Grönholm, Rovanperä and Reid remember Provera

Former Peugeot drivers Marcus Grönholm, Harri Rovanperä and co-driver Robert Reid pay tribute to Corrado Provera

Cyprus Rally 2004

Former Peugeot World Rally Championship stars have paid tribute to Peugeot Sport director Corrado Provera.

The charismatic Italian spent virtually his entire career with the French firm and was the man responsible for moving Peugeot from Formula 1 to the World Rally Championship with the 206 WRC program.

Marcus Grönholm was at the heart of that campaign and won two world titles with Provera.

“I remember Corrado as the man who was always hugging us,” smiled the Finn. “He was a nice guy. We kept in touch after he retired and we were messaging, not so often, but I had a message from him earlier this year.

73° Rallye Automobile Monte-Carlo 2005

“I remember saying to my wife: ‘Hey, we have to go to France, we have to see Corrado again…’ Life is always so busy and you keep thinking you will go and you will get there. Now it’s too late. I’m sorry for this. It’s sad.

“You know, Corrado was always the guy banging the table. Remember hey, when there was this water pump thing and afterwards he was saying: ‘Will we give up? NEVER!’

“He and I were quite similar. We could go from 0-110 in milliseconds. I was very hot sometimes when the car was not working and he was very hot behind his table! But he was always somebody who wanted to keep everybody happy.”

Grönholm admits the decision to run with a four-speed Peugeot 307 WRC in 2004 brought him into conflict with the team.

Telestra Rally Australia 10-13/11/ 2005

“Corrado was always telling us the car was good, no problem with the car,” he told DirtFish. “When we started with four gears it was strange. Everybody else had six, we had three.

“And because we use so much torque from the engine, you always knew the gearbox would break soon. I was driving, attack, attack, attack, all the time driving at stupid speed to try to be sure to be ahead when the gearbox broke. I remember we did Ouninpohja with only three gears – we had no fourth.

“This was when I told Corrado: ‘We only need three!’

“When he was retiring in Sweden [2005] I really wanted to give him a nice present for the retirement. I wanted to give him the win, but I made a stupid mistake and went off in the last stages. This was a shame, it would have been nice for him to have taken this win.

“Corrado, Corrado, I have good memories for him. He was the boss who became my friend.”

It’s the same story with Grönholm’s team-mate and countryman Harri Rovanperä.

He told DirtFish: “I could never have anything bad to say for Corrado, he was a good man. He was the businessman in the team – sometimes he had to make the tough decisions, but he did this for the best reasons. I liked him, we almost always got on very well.

“When you saw him, you always saw the Havana cigar – they were always together! He was passionate for the team and for Peugeot. I don’t know if you see this kind of team principal anymore. For me, I remember Corrado as the big person.”

Robert Reid joined Provera’s Peugeot team in 2002 as a world champion alongside Richard Burns.

Richard Burns Story 1971-2005

“Corrado was the one who did the deal with Richard,” said Reid, now FIA deputy president. “I think they had some common ground – I think he liked that Richard had started his career at Peugeot. They got on. Mostly.

“Corrado made us really welcome in the team. It was quite a different place from where we’d been at Subaru. Corrado was really Peugeot through and through, he’d worked in marketing and PR and really worked his way up through the company. To have somebody like him at director level in Peugeot, with marketing experience, running a WRC campaign was really valuable.

“Without him, it’s possible the 206 program would not have even started. He was unbelievably passionate about the brand and, as he reminded us often, he wore the lion on his chest with some pride. That brought real strength to the team.

“He was a very good guy and I remember thr time with him and Jean-Pierre [Nicolas] fondly. It was never too hard to know where Corrado was – you just looked up for the cloud of cigar smoke. But he was usually always sitting at his table, with the radio and timing screen in front of him.”