Rallye Monte Carlo 2017 review! M-Sport and Seb win first time out!

 

It was a classic Monte Carlo. Sadly, it was marred on Thursday evening with the death of a spectator when Hayden Paddon lost control of his i20 in stage two. Hyundai took the decision to withdraw that car out of respect for the family and friends of the individual concerned.

The overnight leader was Thierry and Nicolas in their i20.

1 T. Neuville N. Gilsoul 15:01.1

2 S. Ogier J. Ingrassia +7.8

3 J. Hänninen K. Lindstrom +15.0

3 K. Meeke P. Nagle +15.8

4 O. Tanak M. Jarveoja +19.4

5 E. Evans D. Barritt +21.0

6 C. Breen S. Martin +25.4

7 D. Sordo M. Martí +26.6

8 J. M. Latvala M. Anttila +28.4

These were the thoughts of the drivers after the Thursday evening stages.

Hyundai Motorsport

Thierry Neuville said: “We have used today to really discover the car in competitive rally conditions for the first time. The stages here are tough, but we have had a decent start. We were probably running the car too soft and it was moving around quite a lot, but the times look encouraging nonetheless. We have more to come and areas where we need to improve, so that will be our focus on tomorrow’s stages.”

Dani Sordo said: “It’s still early days. Today, it was important to have a clean run through the opening stages. The feeling from the Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC was actually better than expected; the car felt strong and fast. I enjoyed getting a taste for it now we are in full competitive mode even if the times were not so good. It’s going to be a long weekend, so we have to focus on learning about our new car and improving all the time.”

Hayden Paddon commented: “That wasn’t the start we wanted to this first rally of the season. We got caught out by some black ice near the end of the first stage. The car snapped sideways and, from there, we were just passengers. There wasn’t much damage to the car but I’m sorry for the team, who have all put in so much work to get here. I am incredibly saddened by today’s accident and my thoughts are with the family and friends of the person involved.”

M-Sport WRT

Sébastien Ogier said:

“It’s always tricky to start Rallye Monte-Carlo in the dark, but I think it’s been okay. I definitely took it on the safe side and could have gone faster for sure, but it’s just the first two stages. Tomorrow will be a very different day so we’ll discuss with the team and be sure to continue at our best.”

Ott Tänak said:

“It was very tricky out there this evening. The car feels really good, but we just need to find our rhythm. This is the very beginning, and we made it through which is good. Tomorrow will bring some more really challenging stages so we just have to stay focused and see what happens.”

Citroen Abu Dhabi WRT

Kris Meeke

“It’s not how I imagine anyone wanted to start the season, with a stage cancelled because one of the competitors went off. SS2 was tricky, especially due to the gravel dragged onto the racing line by the first few cars. When you’re as cautious as I was, it ends up costing you quite a bit of time. We learned some new things about the car and overall, I’m fairly pleased with this first leg.”

Craig Breen

“I was pleasantly surprised when I learned my time at the end of SS2. I thought I would be a lot further behind the 2017 cars! It’s quite good fun, although it was difficult to read the road in some places. I’m pleased with my opening stage.”

Toyota Gazoo Racing

Jari-Matti Latvala

“The conditions were really tricky: it was damp, slippery and there was a lot of ice. I was very cautious on the ice, perhaps a bit too cautious, but I wanted to make sure that we got through it without a problem. We will make some set-up changes as the car is too low at the moment: we are touching the ground in places.”

Juho Hänninen

“It was not an easy start as we had to wait a long time to begin the stage and everything was cold: brakes and tyres and everything. But we did a good job and in the end, it was a nice stage time, even though we did not get the chance to drive the first stage at all. The car is definitely good, now it depends also on the driver.”

So, to the start of the first full day of the 2017 season. This were the stages that the crews were facing.

