Rallye Monte Carlo 2020 Review.

The shakedown on Wednesday was interesting from the aspect of drivers acclimatizing to their new cars. The top three best times were sent by Seb, Thierry and Elfyn. Of the new drivers, Kalle and Gus, well the young Finn clearly showed why he is in that Toyota for the whole season.

With two stages on Thursday event, first up was SS1 Malijai – Puimichel – 17.47 km. Well, Seb was really on it, winning the stage from Ott Tanak, and Elfyn third, with less than 2 seconds covering the top three.

Into SS2 Bayons – Bréziers – 25.49 km, and well Seb was demoted to second place after Thierry set a blistering time to move from fourth place into the lead. The Belgian was a massive 25.5 seconds faster than Seb.

Friday

With six stages covering a total of 122.58km’s, it would be a very interesting day. The running order looked like this- 1. Suninen 2. Tänak 3. Neuville 4. Ogier 5. Evans 6. Lappi 7. Loeb 8. Rovanperä 9. Greensmith 10. Katsuta 11. Jocius

Elfyn won the SS3 Curbans – Venterol 1 – 20.02 km from Seb Loeb, with Ott Tanak going well now. The result of Elfyn’s great time was that he jumped from fourth into second place, just 5.4 seconds from the leader, Thierry.

The young Welshman continued his great form in SS4 St-Clément-sur-Durance – Freissinières 1 – 20.68 km, winning the stage from Seb Ogier and with Thierry third fastest and almost nine seconds slower, we had a new rally leader. However, there was a huge shock, with Ott Tanak having a massive crash. He’d slid wide on a flat out left hand kink, with the car skating along on the edge of the road before colliding with some trees at the side of the road and then the car flipped over end to end, before falling down the side of the hill, coming to rest on the road further down. The main structure of the car was intact incredibly. Ott and Martin were taken to hospital for checks.

The final stage of the morning loop, SS5 Avançon – Notre-Dame-du-Laus 1 – 20.59 km was won by Elfyn, going 4.2 seconds faster than Seb Ogier, and he increased his lead over Thierry who was now 8.9 seconds behind the Welsh ace. Further back Kalle was showing his quality and setting a great time in compared to Esapekka Lappi, just seven tenths between the two Finns at the end of the stage.

After the service break the battle between the three continued, with Seb Ogier winning SS6 Curbans – Venterol 2 – 20.02 km and he jumped ahead of Thierry into second place, and was now just 3.3 seconds behind Elfyn who was holding the lead.

Seb Ogier won SS7 St-Clément-sur-Durance – Freissinières 2 – 20.68 km from Elfyn who was only six tenths of a second behind, whilst Thierry lost a few seconds and was now ten seconds from rally leader Elfyn.

Thierry fought back though on SS8 Avançon – Notre-Dame-du-Laus 2 – 20.59 km, winning the stage from Seb, who was just one second behind, and then Elfyn who lost the lead to the charging Frenchman, but the gap between them was just a little over a second.

Day one standings

1 S. Ogier J. Ingrassia Toyota Yaris WRC 1:43:31.5
2 E. Evans S. Martin Toyota Yaris WRC +1.2
3 T. Neuville N. Gilsoul Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC +6.4
4 S. Loeb D. Elena Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC +1:06.9
5 E. Lappi J. Ferm Ford Fiesta WRC +1:57.2
6 K. Rovanperä J. Halttunen Toyota Yaris WRC +2:19.2
7 T. Katsuta D. Barritt Toyota Yaris WRC +5:18.7

 

Let’s hear from the drivers.

Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT

Sébastien Ogier (1st)

“Overall, I am happy with the day. This morning I didn’t feel perfectly comfortable in the car and I was a little bit cautious, so I was not in the best rhythm. But for this afternoon we made some little adjustments to the setup and I felt more confident, and I could set some good times. We feared that the tyre choice was not optimal, but in the end, it was not that bad, as it was much drier than expected in the second stage of the loop. The gaps are still very small but it is nice to be in this position.”

Elfyn Evans (2nd)

“It was a really good morning for sure. The conditions were not so easy and the grip was quite changeable, but the Yaris gave me good confidence, so I was able to relax and enjoy driving the car. The afternoon was not quite so good – the conditions in the last stage were deteriorating with every car that passed and we were probably a bit too brave on the tyre choice. But overall, it’s been a good day and hopefully it will be more of the same tomorrow.”

Kalle Rovanperä (6th)

“I’m happy with today as we’ve improved a lot from this morning, which was quite difficult for me. Again, the conditions were new, going with slick tyres on some icy sections, so it was quite a careful morning. But it was getting better with each stage and the middle stage of the loop was good on both occasions. I’ve still got a lot to learn but I’m getting more comfortable in the car all the time. Tomorrow will be a new challenge, with a different style of stages I think, and we need to see what the conditions will be like.”

Hyundai Motorsport

Thierry Neuville (3rd)

“It has been a bit of a frustrating day for us. We had a difficult morning, fighting to pick up the pace and to have a good clean run. We faced some challenging conditions, and I couldn’t find the right feeling to push hard. It got better towards the end of the day and we were improving constantly with Dani Sordo as my road note crew. In the end it worked quite well, and I was confident. Step by step we found our way forward and we also worked on the set-up of the car to make it feel more comfortable. We need to continue in this way. I am happy Ott and Martin are okay; it was a huge crash at high speed but most importantly they are doing well.”

2020 FIA World Rally Championship
Rallye Monte-Carlo 2020
22-26 January 2020
Thierry Neuville, Nicolas Gilsoul, Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC
Photographer: Helena El Mokni
Worldwide copyright: Hyundai Motorsport GmbH

Seb Loeb (4th)

“I had a good day today. For sure, I think we had some more mud on the road, but also the drivers out front are very fast. I couldn’t match their speed. The gap to them is quite large so there’s no point to take risks. The running order will be different tomorrow; it may not make much difference, but we will see what the second half of the rally brings.”

Ott Tanak (Retired)

“First of all, Martin and I feel fine. We are recovering well and will be fit soon. In the early stages with the car we’ve been improving step by step. Last night, I really couldn’t understand everything that was happening. Overnight we managed to work quite a lot with the engineers and this morning the car already felt better. Still, of course, it would have been nice to continue for a bit longer to improve the feeling and to adapt again, but it is how it is. Yes, we had some moments already before the accident. Basically, in the first stage this morning, we were caught out by black ice where we had a spin. I must say it was proper Monte-Carlo; we really had some tricky conditions and it’s been challenging. I’m sure everyone had some moments and it’s normal in these kinds of conditions.”

M-Sport Ford WRT

Esapekka Lappi (5th)

“It has been quite a tough day for us. We’re learning a lot of new things, but still we were expecting to be a bit closer. We wanted to close the gap, but we’ve been consistently losing the same amount to the top guys stage after stage. We’ll work with the team to understand where we’re losing and how to find a solution, and hopefully we can be better tomorrow.”

Teemu Suninen (16th)

“After what happened yesterday, today was just about driving through the stages and getting the experience. It was tricky with the conditions this morning as they had changed quite a lot from when the route note crews went through, but it was better this afternoon and we were able to make some different choices with the tyres which should give us good knowledge for the future.”

 

Saturday

The running order looked like this- 1. Greensmith 2. Suninen 3. Katsuta 4. Rovanperä 5. Lappi 6. Loeb 7. Neuville 8. Evans 9. Ogier

The first stage of the day, SS9 St-Léger-les-Mélèzes – La Bâtie-Neuve 1 – 16.87 km, was won by Thierry, whilst Seb Ogier was second fastest and Elfyn in third and less than six seconds covered the top three.

Elfyn hit back, setting the fastest time in SS10 La Bréole – Selonnet 1 – 20.73 km, 7.6 seconds faster than Seb Ogier and Thierry was a further 13.8 away from our new rally leader. Top M-Sport Ford was Esapekka Lappi was in fifth position.

After lunch service, SS11 St-Léger-les-Mélèzes – La Bâtie-Neuve 2 – 16.87 km, Thierry hit the front again, winning the stage from Seb Ogier, who moved into a joint lead with Elfyn who was third quickest. The gap that the two leaders had fallen to eleven seconds.

The final stage of the day, SS12 La Bréole – Selonnet 2 – 20.73 km was won by Thierry as well, but the big surprise was that Seb was third fastest and dropped to second overall, with Elfyn regaining the lead. The three of them had been battling all day and just 6.4 seconds separated them. Further back, young Finn Esapekka had been catching Seb Loeb, and the gap was now just 14.1 seconds between them. The even younger Finn Kalle Rovanperä had driven to a very good sixth overall. His debut event was going very well.

 

Standings at the end of Saturday.

1 E. Evans S. Martin Toyota Yaris WRC 2:28:35.1
2 S. Ogier J. Ingrassia Toyota Yaris WRC +4.9
3 T. Neuville N. Gilsoul Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC +6.4
4 S. Loeb D. Elena Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC +2:24.3
5 E. Lappi J. Ferm Ford Fiesta WRC +2:38.4
6 K. Rovanperä J. Halttunen Toyota Yaris WRC +3:27.3
7 T. Katsuta D. Barritt Toyota Yaris WRC 10:31.1

 

Let’s hear from the drivers.

Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT

Elfyn Evans (1st)

“Overall it’s been a solid day and it feels good to be leading. I’m pretty happy with the weekend up to this point: the car has been giving me great confidence and the team has been working very well together. It was a very difficult afternoon loop, as we opted for the slick tyres like our rivals but there were still some icy sections out there. I was a bit too careful in the first stage of the loop, and then a bit too optimistic at the end of the last one on the final icy corner and we went off, but luckily, we didn’t hit anything. There’s a big fight on for tomorrow and we need to keep focused and not think about it too much.”

