Ex-Works Peugeot Sport entrant in the 2001 and 2002 World Rally Championships
Driven by three World Rally Champions: Didier Auriol, Marcus Grönholm and Richard Burns
Raced by the 2000 World Rally Champion Marcus Grönholm during his second championship year
A three-time WRC podium-finisher, with a career-best second overall with Richard Burns at Rallye de Espana in 2002
One private owner since leaving the Peugeot factory in 2011
Chassis no. C37
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
The Peugeot 206 WRC we’re delighted to be offering for sale is chassis C37, one of the 21 cars built to Evo 2 specifications, which included a more powerful engine and a modified wheelbase. It was first registered to Peugeot Sport on 30 May 2001, when it was assigned with the French registration number ‘330 NQZ 75’.
A Works Peugeot Sport entry, chassis C37 was first drafted into action at the 2001 Acropolis Rally, which was the seventh round of that year’s World Rally Championship. Behind the wheel was the Finnish loose-surface specialist Harri Rovanperä alongside his co-pilot Risto Pietiläinen, the duo expertly negotiating the notoriously challenging Greek stages to finish an impressive third overall.
For its next outing, Rally New Zealand in September, chassis C37 was assigned to the reigning World Rally Champion Marcus Grönholm and his navigator Timo Rautiainen. A commanding drive on day one ended with a timing miscalculation from the Peugeot Sport that put their pair out of contention for the remainder of the rally. Fifth was the best Grönholm could muster. “You never want to say anything bad about the team,” said the Finn shortly after the final stage of day one, visibly angry, “but they made a wrong calculation – it’s too late.”
A second World Rally Champion, this time the Frenchman Didier Auriol, took the controls of this Peugeot 206 WRC at Rally Australia, the penultimate round of the 2001 championship. Auriol and his compatriot and longtime co-driver Denis Giraudet put on a truly deft display, giving it their all and barely putting a foot wrong to win five stages outright and earn chassis C37 its second podium finish.
It wasn’t until March of 2002 and Rallye de España that this Peugeot returned to the World Rally Championship. The big news ahead of the season was the newly crowned champion Richard Burns’ move from Subaru to Peugeot after a great ‘tug of love’ between the two manufacturers that threatened to end in a bitter court dispute. Thankfully, an ‘amicable’ agreement was reached and the Englishman returned to the French marque with which he first embarked on his WRC career 12 years earlier.
For the Spanish round of the 2002 season, chassis C37 was assigned to Burns and his co-driver Robert Reid. It’s fair to say Burns never got to grips with the Peugeot quite like he did with the Subaru. But during this weekend in Spain, he was well and truly on it, maintaining second place in the rally from start to finish behind only his teammate, the tarmac titan Gilles Panizzi, who was so quick he managed to win despite showboating for the crowds on his way to victory.
Chassis C37 contested two further rounds of the 2002 season: the Safari Rally in Africa and Rally New Zealand. At the latter, Burns suffered an accident and the car was returned to the factory to be rebuilt. Peugeot Sport retained the car until 2011, when it was bought by Hervé ‘Knapick’ Lemonnier. Resplendent in its red Igol-sponsored livery, chassis C37 contested a plethora of national tarmac events in France between 2011 and 2018, scoring multiples class and outright victories, including at the Rallye National Suisse Normande 2016.
During this time, chassis C37 was maintained and prepared by the renowned rally car experts at Vaison Sport in Burgundy. In 2013, a bare-metal restoration was undertaken and, more recently, the car has been returned to the exact colour and factory livery in which it scored its career best finish at the Rallye de España in 2002.
Today, the powertrain has only covered 300 stage kilometres since its last rebuild. Having experienced the car on a series of twisty rural roads in Italy, we can confirm it feels as tight as a drum and is as scintillating to drive quickly as it is pleasurable to look at.
An instrumental cog in the machine that took Peugeot to the summit of the rally world in 2001 and 2002, this 206 WRC is an accessible and cost-effective avenue into the fantastic and fast-appreciating arena of World Rally cars. What’s more, it boasts the distinction of having been raced by not one but three World Rally Champions.
Best of all? As with all rally cars, this on-the-button Peugeot 206 WRC is road-registered, which means you can sample its dizzying performance on your favourite stretch of asphalt.
Accompanying spares package
Price: £250,000 (GBP)
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