10.11am: SS3 – Agnière en Devoluy – Le Motty 1 (24.63km)

10.44am: SS4 – Asprès les Corps – Chaillol 1 (38.94km)

11.47am: SS5 – St Léger les Mélèzes – La Batie Neuve 1 (16.83km)

1.02pm: Service C (Gap – 33 mins)

2.28pm: SS6 – Agnière en Devoluy – Le Motty 2 (24.63km)

3.01pm: SS7 – Asprès les Corps – Chaillol 2 (38.94km)

4.04pm: SS8 – St Léger les Mélèzes – La Batie Neuve 2 (16.83km)

5.14pm: Flexi service D (Gap – 48 mins)

So, the first stage of the day saw drama, with Seb running wide and losing a huge 40 seconds or more after getting stuck in a ditch on the outside of a very slippery right-hander. Ott won the stage from overall leader Thierry and with Seb’s problem, he’d moved up to third. Also to benefit was Kris Meeke, who’d jumped up from fourth to second place. The icy conditions catching out some indeed!

1. Tanak 19:17,8 (76,6kph)

2. Neuville +0:01,6

3. Meeke +0:02,3

Stage four saw Kris sadly crash. On a left-hander, he understeered wide and hidden under a bush on the edge of the road was something very hard, as it broke the front right suspension, with the impact causing the car to spin round. A big shame, as Kris and Paul were starting to get into the groove.

1. Neuville – 25:41,9 (90,9kph)

2. Ogier +0:04,9

3. Tanak +0:08,0

Stage five saw Thierry continue to pull away from the M-Sport duo. No-one appeared to have the pace to live with him. Juho Hanninen, was in third place before this stage, but crashed into a tree on a very tight left-hander. He’d damaged the cooling systems on the car, so would retire at the end of the stage. This meant that after his earlier delays, Seb was up to third place, half a minute down on Ott.

1. Neuville – 11:22,2 (88,8kph)

2. Ogier +0:04,8

3. Tanak +0:05,9

Midday service at Gap provided a chance for everyone to eat and get their cars ready for the afternoon.

So, into the afternoon’s action with a repeat of the morning stages. Thierry picked up where he’d left off, with another stage victory and increasing his lead further over Ott in stage 6

Neuville 18:09,6 (81,4kph)

Tanak +0:06,5

Ogier +0:13,2

With the snow and ice starting to melt, it would even things up for Seb, who was the first car into the stage. He took his first stage win for M-Sport, with Ott second and Jari-Matti in third, Toyota’s first top three stage time in this return. Thierry was fourth, still with a very healthy 33 second lead over Ott. Craig Breen, in a previous generation DS3, couldn’t quite believe his eyes. He’d moved ahead of Dani into fifth place! Giantkilling driving, from the young Irishman.

1. Ogier 24:17,8 (96,2kph)

2. Tanak +0:14,9

3. Latvala +0:16,0

The last stage of the day, and Thierry was second. He’d been on form all day, never looking like cracking. Seb found some good speed and won the stage, finishing 19 seconds quicker than Ott, this moving him into second overall by just three tenths of a second! Dani found some good speed as well, moving back ahead of Craig, who was still driving very well.

1. Ogier 11:05,4 (91,1kph)

2. Neuville +0:07,6

3. Tanak +0:19,5

The overnight halt provided the teams with the opportunity to service the cars. Citroen and Toyota had some work to do with some damage as well.

This was the top ten after Friday’s stages.

1 T. Neuville N. Gilsoul 15:01.1

2 S. Ogier J. Ingrassia +45.1

3 O. Tanak M. Jarveoja +45.4

4 J. M. Latvala M. Anttila +2:09.7

5 D. Sordo M. Martí +2:57.8

6 C. Breen S. Martin +3:04.1

7 A. Mikkelsen A. Jaeger +5:50.8

8 E. Evans D. Barritt +8:12.1

9 P. Tidemand J. Andersson +8:22.4

10 J. Kopecky P. Dresler +8:38.2

Here’s the thoughts of the drivers then.

