- June 12, 1963
- August 10, 2012
- Not Active
Philippe Bugalski, nicknamed Le Petit Bug, was a French rally driver who was active in the World Rally Championship between 1984 and 2003. He was working as a factory driver for Renault and Citroen.
Bugalski won two WRC events in a career, being the first driver to score WRC victory for Citroën, in 1999. He was a mentor to Sebastien Loeb, who eventually became the most successful rally driver in a history.
WRC debut with VW Golf at 1984 Monte Carlo Rally
Philippe Bugalski, who was born on June 12, 1963, started his racing career in 1982, driving Volkswagen Golf in national events. He entered international rallying in 1984, participating in the oldest and most famous world's rally – Rallye Monte-Carlo. He competed with #192 Volkswagen Golf GTI, sharing the car with Dominique Perruchon, but they didn't reach the finish.
Switch to Renault cars in 1985
Bugalski's next car was Renault 5 Turbo and he competed with it in many French events and in two races (YU Rally and Rallye du Var) of the 1985 European Rally Championship. His navigator was Beatrice de Manca. In 1986, at Rallye du Mont Blanc, Bugalski even tried Mercedes-Benz 190E 2.3 16V, but for the next two seasons his car was Renault 5 GT Turbo.
First international victory in 1990 in Turkey
In 1988, Philippe switched to Renault 21 Turbo and participated in one WRC event, alongside navigator Jean-Marc Andrie. It was Tour de Corse – Rallye de France. He retired after an accident on the road section.
In 1989, Bugalski paired with Denis Giraudet and they stayed together until 1992. In that period, Philippe scored his first ERC victory in Turkey, at 1990 Günaydin Rally with Renault 11 Turbo, and earned his first WRC points with 8th place finish at 1991 Tour de Corse.
1992 WRC season with Lancia
In 1992, Bugalski and Giraudet was a part of Lancia's WRC program. They competed at Rallye Monte-Carlo in the Jolly Club Lancia Delta HF Integrale and finished 5th overall. It was Bugalski's best WRC result to date, but soon he caught his first podium. It was at Tour de Corse in May 1992, Bugalski finished third, driving the #7 Martini Racing's Lancia Delta HF Integrale. His third event with Lancia was Finland's 1000 Lakes Rally, where he finished 9th.
Bugalski joined Renault's factory team in 1993
In 1993, Philippe didn't enter any WRC event, he competed only in the ERC and national rallies, driving Lancia Delta HF Integrale, Renault 19 16S or Renault Clio Williams. His new co-driver was Thierry Renaud. In 1994, Bugalski continued to drive Renault Clio Williams for Renault's factory team, under the banner of sponsor Societe Diac. He participated in one WRC event, the Tour de Corse, retiring due to gearbox problems. For the rest of the season , he was a regular competitor in ERC and national events.
Horrific loss of navigator Thierry Renaud
In 1995, Bugalski's WRC program with factory-entered Renault Cio Maxi was expanded to two events – Rallye Monte-Carlo and Tour de Corse. In Monaco, he retired after an accident on the road section, at Corsica he finished 9th overall and first in 2-litre class. The year was marked by horrible accident at Rallye Grasse-Alpin in April, with the death of co-driver Thierry Renaud as a tragic consequence.
Jean-Paul Chiaroni joined Philippe in 1995
After Renaud's death, the new copilot was Jean-Paul Chiaroni. He stayed with Bugalski until the end of his career. In 1996, the duo concentrated on European Rally Championship, winning two races with Renault Megane Maxi. In the French Rally Championship, Bugalski scored three wins and finished second in the standings. In 1997, Bugalski and Chiaroni had a similar program, competing mostly in France, in only one event outside France, at Rali Vinho de Madeira.
Philippe joined Citroën in 1998
The season 1998 was the milestone year in Bugalski's career, as he joined Citroën's factory team to drive Xsara Kit Car. Bugalski participated in three WRC events (Catalunya, Corsica and Sanremo), finishing only in Spain. He was fifth overall and the best among drivers of 2WD cars.
In 1998, Bugalski has won first of three consecutive French Rally Championship titles, taking six victories.In 1999, he was even more dominant, winning nine of ten events in the French championship.
First world rally victory for Citroën
The greatest moment of his career happened in April at Rallye Catalunya. Bugalski scored his first ever WRC victory, in a two-wheel-drive Citroen Xsara Kit Car against mighty 4WD machines, ahead of Didier Auriol (Toyota Corolla WRC) and Tommi Makinen (Mitsubishi Lancer Evo VI). The next win came in the next event, three weeks later at Corsica. It was a fantastic day for Citroen, as Philippe's teammate Jesus Puras took the second place.
Except Catalunya and Corsica, Bugalski participated in Rallye Monte-Carlo and Rallye Sanremo, retiring in both races, to finish 7th in the 1999 WRC final standings. At Rallye Sanremo, Bugalski had a good pace until the second day, when his 2WD car couldn't chase 4WD cars on wet roads. On Day 3, the roads were dry again and he was flying, maybe even too much, as he crashed in a spectacular way.
Third consecutive French title
In 2000, Bugalski won the third consecutive French title with Citroën Xsara T4 and competed in three World Rally Championship events with Citroën Saxo Kit Car. Xsara T4 was a transitional model in the Citroen's preparational season for the World Rally Championship entrance in 2001, with new Xsara WRC car.
First win with Xsara WRC in Germany
Bugalski drove the new car for the first time at 2001 Rallye Catalunya, finishing 8th overall. After he was sixth on the gravel roads of Acropolis Rally, Bugalski scored the first victory with Xsara WRC at ADAC Rallye Deutschland, which was the European Rally Championship event.
Three more seasons with new Xsara WRC
Sebastien Loeb debuted in 2001 with Xsara WRC at Rallye Sanremo, mentoring by Bugalski, sensationally taking second place. Loeb became the main Citroen's driver in 2002, while Bugalski participated in five asphalt rallies. In March 2002, at Rallye Catalunya, Bugalski finished third, taking his final WRC podium.
In 2003, Bugalski drove Citroën Xsara WRC at four asphalt rallies, finishing best in the eighth place at Rallye Sanremo. His last WRC race was 2003 Rallye Catalunya, he and Chiaroni came to the finish in the tenth place.
Test driver for Citroen and manager of Automeca
At the age of 40, Bugalski closed his racing career. In the following years, he appeared mostly in the historic rally events or driving the course cars in some national events. He continued to work for Citroën Racing as a test driver but also was running the Automeca. His non-sporting love were horses.
He passed away on August 10, 2012, after a bizarre accident, when he fell out of the tree near his home in Vichy, France.