2020 FIA World Rally Championship / Round 01 / Rallye Monte Carlo / Jan 23-26, 2020 // Worldwide Copyright: Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT

Sébastien Ogier (2nd)

“It’s been a consistent day. The only regret we can have is being too cautious in the last stage on the tricky section on the ice. But I always prefer to be too cautious than in the ditch. This is always my strategy on this event and obviously it has paid off quite a few times. Taking risks can work, but not always. At the end of the day I’m not unhappy with today: It’s still very close and all is possible tomorrow. It’s a nice fight and now the plan is to be strong tomorrow and there is still a good chance to win this rally. We’ve had to push hard on these same stages in the last few years already, which is good experience to have.”

Kalle Rovanperä (6th)

“I’m not quite so happy with today, but it’s still OK: We’re doing exactly what we should do and driving without any mistakes. It was quite tricky conditions through the whole day, and we took it quite safe because we’re not fighting for any positions. I’m still learning how to use the car in the best way in all the different conditions. When you know these things, you can be faster. We have been going without taking any risks, so the times are quite OK when the road is clean.”

Hyundai Motorsport

Thierry Neuville (3rd)

“I am happy with what we have achieved today, and with the job of the whole team. We made a big improvement compared to yesterday and I am feeling more confident. Three stage wins out of a possible four and we’re in the fight for victory, that’s the positive we can take away from today. I am pleased with the performance we have delivered. Thanks to the corrections we got from the stages, we were able to push much harder without increasing the risks to go off. That was important and I was confident to give it everything. The plan for tomorrow is to go for the win but trying to be safe at the same time.”

Seb Loeb (4th)

“It has not been a good day for me; I have been struggling to get in the right rhythm. In these conditions, when you are not feeling at 100%, you lose time. The conditions have been difficult to read, with grip levels continuously changing. I made a small mistake in the final stage of the day, when I lost the car and spun on the final icy corner. But overall, we have just tried to stay secure. The three guys in front are flying so now my target to defend fourth place and hope for a better day tomorrow.”

M-Sport Ford WRT

Esapekka Lappi (5th)

“Everything felt much better this afternoon. We made some changes to the car which delivered a lot more grip, and also the information from the route note crews was much more precise. That brought a lot more confidence, and we were able to set some much better times and get a lot closer to Loeb ahead. But still 14 seconds is a lot to find when you’re talking about the nine-time World Champion! I think he knows tomorrow’s stages better than anyone so I’ll just focus on myself and hopefully we can show another improvement.”

Teemu Suninen (11th)

“Our pace was pretty good on the sections that were dry, wet or muddy, and I set some top-three times through those splits. But I lost a lot of time on the icy sections – especially when on the slicks. Maybe it was because I know I have to bring the car home to the finish, but still we could have gone faster. Experience always helps though, and I think we made some good tyre choices throughout the day so I was pleased with that.”

Gus Greensmith (66th)

“Considering how much work went into the pre-season it’s fair to say that my confidence was pretty shattered yesterday. I think it was the lowest point in my career, so today was all about rebuilding that. I was in no mood to make any mistakes through the first stage, but then I got back into things and managed to set the fifth fastest time in the next one. Then after that, I became a bit of a slush plough for the guys behind – but you’ve just got to pick yourself, keep working hard, and one day it’ll all come good.”

Sunday.

Just 63km’s left and four stages remained then and the startlist looked like this – 1. Suninen 2. Katsuta 3. Rovanperä 4. Lappi 5. Loeb 6. Neuville 7. Ogier 8. Evans.

The day started well for Thierry, who won SS13 La Bollène-Vésubie – Peïra-Cava 1 – 18.41 km and with Elfyn second fastest, but five seconds slower meaning that his lead over the Belgian who was now up into second place at the expense of Ogier. Esapekka Lappi was also going well and catching Loeb, who was just thirteen seconds ahead now in fourth place and his teammate, Teemu had now climbed into tenth place as well.

Thierry was really after this win, taking SS14 La Cabanette – Col de Braus 1 – 13.36 km as well, and took the lead. There was a change in fourth overall, as Loeb dropped a massive 42 seconds after sliding off the road and now Esapekka was up to fourth place. Thierry said that it wasn’t a good stage for him, but the clock said otherwise. He was on the limit of what the car wanted to do. There were just eleven seconds between Thierry in the lead and Ogier who was holding third.

 

Well, SS15 La Bollène-Vésubie – Peïra-Cava 2 – 18.41 km fell to the quick Belgian as well, who was just 1.4 seconds faster than Ogier with Lappi going third fastest with a good time. Elfyn was left trying to work out where his pace had gone. He felt he’d had a good run, but was only fourth quickest.

 

Time then for the final stage, SS16 La Cabanette – Col de Braus 2 [Power Stage] – 13.36 km and it was four out of four, for Thierry who got the nod for the stage victory, even though Ogier had set exactly the same time. Teemu Suninen was third in the stage, getting some good extra points for the driver standings. Of course, with Elfyn just fourth quickest and 3.2 seconds from Ogier, the man that had led coming into today now fell to third place, just 1.7 seconds from second place. The biggest news though was Loeb, who had fallen behind Kalle Rovanperä, who had finished in fifth position on his debut.

 

The Belgian duo and Hyundai had taken their first Monte Carlo victory with a drive full of risk, and it had paid off. They’d also taken the powerstage, giving them a perfect start to their championship challenge and in total took nine stage victories. Seb Ogier had got second place on the final stage, but what a drive from the Welsh Wizard, Elfyn and Scott Martin to their first ever Monte Carlo podium. They’d taken four stage wins against Seb Ogier and Julien Ingrassia who took three.

Final Overall Classification – Rallye Monte-Carlo

1 T. Neuville N. Gilsoul Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC 3:10:57.6
2 S. Ogier J. Ingrassia Toyota Yaris WRC +12.6
3 E. Evans S. Martin Toyota Yaris WRC +14.3
4 E. Lappi J. Ferm Ford Fiesta WRC +3:09.0
5 K. Rovanperä J. Halttunen Toyota Yaris WRC +4:17.2
6 S. Loeb D. Elena Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC +5:04.7
7 T. Katsuta D. Barritt Toyota Yaris WRC +11:27.9
8 T. Suninen J. Lehtinen Ford Fiesta WRC +13:30.4
9 E. Camilli F.X. Buresi Citroën C3 R5 +13:42.2
10 M. Østberg T. Eriksen Citroën C3 R5 +14:21.8

 

Let’s hear from the drivers!

 

Hyundai Motorsport

Thierry Neuville (1st)

“This is an amazing way to start the season and a fantastic feeling. I am really pleased that we have finally taken victory in Monte-Carlo; it’s been something we’ve chased for a while. We’ve come close before but now we’ve done it. It has not been an easy weekend, but I have picked up confidence as the event progressed, working very closely with the team and my gravel crew, who have done a great job. We’ve really been able to increase our feeling and comfort in the car the past few days. I could really push, and we’ve seen the results from the stage times. We were also able to take maximum points in the Power Stage. Our 13th WRC win – such a lucky number! My thanks to the whole team, it’s the perfect way to start a new season.”

Seb Loeb (6th)

“This has certainly not been the rally we were hoping for; it has been a difficult one all weekend and it seems the planets were not aligned for us. We were going OK until the second day but then yesterday we were backed up. Today was all about our tyre choice, which was not the right one for the conditions. We were already struggling at the end of the first stage, and I made a mistake at a tight hairpin in the second stage because I had no front grip. We just had to complete the rally, conserving our tyres to make it to the end. It’s not nice to tackle stages in that way but it was all we could do. We never give up. Huge congratulations to Thierry, Nicolas and the entire Hyundai Motorsport team for the victory. It takes something to win Rallye Monte-Carlo, so just enjoy these moments.”

Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT

Sébastien Ogier (2nd)

“I feel good honestly, it’s a positive result. Of course, I had hoped to deliver even more and bring the team a win straight away. But it’s always such a huge challenge to adapt to a new environment, especially on such a challenging rally, so I think we can be happy. I tried to stay in my comfort zone the whole weekend, not overdo it. We missed it by just a little bit, but 22 points is very good for the championship. There were some good moments during the weekend where we felt good in the car, some where I didn’t have enough confidence to really push the limits, but I really feel this car’s potential. I really enjoyed to drive it and I’m sure with a little bit more time, we’ll make great things together.”

Elfyn Evans (3rd)

“Obviously I feel a little bit disappointed today because I think we had the potential to win the rally. It’s difficult now because when you lead the rally, your expectations are raised and the win becomes the target of course. But it’s generally been a positive weekend. Unfortunately, I didn’t quite the feeling that I needed today. I was pushing hard but the speed wasn’t coming so naturally. I wasn’t nailing every corner and that ultimately cost us the handful of seconds we missed out by. We still have a little bit of learning to do, but overall it’s not a bad start and we can build on it.”

Kalle Rovanperä (5th)

“It has been a nice weekend. It was really tricky learning a new car in these conditions – and I think the conditions were really tricky this year, as they were changing a lot. It was getting better all the time and when there were conditions, I was more familiar with, I could do a bit better. There were so many things I learned during the weekend. It really helps to have a clean rally at the start of the season and also some good points.”

Takamoto Katsuta (7th)

“I’m so happy to have reached the end of the rally with lots of experience. I can see that I made a lot of progress from the start to the end of the weekend. I learned a lot about how to drive in different conditions and with different tyre options. I’m also getting more understanding about the car. On Saturday morning the conditions were very difficult and I made a mistake, but after that I could reset my mind and I had a pretty good feeling. My times at the end were pretty fine compared to other drivers who’ve done the same stages many times. Thank you to my co-driver Dan, my gravel crew Juho and Craig and the whole team – they did a brilliant job.”