Hyundai Motorsport

Thierry Neuville said: “I felt really comfortable with the car in this morning’s loop, even if there were a few settings we wanted to change at lunchtime service. We experienced some understeer in the tight corners, and it was a bit more slippery than we thought it would be. We started the afternoon well but in SS7 we found our pace notes to be set up more for ice and snow, when the terrain was, in fact, more slushy. We lost too much time there. Then, in the final stage, we were going well until an engine stall at a hairpin that cost us around ten seconds during the restart procedure. It was not the best end to the day but we have to be happy to lead this rally by such a margin. It’s never enough around Monte-Carlo, though, and we know that Seb and Ott will push us tomorrow. There’s a long way to go, so we’re not getting carried away.”

Dani Sordo said: “It’s very difficult for everyone out there, but we’ve lacked pace today. The stages are nice but it has been hard to know where the grip is, and where we can push. It seems to be a moving target, so we’ve not been able to build our confidence in the car on any of the stages. We have tried to be careful and to make sure we get through the day, which we have achieved. Our aim is to find some improvements on Saturday and to target a solid points finish on Sunday. We hope to catch Jari-Matti (Latvala) but the first goal is to not make any mistakes.”

M-Sport WRT

Sébastien Ogier (2nd) said:

“It’s been a tough day with some very difficult conditions which were made all the more challenging as the first car on the road. We had a moment this morning which certainly wasn’t the start that we were looking for, but things got better this afternoon.

“I wasn’t completely happy with the set-up over the opening loop, but we made some positive steps with that this afternoon. We still have some work to do to feel completely comfortable, but we are getting there step by step.

“We have had such a warm welcome into the team. Everyone is working extremely hard and we can see how much they want to succeed. We want to deliver that and a podium would be a really good start. For the moment, we’ll continue as we are and see what tomorrow brings.

Ott Tänak (3rd) said:

“It’s been a tricky day with some difficult conditions and, if I’m being honest, I wasn’t expecting to be in this position on this rally. Of course, the car felt really good in testing and we were quietly confident but you never really know until you’re out there competing against everyone else.

“We planned to come here and find a good, consistent rhythm and that is what we’ve done. The partnership with Martin is working really well and we’ve both felt really comfortable in the car.

“The car is handling almost exactly as I would like it to and we’re just enjoying every minute of it. There is a little work to do before we are 100 percent where we want to be, but this is a very good start.”

Toyota Gazoo Racing

Jari-Matti Latvala

“This was a very important day for us and we made the most of it. We had a couple of minor problems but we are still here at the end of the day and I am very happy with our progress. Conditions were extremely difficult, so just to stay on the road was a good achievement. But the car is improving all the time.”

Juho Hänninen

“In a downhill braking area on SS5 we just made a small mistake and lost the car on the ice, which put the car into a tree and damaged the suspension. Luckily the damage is not big and we will be able to start again tomorrow: thank you to our mechanics for a great job. That will be another very tricky day, so it will be important to make the right tyre choice in particular.”

Citroen Abu Dhabi WRT

Kris Meeke

“The conditions were difficult, as is often the case in Monte-Carlo. Some corners were covered with a layer of sheet ice and it was difficult to judge the level of grip. I got caught out on a left-hand corner. The car drifted towards the outside and the right-hand side of the car hit a bank. With the front suspension arm broken, we couldn’t go any further. It was disappointing for me and for the team. This is obviously not the sort of start we were hoping to make. Clearly, we can no longer aim for a good result, but we’ll keep going tomorrow to try and learn more about the C3 WRC.”

Stephane Lefebvre

“We started our race in earnest today. I was struggling a little bit to get to grips with the car in these conditions, which I have never experienced before. As we completed more stages, we learned a lot. I now have to find a bit more consistency and speed to reduce the gap to the leading drivers. To do that, I think I need to make better use of the studded tyres.”

Craig Breen

“I’m pleased. To be honest, I didn’t think I would be so close to the 2017 cars! We lost fifth place after a minor off, but it doesn’t matter. I’ve never felt so confident at this rally and we set some good times in what were very tricky conditions. We’re eager to keep up our good form tomorrow.”

