A Works Peugeot Esso World Rally Team entrant in the 1999 World Rally Championship
Raced by the two-times World Rally Champion Marcus Grönholm on his Peugeot debut, the seven-times rally winner Gilles Panizzi and the Belgian rally veteran Freddy Loix
A Works entry in the Tour de Corse, Acropolis Rally and Rally of Great Britain in 1999
One of two 206 WRCs to compete on the double WRC-winning model’s debut
Presented in its 1999 Rally of Great Britain factory Esso livery
The Peugeot 206 WRC
The towering concrete overpass and the grassy banks either side of the structure are jam-packed with thousands of people, many of whom wave Spanish flags and banners. Ripples of buoyant, feverish excitement erupt with each and every car that storms towards and negotiates the tight left-hand hairpin, especially the compact Peugeot 206 WRCs, which cock their inside rear wheels as they pass like excitable puppies.
This single corner at Rallye de España in 2002 encapsulates the wild popularity of the rallying around the turn of the Millennium. It was reminiscent of the halcyon days of Group B in the 1980s, when a similarly diverse plethora of manufacturers had flocked to the World Rally Championship. And Peugeot’s ‘Silver Bullets’ were front and centre. Not only did they return the title to the French marque for the first time since the 205 T16 managed the same feat in 1985 and ’86, but they also went one better, snatching the crown three times in a row, from 2000 to 2002.
Unlike the large, boxy and practical saloons such as the Subaru Impreza and the Mitsubishi Lancer Evos which had become commonplace (and dominant), the comparatively dinky Peugeot 206 was an entirely different proposition – compact, curvaceous and as nimble as a fly, with all four wheels right at the corners
If its Group B forebear, the 205 T16, was a caveman’s club, the 206 WRC was a surgeon’s scalpel. The circular plastic door handles and the headlight surrounds were all that were carried over from the road-going 206, Peugeot exploiting the FIA’s relatively relaxed rules and, of course, the fact it wasn’t required to build a costly homologation special for the road.
For such a little car, the 206 WRC was crammed with state-of-the-art technology, from the suite of electronic systems including those which controlled the differentials to the unusual longitudinally-mounted gearbox behind the transverse turbocharged two-litre engine. Peugeot even developed its own shock absorbers. It was this research and development that equipped the 206 with a freakish breadth of ability and, ultimately, the edge over its rivals.
This Peugeot 206 WRC
In what we’re sure was a pre-orchestrated move on the part of Peugeot’s marketing execs, the 206 WRC made its debut in the 43rd Tour de Corse, the sixth round of the 1999 World Rally Championship. Two box-fresh cars were fielded by the Esso-sponsored factory team, of which the chassis we’re delighted to be offering for sale – number C04 – was one.
The car was registered in France on the 28 April 1999 and assigned the number ‘206 MTC 75’. In Corsica, amid a frenzied and fiercely patriotic public response to the presence of the Peugeot team, C04 was earmarked for the French family driver pairing of Gilles and Hervé Panizzi. The so-called ‘Tarmac Kings’, the Panizzis scored outright victories in seven WRC events, all of which were on asphalt.
Both 206 WRCs showed great promise on Corsica’s twisting, treacherous special stages, though unfortunately retired with mechanical teething issues – unsurprising for an all-new car on its maiden rally outing. The Tour de Corse in 1999 was notable in that it was the first rally to broadcast its final special stage live on television – an addition which prompted the FIA to offer bonus points for. To bolster the programming, retired cars were readmitted to the rally. Both Peugeots once again took to the start line, Gilles and Hervé Panizzi ultimately finishing fifth overall in front of the world.
The grueling Acropolis Rally in Greece was this Peugeot 206 WRC’s next outing. Modified to rugged gravel specification, C04 was assigned to Marcus Grönholm and his compatriot codriver Timo Rautiainen, who were making their debut with the French team. Grönholm would write the Peugeot 206 WRC into motorsport’s history books, winning the World Rally Championship with the car in both 2000 and 2002.
Almost as though he knew Peugeot’s top brass would be watching him eagle-eyed, Gronhölm made a searing start, winning the rally’s first special stage outright. It was a sure-fire signal of intent on Peugeot’s part, though a mechanical issue unfortunately thwarted Gronhölm’s showing in Greece.
Chassis C04’s third and final outing in 1999 came in round 14, the season-closing Network Q Rally of Great Britain. Gilles Panizzi took the wheel once again, enjoying an excellent and very mature drive to finish seventh overall. The performance capped an encouraging year for the 206 WRC, which would soon become the car to beat in top-flight rallying.
Peugeot sold this 206 WRC to a privateer outfit, which campaigned the car in four rounds of the World Rally Championship and two rounds of the European Rally Championship. In the latter, Patrick Snijers and Eddy Van der Pluym scored a best finish of second overall at the Belgium Ypres Westhoek Rally. Chassis C04 has since contested plethora of national tarmac rallies across Europe.
In 2017, this car was acquired by Brian Madsen, who is the official Peugeot Sport distributor in Denmark. After returning chassis C04 to its famous 1999 Network Q Rally of Great Britain Works livery, Madsen professionally demonstrated the car in a small number of events, including the world-famous Italian celebration of the sport Rally Legend in 2019, when he finished first in the WRC1 class and third overall.
Not only does this magnificent WRC car boast an entirely traceable race history, including its stint as a Works Peugeot at the vital beginnings of the 206 WRC programme, but it’s also accompanied by its original French title, its FIA Gold Book and various documentation. Using the Girardo & Co. Archive, we have sourced over 30 high-res photos of C04 in action during the 1999 season. Furthermore, we’ve included a full history report, complete copies of the original FIA homologation papers for the 206 WRC and operational manuals explaining the car’s various systems in detail – an incredibly useful tool for those wishing to use the car. Four spare wheels are also included.
Arguably the most fascinating aspect of the history file is the comprehensive documentation for the 1999 Network Q Rally of Great Britain, in which chassis C04 finished seventh overall. With everything from driver pace notes, spectator guides, media itineraries and journalists’ first-hand notes to special stage timesheets, maps and manufacturer schedules, it’s a nostalgic and extraordinarily detailed snapshot of the world-famous event in which this car competed.
One of two Works cars which marked the debut of the daring and unconventional 206 WRC, this stunning Peugeot would be an excellent car to demonstrate at prestigious events such as the aforementioned Rally Legend and, of course, the Goodwood Festival of Speed.
Price: £275,000 (GBP)
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