - and he fought his way into a factory seat with Peugeot, alongside François Delecour and Panizzi.

At the start of the new millennium, Peugeot was considered to have found its feet with the 206 WRC. The Rallye Monte-Carlo opener was highly anticipated, but it was disastrous for the team as all three factory 206s failed to restart out of parc fermé.

Grönholm secured his first WRC win at round two in Sweden and, just over a month later, the car received a series of upgrades in time for Rally Catalunya.

Though invisible to the untrained eye, the tweaks which took the 206 from 1999 to 2000-spec included the implementation of active differentials, a new turbocharger, and a redesigned injection system.

With the help of these new parts, Grönholm delivered a consistent mid-season performance with four podiums from the next six rallies, including back-to-back wins in New Zealand and at home in Finland.

He ended the year with another win in Australia and second place on Rally GB, which was sufficient to secure Grönholm his maiden world championship and the manufacturers' title for Peugeot - its first since Group B was banned after the 1986 season.

Marcus Grönholm - FIA World Rally Champion 2000
Starts: Thursday, July 18, 2024 at 4:31:00 AM
Starts: Friday, July 26, 2024 at 7:00:00 AM
Starts: Saturday, July 27, 2024 at 6:00:00 AM