Day three then, and an early start for the teams!

7.17am: Start of day 3 and service E (Gap – 18 mins)

8.08am: SS9 – Lardier et Valenca – Oze 1 (31.17km)

8.58am: SS10 – La Batie Monseleon – Faye 1 (16.78km)

10.07am: Service F (Gap – 33 mins)

11.13am: SS11 – Lardier et Valenca – Oze 2 (31.17km)

12.08pm: SS12 – La Batie Monseleon – Faye 2 (16.78km)

1.17pm: Service G (Gap – 33 mins)

3.03pm: SS13 – Bayons – Bréziers 2 (25.49km)

4.23pm: Service H (Gap – 48 mins)

9.11pm: Parc ferme (Monaco)

Thierry would be looking to continue his good pace, whilst Seb and Ott were ready to pounce on any mistakes from the Belgian!

The start list looked like this; Evans, Breen, Sordo, Latvala, Tanak, Ogier, Neuville, Lefebvre, Hanninen, Meeke.

Well, Thierry didn’t disappoint. He won the first stage of the day and increased his lead a little. Craig was continuing to do well with fourth fastest time, even quicker than Ott and moving back ahead of Dani Sordo on the overall leaderboard by a couple of seconds.

1. Neuville 24:02,9 (77,8kph)

2. Ogier +0:02,6

3. Evans +0:05,8

Now, it was time for Elfyn Evans to make a statement and he won stage 10. Dani moved back ahead of Craig after producing a great time through the stage to put him third fastest, a few seconds slower than his rally leading teammate whose lead was now a minute! The rally went from bad to worse now for Kris. He suffered an ignition problem in the stage and had to stop. He got the car going again and completed the stage, knowing that there was a service break next which could be used to look into the problem.

1. Evans 9:15,2 (108,8kph)

2. Neuville +0:01,0

3. Sordo +0:05,4

Stage eleven now and Seb won his first stage in the Fiesta at last. Thierry was right in his wheel tracks though and kept the lead looking very healthy indeed. Dani was doing well too, now starting to pull away from Craig.

1. Ogier 22:53,0 (81,7kph)

2. Neuville +0:02,1

3. Latvala +0:14,4

Stage twelve saw the young welsh speed wizard Elfyn top the times again! Dani was also right up there, definitely finding his mojo and moving a little closer to Jari-Matti as well in the battle for fourth overall.

1. Evans 8:56,7 (112,6kph)

2. Ogier +0:07,4

3. Sordo +0:11,6

Unlucky for some, lucky for others, stage 13 lived up to its number! Thierry’s bid for his first WRC victory in Monte Carlo came off the rails… He went a little wide on a fast-left hander and broke his rear right suspension. His lead at the time to Seb was 51 seconds…. He stopped in the stage to see what could be done, did his best to patch it up, and completed the stage and ultimately losing half a minute. Of course, the demise of the Belgian meant that Seb was now leading with Ott in second place and the wily Jari-Matti now in third! Elfyn won the stage from Seb and Kris was third in his C3. Dani lost all the time that he had and then some, after he started getting problems with his powersteering. Losing over a minute, he dropped behind Craig into fifth place.

So, what a day! Well, the drama wasn’t over at all. Whilst driving back to Gap, Kris and Paul were involved in a road accident with a spectators’ car, with damaged the right rear suspension. They we’re out of the rally for good.

Saturday end of day top ten.

1. S.Ogier / J.Ingrassia 3:26:10.7

2. O.Tänak / M.Järveoja +47.1

3. J.M Latvala / M.Anttila +2:20.6

4. C.Breen / S.Martin +3:47.3

5. D.Sordo / M.Marti +4:03.2

6. E.Evans / D.Barritt +7:27.2

7. A.Mikkelsen / A.Jaeger +9:15.2

8. J.Kopecky / P.Dresler +12:34.4

9. B.Bouffier / D.Giraudet +14:41.9

10. P.Tidemand / J.Andersson +14:59.3

Thoughts of the drivers.