 

M-Sport Ford WRT

Esapekka Lappi (4th)

“This is my best result from Monte and I think the best we could have done this weekend, so I am really happy with that. I managed to concentrate only on myself and what we were doing, and that seemed to work pretty well. It was a very challenging event and not always so easy, but we improved stage by stage and learnt a lot over the course of the weekend – so I’d say it’s been a positive start to the season.”

Esapekka Lappi made a great debut in his M-Sport Fiesta WRC. Photo credit, M-Sport.

Teemu Suninen (8th)

“When the conditions were dry or wet, I was really pleased with my pace on those sections, and we showed that again on the Power Stage today – setting the third fastest time and two fastest splits. But on the icy sections we were losing a lot and I have some work to do to be more consistent there. It’s good that I can set strong times on an event like this, but I need more experience to do it all the time.”

Summary

Well, what an incredible opener we were treated to. Spellbinding driving from the top three. Some would have been surprised by the performance of Elfyn and Scott, who took the fight to two crews that have either won this rally, or have actually won it. They are also crews that have fought for the world championship for the last few years. Who knows if this is the start of a special year for them both?

For Thierry and Nicolas, who have come close to winning this rally for the last few years, they took a great victory. It was an impressive drive from them. What we don’t know is how Ott and Martin would have done should they have not crashed.

2020 FIA World Rally Championship
Round 01, Rallye Monte-Carlo
23-26 Janvier 2020
Thierry Neuville
Photographer: Austral
Worldwide copyright: Hyundai Motorsport GmbH

The M-Sport team managed to get a good result after their troubles early on. Esapekka led their charge up the leader board, in the way you’d expect from the Finn, and was in a good position to benefit from the problems for Seb Loeb.

It was a very good debut from Kalle Rovanperä. He consistently set times which put him inside the top seven, including setting the fourth fastest time on stage seven. He and Jonne did what was expected of them and got to the finish.

Next time the championship will be heading to Rally Sweden.

Rallye Monte Carlo 2020 Preview

The 2020 season begins as ever in the ever iconic event that is Rallye Monte Carlo. Ott Tanak begins his title defence having made the switch from Toyota to Hyundai over the winter. He will, I am sure you know, will not however be running with the number one on his car, deciding instead to stick with number eight.

Rallye Monte Carlo has a reputation of being a super tricky event, and this year’s 88th edition is unlikely to be any different. Here are the stages that await the crews:

Thursday, January 23 2020

5 pm Official Start

Quai Albert 1er in Monaco

8:38 pm SS 1 – Malijai / Puimichel

17,47 km

10:26 pm SS 2 – Bayons / Bréziers

25,49 km

Friday, January 24 2020

8:36 am SS 3 – Curbans / Venterol

20,02 km

9:56 am SS 4 – Saint-Clément-sur-Durance / Freissinières

20,68 km

11:21 am SS 5 – Avançon / Notre-Dame-du-Laus

20,59 km

1:54 pm SS 6 – Curbans / Venterol

20,02 km

3:14 pm SS 7 – Saint-Clément-sur-Durance / Freissinières

20,68 km

4:39 pm SS 8 – Avançon / Notre-Dame-du-Laus

20,59 km

Saturday, January 25 2020

9:38 am SS 9 – Saint-Léger-les-Mélèzes / La Bâtie-Neuve

16,87 km

10:56 am SS 10 – La Bréole / Selonnet

20,73 km

2:08 pm SS 11 – Saint-Léger-les-Mélèzes / La Bâtie-Neuve

16,87 km

3:26 pm SS 12 – La Bréole / Selonnet

20,73 km

Stop at the Gap-Fontreyne Service Park

Sunday, January 26 2020

8:17 am SS 13 – La Bollène-Vésubie / Peïra-Cava

18,41 km

9:08 am SS 14 – La Cabanette / Col de Braus

13,36 km

10:55 am SS 15 – La Bollène-Vésubie / Peïra-Cava

18,41 km

12:18 pm SS 16 – La Cabanette / Col de Braus

13,36 km

 

Shakedown will take place on Wednesday afternoon from 4pm. There will be keen interest in the drivers that have switched teams over the winter to see what kind of times they set on the Route de la Garde 3.35 km stage. We’ll have to wait and see how many runs the crews decide to do, as they attempt to get a feel for their new cars in a competitive environment.

Look back to last year:

Last year Seb and Julien took a win with their return to Citroen, which was their sixth victory in this event. Ott Tanak took third. He was the early leader, but suffered a puncture early on day one, dropping him out of the fight for the lead. Between them, in second, was Thierry Neuville.

There are two drivers who are making their debut in full blooded WRC machinery this weekend. Kalle Rovanperä and Gus Greensmith will step into their respective cars from Toyota and Ford. Yes, I know that Gus drove in three events last year, but he and Edmund haven’t driven one of these cars in Monte before. Last year he drove to a very good win in the WRC Pro class.

Let’s hear from the drivers:

Hyundai Motorsport

Photo credit, Hyundai Motorsport

Ott Tanak

“The start of a new year begins with probably the most demanding event of the season. To make it even more challenging, we have a new team and a new car to learn while tackling the tricky conditions. It will never be an easy job, but it is important to get a good start and to score some points. With the event held at the end of January, the conditions are normally inconsistent, and a lot depends on the altitude. In the lower conditions you can have dry tarmac, then the higher you go it starts to freeze. With the extreme conditions, its normal to find some unpredictability in this rally.”

Thierry Neuville

“Rally Monte-Carlo kicks off the season and we are straight into the dark stages. It’s a very tough event, and tyre choice is crucial. It’s a difficult event in which to compete; there’s a lot of hesitation and you need good pace notes, as well as accurate information from your weather crew. With different altitudes in the stages, high concentration is key. Conditions are constantly changing and the most dangerous thing for us is black ice. We have been competing in Gap for a few years now and we know which sections are in the shade all day and will be slippery, but there will always be some surprises waiting for us in Monte.”

Seb Loeb

“You never know what to expect at Rallye Monte-Carlo. It could be fully dry, wet or feature a lot of snow, which changes the driving conditions. It can even change between the stages and the road sections, which means tyre choice is even more important. You need to find the right rhythm to be fast without taking major risks. This rally you need to approach with your head; it’s not just flat out, it’s a question of reflection. My previous experience feels like a long time ago, so the rallies feel newer to me than other drivers. We only had one day in the car before Monte-Carlo last year, so hopefully with our current knowledge of the car we will be able to get an even better result than last year.”

 

Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT

Photo credit, Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT

Sébastien Ogier

“I’m excited to start my first rally in the Toyota Yaris WRC. Every car has different characteristics and it takes some kilometres to learn about them, but so far it has been good in the tests. We want to fight for a seventh title this year, and I believe we can have a good chance with this car. Rallye Monte-Carlo is an event with special emotions for me. I remember at the end of the 1990s, coming to spectate and Tommi was winning a lot – he was the first idol I had in rallying. Myself and Julien obviously have a very strong record too, and every year there is more and more pressure to try and continue that. It’s always a big challenge and one that I definitely enjoy.”

Elfyn Evans

“I’m looking forward to Rallye Monte-Carlo and my first event with Toyota. This is the first time in my WRC career that I’ve changed teams, but everybody’s been very welcoming and I’ve got a good feeling in the car, so I’m excited about the season ahead. My first time driving the Yaris WRC was in our test for the Monte in December, and quite quickly I was able to get a nice feeling and some good confidence. On this event the challenge is always the range of conditions you can possibly face. When you’re setting up the car, you need something that gives you confidence and I think we’ve got some good options with that in mind.”

Kalle Rovanperä

“Rallye Monte-Carlo will be a special event for me. It’s a big step up from an R5 car, with a lot more power and downforce, but so far, I’ve found the Yaris WRC to be quite easy to drive in the tests. Still, I have a lot to learn and I think it will take a few rallies to really adapt to the car and how everything works. I will need to think differently at the beginning of the season, and I hope that I will have the patience for this. I think Monte-Carlo is not the easiest place to start with a new car and a new team. The weather is changing all the time and you cannot always have the right tyre choice for the conditions. It will be a big challenge for us, but hopefully we can make it through.”

 

M-Sport WRT

2020 FIA World Rally Championship
Ford Fiesta WRC 2020 Livery
January 2020
Photo: Drew Gibson

Esapekka Lappi

“Monte-Carlo is always a tricky start to the season, but I’m looking forward to getting started. Straight away the Fiesta felt very logical and easy to drive, and that always gives a driver a lot of confidence. I hope I’ll be able to use that confidence next week, but Monte is always a challenge and you never know what to expect.

“We had wet roads on the test and the car felt good in those changing conditions. But in Monte you can have wet roads, dry roads, icy roads, full snow, and sometimes all of that in the same stage! You have to give this rally a lot of respect, but that’s what we plan to do and we want to get this new partnership off to a strong start next week.”

Teemu Suninen

“I’m really looking forward to this season and straight away I could see that Esapekka and I would work well together. We had a very similar set-up on the test, and it looks like we want to take the car in the same direction.

“I tested on dry asphalt and had a really good feeling, but for the more tricky  sections where there is a lot of ice and snow I will have to rely on my experience. This is my fourth time in Monte so I’m starting to know the stages a bit better. The rally is always a lottery, but I have a very experienced gravel crew who I trust 100 percent – so anything is possible!”

Gus Greensmith

“Monte is a special one for me. It’s where I claimed my first victory (winning WRC Pro 2 last year), and there’s no other rally than gives me more satisfaction behind the wheel. Knowing that I will drive these amazing stages with the Ford Fiesta WRC this year is beyond my wildest dreams!