M-Sport WRT

Sébastien Ogier (1st) said:

“One month ago, we started a new project with M-Sport. We knew we had no time to prepare and we knew that it would be a big challenge to fight for the victory this weekend. But I felt some potential in the Fiesta and now, to be in the lead of our first event together at Rallye Monte-Carlo, it feels amazing.

“Of course, I’m sorry for Thierry as he was doing a great job, but that is the way this rally goes sometimes. The last 53 kilometres are going to feel very, very long. We’ve seen a lot of really tricky conditions and tomorrow won’t be any easier. We need to finish the job and it would be incredible to start this new chapter with a victory.”

Ott Tänak (2nd) said:

“It’s been a big challenge – the biggest I’ve ever had in Monte – but we’re in a really strong position and it feels good… it feels really good actually!

“We’ve put three tricky days behind us and we just have one more to go. Of course in Monte it’s never over until it’s over so we just need to keep focused and be smart.

“So far the performance has been good and the feeling inside the car has been really nice as well. All we need to do now is keep our fingers crossed and keep going.”

Toyota Gazoo Racing

Jari-Matti Latvala

“Honestly, I would never have expected to end up in this position before the final day of Monte-Carlo! We tried to keep a margin of safety all day in order not to have any problems because the stages were still very tricky and changeable. I just made a few changes to the settings and my driving style during the day to suit the different conditions. I enjoyed myself a lot, but now we have to stay concentrated in order to finish the rally well.”

Juho Hänninen

“It was a difficult day as it wasn’t so easy to get back into the rhythm after going off yesterday: I didn’t want to make another mistake. On the final stage I had the puncture less than one kilometre after the start. I’m not really sure what caused it but I lost the car in quite a fast corner and went into the ditch. Everything else is working fine, so we continue like this tomorrow.”

 

Citroen Abu Dhabi WRT

Kris Meeke

“It was good to be back in the rally today. We spent the day learning. It was a bit difficult to get the confidence back and find the right pace in these conditions. The last stage was drier and we managed to find some decent speed. We gathered a lot of information, so we’ve now got some work to do to analyse all of that and make progress. Although I could no longer aim for a good overall result, I’m very disappointed not be able to contest the final leg. The Col de Turini is always one of the highlights of the season.”

 

Stephane Lefebvre

“Today was pretty tough, especially on the snow, where I struggled to feel confident. I constantly had the feeling that I was almost about to go off. I’d have loved to set a better time on SS13, but I stalled at the start of the stage and that cost me a few seconds. Tomorrow’s stages are more familiar and I hope the weather conditions will be a little milder!”

Craig Breen

“It’s been an incredible day for us. We had some really nice stage times in the morning on the snow and ice, but we couldn’t match the pace of the 2017 WRCs on tarmac. And now we find ourselves in fourth position: it’s surprising and fantastic! Well done to the team, the guys are working really hard and my ice-note crew are doing an amazing job. And now on to Monaco!”

Hyundai Motorsport

Dani Sordo said: “We had a much-improved morning compared to the struggles we faced on Friday. The conditions were better, and we were able to find more grip. I was generally a lot happier and more confident in the Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC. We still needed to work on the balance but we could set quicker stage times and move up the classification a bit. The afternoon loop continued this trend but then, in the final stage, we suddenly lost the power steering. We were very fortunate that nothing happened and we could make it to the end of the stage. We need to use the positive aspects from today to prepare for the final stages on Sunday – and hopefully to make up a position and score some Power Stage points.”