“Everyone wants to win here, and the changing conditions make it one of the biggest challenges on the calendar. The smallest mistakes pay a heavy price, but I do think this is a strong event for me. I’ve always relished tricky conditions, but experience is something you need here too. I’ll have to make up for that, and hope to produce a strong performance to kick off this 2020 season.”

Summary

Here we go then! Who will win the first round of this new season? Will we see another win going to Seb Ogier, or perhaps we’ll see a new winner this year? Thierry challenged in 2017, and was close last year, or perhaps we’ll see Ott Tanak take a first victory?

 

Podium challengers could be Elfyn Evans, Teemu Suninen and Seb Loeb. Finally, how will Kalle Rovanperä get on? The son of Harri Rovanperä has made his own name on his way up the ladder. There will be mistakes, that is expected. Still, expect to see him win some stages as well.

Enjoy!

Rallye Monte-Carlo Preview 2019

Here we go again! Time to get the WRC season underway! The teams have been testing and they are ready to go! It’s the 87th running of this classic event, and it promises to be just as incredible as ever!

 

Now here’s the full stage info! Based in Gap as usual, shakedown will be very interesting, particularly if its snowing, or icy which is certainly possible.  Some proper stages get the event underway on Thursday evening, with over 40km’s of competitive kilometres over the two evening stages. These are very interesting, as they’ve never been used before, making local knowledge very important! Perhaps Seb Ogier will use these to his advantage?

 

Friday sees the longest day of all with 125km’s of action, and although there are just four stages on Saturday, these add up to 93.38km’s. Whilst Sunday will see the Col du Turini form part of the morning stages.

 

THURSDAY 24 JANUARY

10.00am: Shakedown (Gap)

6.50pm: Start day 1 (Gap – Place Desmichels)

7.38pm: SS 1 – La Breole – Selonnet (20,76 km)

8.41pm: SS 2 – Avançon – Notre Dame du Laus (20,59 km)

9.41pm: Flexi service A (Gap – 48 mins)

 

FRIDAY 25 JANUARY

7.30am: Start day 2 and service B (Gap – 18 mins)

9.11am: SS 3 – Valdrome – Sigottier 1 (20,04 km)

10.14am: SS 4 – Roussieux – Laborel 1 (24,05 km)

11.37am: SS 5 – Curbans – Piegut 1 (18,47 km)

12.27pm: Service C (Gap – 33 mins)

2.23pm: SS 6 – Valdrome – Sigottier 2 (20,04 km)

3.26pm: SS 7 – Roussieux – Laborel 2 (24,05 km)

4.49pm: SS 8 – Curbans – Piegut 2 (18,47 km)

5.44pm: Flexi service D (Gap – 48 mins)

 

SATURDAY 26 JANUARY

7.37am: Start day 3 and service E (Gap – 18 mins)

8.48am: SS 9 – Agnières en Devoluy – Corps 1 (29,82 km)

10.06am: SS 10 – St Léger les Mélèzes – La Batie Neuve 1 (16,87 km)

11.21am: Service F (Gap – 33 mins)

12.47pm: SS 11 – Agnières en Devoluy – Corps 2 (29,82 km)

2.08pm: SS 12 – St Léger les Mélèzes – La Batie Neuve 2 (16,87 km)

3.18pm: Service G (Gap – 48 mins)

8.06pm: Parc ferme (Monaco)

 

SUNDAY 27 JANUARY

6.22am: Start day 4

8.20am: SS 13 – La Bollène Vésubie – Peira Cava 1 (18,41 km)

9.08am: SS 14 – La Cabanette – Col de Braus 1 (13,58 km)

10.55am: SS 15 – La Bollène Vésubie – Peira Cava 2 (18,41 km)

12.18pm: SS 16 – La Cabanette – Col de Braus 2 – Power Stage (13,58 km)

1.58pm: Parc ferme (Monaco – Quai Albert 1er)

3.00pm: Prize giving (Monaco – Quai Albert 1er)

 

Driver views!

 

Citroen Total WRT

Sébastien Ogier

“I had a wide variety of conditions during my three and a half days of testing, which was pretty good and enabled us to work on achieving the best possible compromise. The feeling was good, but it’s always difficult to estimate your level of performance for the first race in a new car. I’m going to do what I’ve always done and trust my feeling. This is especially true because Monte is a rally that you are more likely to win by driving intelligently, rather than on the limit, given how many places there are where you can get caught out. In any case, I’ve always done well here and I hope that my experience will help me again!”

Sen Ogier, Esapekka Lappi, Julien Ingrassia, Janni Ferm. Photo credit, Warren Nel

Esapekka Lappi

“I’m pleased with our tests since we were able to try out everything, apart from completely dry tarmac. With the team, we found a set-up that suits me and I felt comfortable in the car. Having said all that, the Rallye Monte-Carlo is still a huge challenge. It’s an event you have to treat with great respect, especially as it’s never really the same rally from one year to the next, given the way the conditions are constantly changing. I hope to have amassed enough experience in the past to be able to fight near the front. A top-five finish would be a good start to the season for me.”

 

Hyundai Motorsport

Thierry Neuville

“We are revved up and determined to get the 2019 WRC season off to the best start possible. The tricky, demanding nature of Rallye Monte-Carlo is well documented. The combination of tarmac roads with unpredictable snow and ice conditions makes it a rally like no other. It is an event I enjoy. We’ve built up competitive pace in recent seasons, even if the results have not really been there. I expect – and hope – to fight for the podium, and I will even be looking to go for the victory if at all possible. There will be lots of strategies at play, especially with tyres, and we will need to be absolutely precise with our notes. We will give it our best shot and aim to get a good haul of points to start our 2019 championship campaign.”

Thierry Neuville and his teammates. Photo credit, Warren Nel

Andreas Mikkelsen

“Here we go again, starting a brand-new championship with two of my favourite events in a row – Monte-Carlo and Sweden. Anders and I have worked hard over the winter to learn from our first full season as a Hyundai Motorsport crew, as we aim to build a consistent and strong assault for 2019. Monte-Carlo is always a special rally, and a very difficult one to begin the year. I have often been quick in this event, having taken two podiums. We were also competitive in 2018, despite the final result, scoring a stage win and Power Stage points. Hopefully, we can get a positive start to the new season against another strong field of WRC entries.”

 

Sebastian Loeb

“Rallye Monte-Carlo is one of our favourites. Daniel, my co-driver, is Monegasque, so it’s his home rally for him, while it is also something of a home event for me as all of the stages are in France. Conditions can affect the road a lot at Monte, whether it’s full tarmac, snow or ice. The most complicated thing is to find the right rhythm and not to fall into any traps: there is every possibility of finding ice plates as the temperature drops overnight. You always have to adapt to the changing and unpredictable conditions. I have always been quite good in these circumstances. This year will be a particularly special one with a new team and a new car. We won’t have had a lot of testing time ahead of the rally, and there are lots of tough, new stages for me, but I am very motivated.”

 

Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT

Ott Tänak

“I am feeling much more relaxed heading to Rallye Monte-Carlo this year. Twelve months ago, everything was new for me, but now I am going into the season with the same car and the same people and I believe that we are a really strong team now. All of the knowledge and experience we gained last year will only make us better. Personally, I am hungrier than ever, after having come so close in the championship last year. We know that we just need to be smart, particularly on an event that is as unpredictable as this one. Second place was a great result on the Monte last year and it would be nice if we can go one better, but we are up against some really strong opposition.”

 

Jari-Matti Latvala

“Together with my co-driver Miikka, we are about to start our 13th full season in the WRC. There is still a lot of motivation to fight for rally wins, and maybe the drivers’ championship too: this is still the ultimate dream. The second half of last season was really good for us and if we can continue that trend then we should be right up there. We know the car is reliable and fast, so it is up to us drivers to get the most out of it. I have finished on the podium in Monte Carlo in both of the last two years with the Yaris WRC and it would be ideal to keep that run going, but the key is to have a clean weekend and minimise the mistakes.”

 

Kris Meeke

“I am really excited to get going with what is a new start for me, with a new team, a new car, and even a new co-driver. What the team was able to achieve last season, particularly in the second half of the year, gives me a lot of confidence in the car that I am going to have underneath me. Driving the car, myself, I have been impressed by what it is capable of. I am still learning though, so I am not setting any big targets for Rallye Monte-Carlo. My immediate priority is simply to enjoy driving again, and the Monte is certainly an event I have enjoyed in the past.”

Kris Meeke and Seb Marshall. Photo credit, Warren Nel

M-Sport

Elfyn Evans

“I’m looking forward to getting this season underway and seeing what myself and Scott can achieve together. We’re both really motivated and determined to secure some strong results this year – and I see no reason why we shouldn’t be doing that from the very first event in Monte.

“We know from last year that we have the speed and the team have been working really hard to improve the car even further. It felt good on the test and we managed to get a feel for a lot of different conditions – damp to wet Tarmac on the first day followed by full snow on the second.

“I’ve always enjoyed the challenge of an event like Monte, but I tend not to look at the forecasts too far in advance. The weather is constantly changing and you need to be able to adapt to the conditions and make the correct tyre choices at short notice – something we’re very much focused on doing next week.”

Elfyn Evans and Scott Martin. Photo credit, Warren Nel

Teemu Suninen

“I’m really excited to start this new season, and the expectations are greater than ever! We’ve completed a lot of test kilometres and I’m feeling really well prepared. Last week Elfyn and I shared a couple of days and we both managed to get a lot of kilometres. We also drove two days at the end of last year, so when you put it all together our preparation has never been better! “The car feels really nice and really easy to drive – something I think is important in Monte as it’s a rally where the driver makes the biggest difference. Starting the rally with two-night stages is always a big challenge and we will need to be alert. It would be nice to start the rally with a good stage time, and that is what we’ll be aiming for. “We’re using the same notes as last year and I have to say that my preparation with Marko has been really good – everything has been perfect before the start of the season and I hope it stays that way as I tackle this famous rally for the first time with a world rally car!”

 

Pontus Tidemand

“This is a really exciting time for me and I’m looking forward to making my debut in a new-generation world rally car. Last week we had a pre-event test with a lot of snow and ice and the feeling was really good. But in Monte you never know what the weather is going to do and we’ll still need some time to learn the team and the car. “The conditions make this one of the most challenging events on the calendar. On dry Tarmac the grip is quite high, but when there’s ice and snow the grip is zero and it looks as though we could experience a proper Monte with all kinds of conditions next week.  “Ola has a lot of experience so it’s great to have him alongside me, and I know the team will give us a lot of guidance and advice throughout the weekend. We spent some days in the workshop this week – getting to know the team and the car – and I think we’re as prepared as we can be. The goal is to get to the finish with as much knowledge and experience as possible.”

Also running the full season of WRC 2 Pro for M-Sport is Gus Greensmith. He contested the event in a Fiesta R2 last year, setting some good times and winning stages before a mechanical problem put him out. He is partnered by new co-driver Elliott Edmondson.

 

Gus Greensmith

“The conditions at Rallye Monte-Carlo are so unpredictable and you have to be very aware and focused to pull together a winning performance. It’s crazy. One second, it’s dry and the next it’s full snow! And the thrill of driving on snow with a Tarmac set-up is second to none!

Gus Greensmith. Photo credit, M-Sport

“A win in Monte is something that every driver wants to achieve, and we’ll be pushing towards that goal.  I’ve got a good feeling for the rally, and just need to bring it all together next week.”

Well, we are set then for an exciting season and I for one cannot wait!

Seb Ogier takes his fifth Rallye Monte Carlo win!

Day One, Thursday evening

 

First stage of the event and there was lots of drama in the Thoard – Sisteron 36km opener! There was no snow and ice in the first 12km and then broken ice for a couple of km’s.

 

Seb Ogier was first in, and spun in the stage! Ott stopped 11km into stage, but got going again and Thierry was another to stop, but got going again as well. Both had slid wide into snow banks. Another to spin was Jari-Matti and he managed to spin twice! Elfyn picked up a puncture at about 12km into the stage, so they had to change the tyre. The Citroen duo of Kris and Craig both spun as well, Kris losing a minute or so.

 

Esapekka completed the stage third fastest, with a good run though, whilst Andreas was the closest challenger to Ogier, just 7.7 seconds off the Fiesta WRC pilot!

Seb Ogier, Rallye Monte Carlo leader. Photo credit M-Sport Ford

Stage two, Bayons – Breziers 25,49km stage which includes a rise of 1184 metres above sea-level to the summit of Col de Sagnes! Ogier won the stage with a very good clean run through with Thierry going second fastest and Ott third. There were a few changes in the leaderboard with Dani moving ahead of Esapekka and into third. Kris and Thierry are a long way off the lead sadly, over two minutes away for the Citroen pilot and over four for the Belgian. That’s a big ask for them.

 

Classification after Day One

1              S. Ogier                 J. Ingrassia          Ford Fiesta WRC                            38:09.8

2              A. Mikkelsen      A. Jæger              Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC                 +17.3

3              D. Sordo               C. del Barrio        Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC                +25.6

4              E. Lappi                J. Ferm                   Toyota Yaris WRC                               +37.4

5              O. Tänak              M. Järveoja          Toyota Yaris WRC                                +42.4

6              J. M. Latvala        M. Anttila            Toyota Yaris WRC                                 55.4

7              C. Breen               S. Martin               Citroën C3 WRC                                +1:02.3

8              B. Bouffier          X. Panseri            Ford Fiesta WRC                                +1:51.0

9              K. Meeke            P. Nagle                  Citroën C3 WRC                                +2:12.7

10           E. Camilli              B. Veillas               Ford Fiesta R5                                     +2:42.2

17           T. Neuville           N. Gilsoul              Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC                +4:18.2

 

Day two, Friday

Well, what a day! Where to start my round up of Friday’s six stages? Seb in his Fiesta was our leader all day, but there were different stage winners and the person leading to fight to the Frenchman changed as well.

 

Andreas Mikkelsen was the man who was closest at the start of the day, but after dropping behind Dani in stage three, he then retired in stage four with alternator failure. There was more pain for Thierry as well, who suffered another puncture in stage three.

2018 FIA World Rally Championship
Round 01, Rallye Monte-Carlo
25-28 Janvier 2018
Andreas Mikkelsen, Anders Jaeger, Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC
Photographer: Austral
Worldwide copyright: Hyundai Motorsport GmbH

The lead grew in stage four, but Ott Tanak was feeling at home in his new car, moving up the leaderboard and closing the gap to second placed Dani. Meantime, Craig was having a nightmare in his Citroen, with a stone breaking part of the caliper and meaning he’d suffer from brake failure and he was not enjoying that one bit. The good news though was that after stage five, the cars headed for service and the problem was fixed.

 

The afternoon loop began with the 26km and Ott took the fight to Seb, winning the stage and taking six and a half seconds out of erstwhile leader Seb’s lead. Craig was feeling a lot more comfortable now he had working brakes!

 

Elfyn Evans took the long stage seven when the heavens opened, but Seb lost 14 seconds to Ott and the lead was down to 19 seconds after a spin put the Fiesta into a ditch! Craig was increasingly comfortable, setting the fourth fastest time in the stage, whilst Dani, Esapekka and Jari-Matti continued their battle for third overall.

 

The final stage of the day fell to Thierry who after his puncture had been fighting back and closed the gap to Elfyn to just a little over three seconds.

 

Leaderboard at the end of Friday

 

1              S. Ogier                 J. Ingrassia          Ford Fiesta WRC                          2:07:15.4

2              O. Tänak               M. Järveoja        Toyota Yaris WRC                                  +14.9

3              D. Sordo               C. del Barrio        Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC                +59.7

4              E. Lappi                J. Ferm                   Toyota Yaris WRC                           +1:09.9

5              J. M. Latvala        M. Anttila            Toyota Yaris WRC                            +1:10.1

6              K. Meeke              P. Nagle                Citroën C3 WRC                            +2:45.5

7              B. Bouffier          X. Panseri            Ford Fiesta WRC                            +3:34.6

8              E. Evans                D. Barritt              Ford Fiesta WRC                            +4:01.7

9              T. Neuville           N. Gilsoul             Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC           +4:04.1

 

Day three, Saturday

The second full day of Rallye Monte Carlo started with snow falling, which we had been waiting for! Boy, did it come down!

 

Craig Breen was first into stage nine, the first of the day. At the end, he referred himself as a snowplow! Sadly, Dani went off the road and so one of the teams that we expected to see standing on the podium, now will be nowhere near it. The stage was won by Andreas, but clearly the team could do with some luck. Seb made a great start, increasing the gap to former M-Sport teammate, Ott by a full minute who now found himself in second and Jari-Matti a further 21 or so seconds in third. Elfyn Evans in the number 2 Fiesta WRC, gapped Thierry by 20 seconds in their battle for seventh overall.

 

Stage 10 saw Ott close down 15 seconds to Seb, with the French champions advantage a little over a minute at the end of the 16km stage. The Toyota’s were running well, all three in the top four overall positions.

 

The following stage saw Esapekka Lappi pick up a puncture, so Kris Meeke picked up fourth place, despite sliding off into a field. Elfyn also picked up a position, moving ahead of Bryan Bouffier into sixth place. Ogier’s lead was now down to 48 seconds.

2018 FIA World Rally Championship, Round 01, Rallye Monte-Carlo 2018, January 25-28, 2018.
Worldwide Copyright: Toyota Gazoo Racing WRC

The next stage, number twelve, was won by Thierry, and this edged him a little closer to seventh placed Bouffier’s Fiesta, the gap just 12 seconds! Kris also was just hanging onto fourth place, with Lappi in the Yaris setting the third quickest time.

 

The last stage of the day was won by Thierry and Elfyn was just two seconds slower than the Belgian keeping the gap between them above 30 seconds. Kris lost fourth place to young Finn, Esapekka Lappi after the Irishman spun in a hairpin, losing a couple of seconds.

 

Heading into the final day , Seb Ogier leads Ott by just a little over half a minute. Just four stages and a total of 64km. It’s certainly possible for something to happen!

 

Leaderboard at the end of Saturday

 

1 S. Ogier J. Ingrassia Ford Fiesta WRC 3:30:30.9
2 O. Tänak M. Järveoja Toyota Yaris WRC +33.5
3 J. M. Latvala M. Anttila Toyota Yaris WRC +1:32.7
4 E. Lappi J. Ferm Toyota Yaris WRC +4:38.5
5 K. Meeke P. Nagle Citroën C3 WRC +4:40.1
6 E. Evans D. Barritt Ford Fiesta WRC +5:00.2
7 T. Neuville N. Gilsoul Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC +5:33.6
8 B. Bouffier X. Panseri Ford Fiesta WRC +5:43.4
9 C. Breen S. Martin Citroën C3 WRC +8:49.0

 

Day four, Sunday

Sunday morning was cold and a bit cloudy. We had four stages covering 64km before it was all decided! First up was stage 14 and it was won by Seb and the gap opened up between him and Ott by 11 seconds.

 

The next stage would be the power stage later and at 13km being quick from the off would be key.  Citroen drivers Craig and Kris were surprised how tricky it was, Kris commenting on how there was black ice on gravel! Thierry won the stage, but Seb’s closest challenger, Ott set pretty much the same time and the gap to the front remained pretty static.

 

Stage 16, the penultimate stage was won by Thierry as he was targeting Elfyn who was just a few seconds up the road and holding sixth overall. However, the Welshman was just a second and a half slower meaning the gap was still seven seconds with just one stage to go.

 

The power stage beckoned and there were a could more twists to come…. Despite his surprise earlier in this stage with black ice on gravel, Kris flew through the stage and took all five points for winning it, ending up 2.3 seconds faster than Thierry. Further back there was more drama! Esapekka slid wide and lost a bundle of time which meant he would lose fourth and drop behind Thierry and Elfyn into seventh. Meanwhile, Elfyn would keep sixth place, despite losing out to Thierry who went from seventh to fifth and of course Kris would claim fourth overall! So much drama!

Kris Meeke & Paul Nagle, Rallye Monte Carlo – Photo credit Citroen Racing

In the midst of all of that, Seb Ogier had taken his fifth Rallye Monte Carlo victory and the new Toyota driver, Ott would finish one better than last year in second place and in third, Jari-Matti.

M-Sport Ford WRT

Sébastien Ogier 

“We always face tough conditions at Rallye Monte-Carlo but this year they were really extreme. I don’t think I’ve ever struggled so much with the tyre choices, so to have come out on top is fantastic.

“I think everyone made mistakes this weekend – myself included – but it was almost impossible to have the perfect drive. Luckily we only had some small mistakes and once we had a good gap it was just a case of trying to manage it – but that is never easy in these conditions either!

“It’s the best way to start the season and I need to congratulate the team because everyone has worked really hard and I know that they will also be super happy with this result. The competition is going to be stronger than ever and we’ve made a strong start which is really important.”

Elfyn Evans

“It’s been a tough edition of the rally this year and we had an especially tough start losing so much time on the very first stage. Over the next few days I think we were there or there about’s in terms of outright speed, but overall there were just too many little errors.

“When it came to making the smart choices at the right time, we weren’t quite there and that’s what cost us a really good result today. The comforting thing is that the speed is there, but we still need to be better.”

 

Toyota Gazoo WRT

Jari-Matti Latvala

“Rallye Monte-Carlo is never easy. We had difficult conditions once again today, particularly with the ice on the Col du Turini that came since the recce. I’m really relieved to get to the finish and to be on the podium. The team has done an excellent job and the car is performing really well so I’m excited for the season ahead. It’s going to be about staying cool and to think about the championship and about the points. This has been a good start.”

 

Ott Tänak

“It’s really nice to start the season like this. It looks like I have joined a very strong team! The car has been amazing and I’ve felt really comfortable in it since the start of the rally. It was an extremely tough rally with such difficult conditions, but we managed to get through without any serious problems. We were expecting easier conditions today, but it was still really icy. We were able to take it steady because we were in a strong position. I’m now really looking forward to the coming rallies.”

 

Esapekka Lappi

“Today started really well with some good speed and the plan was to keep up the rhythm, including on the Power Stage. Unfortunately, I went wide on one corner and then I couldn’t get reverse, so we lost a lot of time and three positions. At the moment I am quite disappointed but at least I completed every kilometre, gaining experience and learning many things, so there are also a lot of positives. It has been a good rally for the team and Sweden should suit me better.”

 

Citroen Abu Dhabi WRT

Kris Meeke

“It was the hardest Monte-Carlo that I have ever experienced. We had everything: sheer ice on slick tyres on Thursday evening, rain on Friday, snow on Saturday and frost on the Col de Turini today. I’m surprised to finish the rally with seventeen points, but I’ll certainly take them! We now have to stay humble and keep working hard to try and improve.”

 

Craig Breen

“The weekend got off to a difficult start, with our mistake on Thursday evening. And then things went from bad to worse with the brake problems on Friday, which left us opening the road as something of a snow plough on Saturday. But we produced some good performances on a good few occasions, and did so again today on the dry tarmac. We now need to keep working in more changeable conditions, like those you typically get in Monte-Carlo.”

 

Hyundai Motorsport

Thierry Neuville

“On balance, I think we have had a good rally, despite the various issues we have encountered along the way. Thursday was the biggest factor, when we lost over four minutes getting stuck through my own fault. We have fought back from those early problems, and a few others, and tried to regain as many positions as we could. The places we have made up today – right to the end of the Power Stage – show how important it is to push right to the finish. Without the puncture and tricky snow conditions yesterday, a podium would still have been possible. That’s Monte-Carlo, though. I would like to say thanks to the team for doing an incredible job in hard circumstances this weekend, and together we look ahead to Sweden.”

 

Andreas Mikkelsen

“Our rally was over on Friday when we stopped after SS3 with the alternator problem. The focus shifted to salvaging as many points as possible from the Power Stage, which was our aim for today. With no tyre zone or service, we adopted a compromised strategy taking five soft tyres for both loops. We knew that the run up to Col de Turini would be tough, so we took it carefully and accepted we would be slow. SS15 was a good practice for the Power Stage and it was nice for the team to take a 1-2. I was happy with my run, considering we were first on the road and it was still drying in places. It’s my best drive feeling-wise so far with the car on dry tarmac, which is encouraging.”

 

Final Overall Classification – Rallye Monte-Carlo

1 S. Ogier J. Ingrassia Ford Fiesta WRC 4:18:55.5
2 O. Tänak M. Järveoja Toyota Yaris WRC +58.3
3 J. M. Latvala M. Anttila Toyota Yaris WRC +1:52.0
4 K. Meeke P. Nagle Citroën C3 WRC +4:43.1
5 T. Neuville N. Gilsoul Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC +4:53.8
6 E. Evans D. Barritt Ford Fiesta WRC +4:54.8
7 E. Lappi J. Ferm Toyota Yaris WRC +4:57.5
8 B. Bouffier X. Panseri Ford Fiesta WRC +7:39.5
9 C. Breen S. Martin Citroën C3 WRC +9:06.7

 

FIA WORLD RALLY CHAMPIONSHIP 2018 -WRC Monte Carlo (FRA) – WRC 24/01/2018 to 28/01/2018 – PHOTO : @World

 

2018 FIA World Rally Championship for Manufacturers’ Standings
After round 1

1 M-Sport Ford World Rally Team 33
3 Toyota Gazoo Racing World Rally Team 33
3 Citroën Total Abu Dhabi World Rally Team 18
4 Hyundai Shell Mobis World Rally Team 14

Rallye Monte Carlo- Day Three, Seb steers clear of trouble

The second full day of Rallye Monte Carlo started with snow falling, which we had been waiting for! Boy, did it come down!

Kris Meeke and Paul Nagle, Photo credit Citroen Racing.

Craig Breen was first into stage nine, the first of the day. At the end, he referred himself as a snowplow! Sadly, Dani went off the road and so one of the teams that we expected to see standing on the podium, now will be nowhere near it. The stage was won by Andreas, but clearly the team could do with some luck. Seb made a great start, increasing the gap to former M-Sport teammate, Ott by a full minute who now found himself in second and Jari-Matti a further 21 or so seconds in third. Elfyn Evans in the number 2 Fiesta WRC, gapped Thierry by 20 seconds in their battle for seventh overall.

 

Stage 10 saw Ott close down 15 seconds to Seb, with the French champions advantage a little over a minute at the end of the 16km stage. The Toyota’s were running well, all three in the top four overall positions.

2018 FIA World Rally Championship, Round 01, Rallye Monte-Carlo 2018, January 25-28, 2018.
Worldwide Copyright: Toyota Gazoo Racing WRC

The following stage saw Esapekka Lappi pick up a puncture, so Kris Meeke picked up fourth place, despite sliding off into a field. Elfyn also picked up a position, moving ahead of Bryan Bouffier into sixth place. Ogier’s lead was now down to 48 seconds.

 

The next stage, number twelve, was won by Thierry, and this edged him a little closer to seventh placed Bouffier’s Fiesta, the gap just 12 seconds! Kris also was just hanging onto fourth place, with Lappi in the Yaris setting the third quickest time.

2018 FIA World Rally Championship
Round 01, Rallye Monte-Carlo
24-28 January 2018
Day 2
Action
Thierry Neuville, Nicolas Gilsoul, Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC
Photographer: Helena El Mokni
Worldwide copyright: Hyundai Motorsport GmbH

The last stage of the day was won by Thierry and Elfyn was just two seconds slower than the Belgian keeping the gap between them above 30 seconds. Kris lost fourth place to young Finn, Esapekka Lappi after the Irishman spun in a hairpin, losing a couple of seconds.

 

Heading into the last day tomorrow, Seb Ogier leads Ott by just a little over half a minute. Just four stages and a total of 64km. It’s certainly possible for something to happen!

FIA WORLD RALLY CHAMPIONSHIP 2018 -WRC Monte Carlo (FRA) – WRC 24/01/2018 to 28/01/2018 – PHOTO : @World

Leaderboard at the end of Saturday

 

1 S. Ogier J. Ingrassia Ford Fiesta WRC 3:30:30.9
2 O. Tänak M. Järveoja Toyota Yaris WRC +33.5
3 J. M. Latvala M. Anttila Toyota Yaris WRC +1:32.7
4 E. Lappi J. Ferm Toyota Yaris WRC +4:38.5
5 K. Meeke P. Nagle Citroën C3 WRC +4:40.1
6 E. Evans D. Barritt Ford Fiesta WRC +5:00.2
7 T. Neuville N. Gilsoul Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC +5:33.6
8 B. Bouffier X. Panseri Ford Fiesta WRC +5:43.4
9 C. Breen S. Martin Citroën C3 WRC +8:49.0

Rallye Monte Carlo, Day Two- Seb Ogier continues to lead.

Well, what a day! Where to start my round up of today’s six stages? Seb in his Fiesta was our leader all day, but there were different stage winners and the person leading to fight to the Frenchman changed as well.

 

Andreas Mikkelsen was the man who was closest at the start of the day, but after dropping behind Dani in stage three, he then retired in stage four with alternator failure. There was more pain for Thierry as well, who suffered another puncture in stage three.

2018 FIA World Rally Championship
Round 01, Rallye Monte-Carlo
25-28 Janvier 2018
Dani Sordo, Carlos Del Barrio, Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC
Photographer: Austral
Worldwide copyright: Hyundai Motorsport GmbH

The lead grew in stage four, but Ott Tanak was feeling at home in his new car, moving up the leaderboard and closing the gap to second placed Dani. Meantime, Craig was having a nightmare in his Citroen, with a stone breaking part of the caliper and meaning he’d suffer from brake failure and he was not enjoying that one bit. The good news though was that after stage five, the cars headed for service and the problem was fixed.

 

The afternoon loop began with the 26km and Ott took the fight to Seb, winning the stage and taking six and a half seconds out of erstwhile leader Seb’s lead. Craig was feeling a lot more comfortable now he had working brakes!

2018 FIA World Rally Championship, Round 01, Rallye Monte-Carlo 2018, January 25-28, 2018.
Worldwide Copyright: Toyota Gazoo Racing WRC

Elfyn Evans took the long stage seven when the heavens opened, but Seb lost 14 seconds to Ott and the lead was down to 19 seconds after a spin put the Fiesta into a ditch! Craig was increasingly comfortable, setting the fourth fastest time in the stage, whilst Dani, Esapekka and Jari-Matti continued their battle for third overall.

Elfyn Evans, Dan Barritt, Day two. Photo credit, M-Sport

The final stage of the day fell to Thierry who after his puncture had been fighting back and closed the gap to Elfyn to just a little over three seconds.

 

Tomorrow sees the crews tackle five stages and a total of 117 km. One thing that could have a big impact to the standings is the snow that has been predicted all week. It will make tyre choices very hard!

Craig Breen, Scott Martin. Photo credit, Citroen Racing

Here’s the standings at the end of day two.

 

1              S. Ogier                 J. Ingrassia          Ford Fiesta WRC                           2:07:15.4

2              O. Tänak              M. Järveoja          Toyota Yaris WRC                                 +14.9

3              D. Sordo               C. del Barrio        Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC                +59.7

4              E. Lappi                 J. Ferm                  Toyota Yaris WRC                           +1:09.9

5              J. M. Latvala        M. Anttila            Toyota Yaris WRC                             +1:10.1

6              K. Meeke              P. Nagle                 Citroën C3 WRC                             +2:45.5

7              B. Bouffier          X. Panseri               Ford Fiesta WRC                           +3:34.6

8              E. Evans                D. Barritt                 Ford Fiesta WRC                           +4:01.7

9              T. Neuville           N. Gilsoul                 Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC          +4:04.1

Rallye Monte Carlo, Seb Ogier leads after day one.

First stage of the event and there was lots of drama in the Thoard – Sisteron 36km opener! There was no snow and ice in the first 12km and then broken ice for a couple of km’s.

Seb Ogier, early leader of Rallye Monte Carlo, Photo credit, M-Sport

Seb Ogier was first in, and spun in the stage! Ott stopped 11km into stage, but got going again and Thierry was another to stop, but got going again as well. Both had slid wide into snow banks. Another to spin was Jari-Matti and he managed to spin twice! Elfyn picked up a puncture at about 12km into the stage, so they had to change the tyre. The Citroen duo of Kris and Craig both spun as well, Kris losing a minute or so.

 

Esapekka completed the stage third fastest, with a good run though, whilst Andreas was the closest challenger to Ogier, just 7.7 seconds off the Fiesta WRC pilot!

 

1st    Ogier      23’16”6

2nd   Mikkelsen  + 7”7

3rd   Lappi         + 19”4

4th   Sordo        + 19”7

5th   Breen        + 24”6

6th   Tänak        + 37”9

7th   Latvala      + 48”9

8th   Bouffier + 1’15”6

9th   Camilli    + 1’43”3

10th Meeke   + 1’44”7

 

Stage two, Bayons – Breziers 25,49km stage which includes a rise of 1184 metres above sea-level to the summit of Col de Sagnes! Ogier won the stage with a very good clean run through with Thierry going second fastest and Ott third. There were a few changes in the leaderboard with Dani moving ahead of Esapekka and into third. Kris and Thierry are a long way off the lead sadly, over two minutes away for the Citroen pilot and over four for the Belgian. That’s a big ask for them.

Classification after Day One

1              S. Ogier J. Ingrassia                          Ford Fiesta WRC                           38:09.8

2              A. Mikkelsen      A. Jæger               Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC                +17.3

3              D. Sordo               C. del Barrio        Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC                +25.6

4              E. Lappi                 J. Ferm                  Toyota Yaris WRC                               +37.4

5              O. Tänak               M. Järveoja          Toyota Yaris WRC                               +42.4

6              J. M. Latvala        M. Anttila             Toyota Yaris WRC                              +55.4

7              C. Breen               S. Martin                Citroën C3 WRC                             +1:02.3

8              B. Bouffier          X. Panseri             Ford Fiesta WRC                             +1:51.0

9              K. Meeke            P. Nagle                  Citroën C3 WRC                              +2:12.7

10           E. Camilli              B. Veillas               Ford Fiesta R5                                  +2:42.2

17           T. Neuville           N. Gilsoul               Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC           +4:18.2

 

What will happen tomorrow?  There are six stages and 144.88 km’s of action!

 

Rallye Monte-Carlo Preview 2018

Its time for a new season! Will this year be as amazing as last? Who knows what will happen in 2018?! First up, we’ve got the iconic Rallye Monte Carlo, an event being run for the 86th time, that really challenges the drivers, with ice and snow-covered stages!

FIA WORLD RALLY CHAMPIONSHIP 2016 -WRC Monte Carlo (FRA) – WRC 18/01/2017 to 22/01/2017 – PHOTO : @World

Reigning champion Seb Ogier has won this event four times and will be targeting a fifth! If you’re looking for challengers, then last year’s early leader Thierry, plus Andreas and Kris are the drivers likely to be there. Jari-Matti and Ott in the Yaris will also be challenging near the top. Any number of these drivers could stand on the podium.

 

Here’s the full details of the stages.

 

WEDNESDAY 24 JANUARY

4.00pm: shakedown (Gap)

 

THURSDAY 25 JANUARY

5.50pm: Start day 1 (Monaco – Place du Casino)

9.43pm: SS 1 – Thoard – Sisteron (36,69 km)

10.51pm: SS 2 – Bayons – Bréziers 1 (25,49 km)

11.56pm: Flexi Service A (Gap – 48′)

 

FRIDAY 26 JANUARY

8.00am: Start day 2 and Service B (Gap – 18′)

8.51am: SS 3 – Vitrolles – Oze 1 (26,72 km)

10.04am: SS 4 – Roussieux – Eygalayes 1 (30,54 km)

11.37am: SS 5 – Vaumeilh – Claret 1 (15,18 km)

12.52pm: Service C (Gap – 33′)

1.58pm: SS 6 – Vitrolles – Oze 2 (26,72 km)

3.11pm: SS 7 – Roussieux – Eygalayes 2 (30,54 km)

4.44pm: SS 8 – Vaumeilh – Claret 2 (15,18 km)

5.49pm: Flexi Service D (Gap – 48′)

 

SATURDAY 27 JANUARY

6.57am: Start day 3 and Service E (Gap – 18′)

8.08am: SS 9 – Agnières en Devoluy – Corps 1 (29,16 km)

9.16am: SS 10 – St Léger les Mélèzes – La Batie Neuve 1 (16,87 km)

10.31am: Service F (Gap – 33′)

11.57am: SS 11 – Agnières en Devoluy – Corps 2 (29,16 km)

1.08pm: SS 12 – St Léger les Mélèzes – La Batie Neuve 2 (16,87 km)

2.23pm: Service G (Gap – 33′)

4.09pm: SS 13 – Bayons – Bréziers 2 (25,49 km)

5.29pm: Service H (Gap – 48′)

10.17pm: Parc ferme (Monaco)

 

SUNDAY 28 JANUARY

6.49am: Start day 4

 

8.32am: SS 14 – La Bollène Vésubie – Peira Cava 1 (18,41 km)

9.08am: SS 15 – La Cabanette – Col de Braus 1 (13,58 km)

10.55am: SS 16 – La Bollène Vésubie – Peira Cava 2 (18,41 km)

12.18pm: SS 17 – La Cabanette – Col de Braus 2 (13,58 km)

 

1.58pm: Parc ferme (Monaco)

3.00pm: Prize giving (Place du Palais Princier – Monaco)

That’s a total of 17 stages, covering 388.59km in total.

 

Flashback to 2017 

Thierry Neuville had built a commanding lead over the first two days, but after running wide during the final stage on Saturday and breaking his suspension, Sébastien Ogier came through to take his fourth victory!

 

This is last year’s result.

 

  1. Sébastien Ogier / Julien Ingrassia (Ford Fiesta WRC) 4:00:03.6
  2. Jari-Matti Latvala / Miikka Anttila (Toyota Yaris WRC) +2:15.0
  3. Ott Tänak / Martin Järveoja (Ford Fiesta WRC) +2:57.8

 

Okay, let’s hear from the teams then.

 

M-Sport Ford World Rally Team

Malcolm Wilson OBE

“Last year saw us enjoy our most successful season in motorsport and that’s something that we want to see continue in 2018. The hard work has not stopped and everyone has been working around the clock to ensure that we start our title defence on a high.

“We have completed two comprehensive test sessions and the feeling amongst the team is more determined than ever. It might not be possible to make huge gains within the regulations, but we have been working with our partners to enhance what was already an extremely strong package.

“Every team is capable of securing the ultimate prize this year and I am expecting the competition to be closer than ever. It’s so difficult to predict who will even come out on top this week, and that in itself is fantastic for the sport.

“In Sébastien, Elfyn and Bryan we have three very competent and intelligent drivers who are all more than capable of securing a Monte-Carlo victory. That has to be our aim so let’s see what happens. Like every rally fan, I am very much looking forward to the start of this exciting new season.”

 

Sébastien Ogier

“We start the new season with an event that is always a real highlight for me – Rallye Monte-Carlo. As my home event, I always want to give my best and challenge for the top results.

“We started something great here last year and want to try and build on that in 2018. We will need to work hard as the competition will be very tough. Every team has a winning car and a winning driver so everyone is a threat and we need to be ready right from the start.

“It’s such a challenging start to the season – the ultimate test with extreme conditions that can see us go from dry Tarmac to pure ice and snow in the space of a single stage. It’s certainly not easy, but that’s what makes a good result here so rewarding.

“We’ll start this year with what could be the biggest challenge of the entire rally – Sisteron, in reverse, in the dark. It doesn’t get much tougher than that, but that’s Monte. It’s always a challenge and that will be the case from the very first stage this year.”

Sebastien Ogier, Rallye Monte Carlo 2017, Photo credit, Alastair Cummins

Elfyn Evans

“Rallye Monte-Carlo is one of those events that every driver looks forward to. I’ve always said that it offers some of the best Tarmac roads in the world, but at this time of year the conditions make it a true challenge and the ultimate test of strategy. To do well, you really do need to get absolutely everything right.

“We’ve just completed two days of testing in mixed conditions. The road was constantly evolving which is great when it comes to getting a flavour for everything we’ve come to expect on a rally like this, but it can also be a bit of a double-edged sword at times – making it difficult to judge which direction to go in terms of set-up.

“Overall, I would say that we had two pretty good tests and that we are feeling fairly well prepared. Monte can always be a bit of a lottery and it can go either way, but we’re definitely ready to get the season started. We want to start the year on a high, so we’ll give it our best and see what happens.”

 

Bryan Bouffier

“Since learning that I would be driving the Ford Fiesta WRC, Rallye Monte-Carlo could not come soon enough! It’s one of my favourite events and having the opportunity to do it in one of these new generation world rally cars – the championship-winning car – is a dream come true.

“I have a lot of experience at Rallye Monte-Carlo which helps when it comes to reading the road and adapting the pace to suit the conditions, but this event is never easy. It’s one of the toughest events on the calendar and to do well you need to drive a clever rally by making the right calls on the tyres and finding the right balance between pushing hard and being more cautious.

“As one of the ‘French’ events, I feel at home at Rallye Monte-Carlo and am really looking forward to it. First and foremost, we want to have fun. We’ll start in a relaxed frame of mind and if we could help the team by scoring some good points for the manufacturers’ championship it would be amazing.”

 

Citroen Abu Dhabi WRT

Pierre Budar

“The new season is upon us, which obviously means both excitement and uncertainty. After claiming second place in Germany and winning in Spain in the second part of 2017, which confirmed the growing strength of the team, I am determined to continue the work begun by Yves Matton, so that the team picks up in 2018 where it left off at the end of last year. This is especially the case since the C3 WRC has been further improved during the off-season, with intensive work put into widening its operating spectrum. Kris Meeke has the required experience to fight at the front at this unique event, as he showed in 2016, whilst Craig gained a lot of confidence from last year’s appearance and is determined to use it to push for a good position. They both also know that you can’t approach this rally just like any other: you must remain composed and treat the stages with the respect they deserve to avoid getting caught out by one of the many tricky sections.”

Citroen C3 WRC, Rallye Monte Carlo, Photo credit, Citroen Racing.

Kris Meeke

“Monte is probably one of the season’s hardest rallies, because of the constant changes in grip, but I’ve always really enjoyed it. I’ve also been quick here. I won the event in the Junior WRC class in 2005, I picked up a podium (3rd) on my full-time return to the WRC with Citroën in 2014 and I fought for the win in 2016… So, I think that we can do a good job here, especially since our off-season tests were held on roads that are fairly representative of what we’ll be facing during the rally, with a good variety of weather conditions. The test sessions also enabled us to keep improving the ability of our C3 WRC to adapt to changes in road surface, particularly by heading back to the Col de Faye, which is where we were least comfortable last year.”

 

Craig Breen

“Monte-Carlo is a rally that I love. It’s a unique challenge, something you don’t get on any of the other events. Until 2017, however, I never felt sufficiently confident in the kind of changeable, slippery conditions you get here. But last year, with the old car, we surprised ourselves. With a bit more horsepower, we could have aimed for the podium, so that gives me confidence. I’d like to think we can do it this time around, even though I’m not the most experienced driver in the line-up. Especially in that based on what we learned in 2017, we come into this event better prepared and with a C3 WRC that is even more versatile.”

 

Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT

Tommi Mäkinen

“This time last year, we didn’t really know where we were as we prepared for the debut of the Toyota Yaris WRC. In the coming season, I believe that we can be a lot more consistent, which is really what we need in order to fight for the championship titles. That is our aim after our learning season last year. The break since Rally Australia finished has not been very long but we have been very busy trying to make our car even better. Rallye Monte-Carlo is always a tough event to start the season with. Although I won it four times during my career as a driver, I didn’t prepare for it very well back then: I would not even think about rallying, and just go skiing instead! Our three drivers have been doing much better preparation, with a lot of testing, and we hope for a good result.”

 

Jari-Matti Latvala

“We learned a lot last year during our first season together. We discovered where we needed to improve, and we are now ready for the second year and I think we should be very competitive. We have a very good driver line-up: all of us managed to win in 2017 and when everybody is aiming for victories it is usually good for the team. We already achieved a good result on Rallye Monte-Carlo on the debut for the Yaris WRC last year, finishing in second place, which equalled my best result there. Then, it was important to have a clean rally and the same will be true this year, but we also want to have good speed.”

Jari-Matti Latvala, Rallye Monte Carlo 2017, Photo Credit Alastair Cummins

Ott Tänak

“There is a lot of excitement ahead of my first rally for TOYOTA GAZOO Racing. The team did a really good job last year: even though it was their first season they were already very competitive. I could see how much potential there is and I wanted to make sure I was part of this team in the coming years. Our target is the same: to win the championship. I am just getting used to the team but already I feel very welcome and the preparation has been going really well. In Monte Carlo we will see how we are compared to the competition. For sure, it is one of the most challenging events on the calendar. You don’t know what to expect: whether it will be snow or ice, wet or dry.”

 

Esapekka Lappi

“This will be my first full season in a World Rally Car and the approach needs to be a bit different to before: I need to be a bit more consistent. I still need to gain some more experience: during the first part of the season there are rallies I do not know so well, and Rallye Monte-Carlo is one of those. It is an event where experience can really help, so my aim has to be to do all the stages. Later in the season there are the rallies where I have confidence and where I should be most competitive. The preparation is good: we have just been trying to improve the car and ourselves.”

 

Hyundai Motorsport

Michel Nandan

“We are as well prepared for this new season as we can be with renewed ambitions for the championship. The performance of our Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC in the final rounds of last season, especially winning in Australia, gave us a good springboard for winter development. We have taken the car and crews to France and Spain for seven days of testing in the past month, in an effort to replicate conditions that we expect in Monte. The beauty of this opening event is its unpredictability, so we have to be prepared for anything. Autosport International brought together all the manufacturer teams for a unique event, one that perfectly showcases the WRC’s community spirit. We know our rivals will be formidable and relentless, so we have to be on top of our game at all times. Bring on round one – let’s hope it’s another classic Monte.”

 

Andreas Mikkelsen

“It’s an amazing feeling to be starting a complete WRC season with Hyundai Motorsport. Last year was a bit frustrating, so I am looking forward to a consistent year with lots of rallying and aiming to be in the championship fight. Monte, of course, is an incredibly difficult challenge to start a new year with all kinds of conditions, including night driving where black ice can catch anyone out. Alongside Anders, I can’t wait to get our 2018 campaign underway.”

 

Thierry Neuville

“Excitement for this new WRC season is at fever pitch. The launch event in Birmingham put us all in a very positive frame of mind, and ready to attack the year ahead. Monte-Carlo is a very special event, one at which even the slightest error can be rally-ending. We saw last year, having led the event comfortably right until the penultimate day, that a small mistake put us out in a very frustrating manner. That’s what Monte is all about; it’s a tough challenge to start the year. We will aim to put all the lessons learned from our participation in the recent editions of this event to good use.”

Thierry Neuville, Rallye Monte Carlo, Photo credit, Alastair Cummins

Dani Sordo

“I am pleased to be starting my fifth season with Hyundai Motorsport at one of the most demanding events on the calendar – Monte-Carlo. We have developed a strong working relationship and although my schedule for this season is just seven events, I will aim to get as much out of them as I possibly can. I have a new co-driver for this season, Carlos, so there will be some areas we need to refresh, but we are optimistic we can deliver a positive result in this debut rally of the new year. We have to expect the unexpected at Monte-Carlo, and it will definitely be a tough fight against our rivals.”

In recent weeks it has been snowing, and this means that the teams and drivers will have a big challenge in getting the right strategy in terms of tyres. With the first stage on Thursday evening, the shakedown held in Gap at 4pm on Wednesday afternoon will be crucial in allowing the teams to really judge how their cars are behaving on these unique roads.

 

We’re all set for an amazing year then! Who will take victory?