Thierry Neuville said: “We started this morning knowing that Sébastien would be pushing hard, so we responded to that confidently with a stage win. Our lead was up to one minute so we took a strategic decision at the start of the afternoon loop to play safe on tyre choice. We lost a bit of time but we were still in control. In the final stage, I felt comfortable. At the start of the stage, I played with the diffs to get into a good rhythm, and things felt fine. But we went wide into a third or fourth gear corner and there was a lot of gravel. We knew this from our gravel crew, but I must have been too quickly back on the throttle because the car went wide and we hit something like concrete. Immediately, we knew something had broken so we had to stop and fix it. It was a small mistake. I am very disappointed, more so for the team to be honest because they’ve worked so hard. We wanted to bring home the win for all of them but unfortunately, it’s not to be this time. The pace we have shown this weekend has been exceptional so let’s see what we can salvage on Sunday.”

The last day arrived, with M-Sport looking in a good position to score their first win in Monte Carlo since 2006 and their first victory since Wales Rally GB in 2012.

It wasn’t as early a start as day three, and Dani set about getting back ahead of Craig. He won stage 14 and closed to within eleven seconds. Jari-Matti had worked hard with his team and clearly found a sweet spot to so close to winning the stage. Seb increased his lead over Ott to nearly a minute.

1. Sordo 3:35,7 (91,8kph)

2. Latvala +0:01,1

3. Ogier +0:01,4

It had taken a long time, but finally Citroen had something to celebrate, with Stephane winning stage 15, after a gamble of running soft tyres all round. Dani had also set the second quickest time, to move back in front of Craig by a couple of seconds. Ott’s rally nearly fell apart though on this stage, with his engine lapsing onto 3 cylinders. Something had failed in the electronic management system and he lost a minute and a half in the stage. Now Jari-Matti was up to second overall and Ott was thirty seconds behind in third. News then came in that stage 16 had been cancelled as there were too many spectators’, that were not standing in the right places. The organisers weren’t taking any chances.

1. Lefebvre – 13:51,1 (92,5kph)

2. Sordo +0:01,5

3. Evans +0:13,5

So, there was just one stage left then, the Power Stage and with a tweak, the top five would now score points.

1. Neuville 14:14,4 (90,0kph)

2. LEFEBVRE +0:30,1

3. Hanninen +0:55,0

4. Evans +1:13,7

5. Sordo +1:42,8

Thierry got the consolation prize and took the stage victory and the 5 points that go with it. The drama was could Ott get his car to the line, as it still sounded horrible. There was the added aspect that it had started snowing up on the Col du Turini. Somehow, he squeezed every last ounce of performance from the car and got the car across the line to finish a fine third. He was sideways coming out of the last corner!

So, the news was that Seb had won and Jari-Matti had scored an incredible second place in the Yaris WRC! There were cheers and hugs in the M-Sport hub! They’d finally won after 5 years and also scored a fine third place.

It was also Seb’s fourth victory in a row, joining some special names for such a remarkable feat!

The final standings after a truly classic event.

Final Overall Classification – Rallye Monte-Carlo

1 S. Ogier J. Ingrassia 4:00:03.6

2 J. M. Latvala M. Anttila +2:15.0

3 O. Tanak M. Jarveoja +2:57.8

4 D. Sordo M. Martí +3:35.8

5 C. Breen S. Martin +3:47.8

6 E. Evans D. Barritt +6:45.0

7 A. Mikkelsen A. Jaeger +9:32.7

8 J. Kopecky P. Dresler +12:58.1

9 S. Lefebvre G. Moreau +14:43.8

10 B. Bouffier D. Giraudet +16:09.4

Here’s the thoughts of all the drivers then after an amazing but also sad rally.

M-Sport WRT

Sébastien Ogier (1st) said:

“Obviously, I feel really great. It always feels good to win at Rallye Monte-Carlo, but this year we had one of the most difficult challenges we have ever had. We had to contend with some really demanding conditions and also had a new car and a new team – it’s really incredible.

“We joined the team only a month ago, and have only had a couple of days in the car so far. Of course, we know that anything can happen at this event, but I really thought that we would be lacking the necessary preparation to challenge for victory this weekend.

“To be here now, on the top-step of the podium, I’m very happy and so happy for the whole team who really deserve this. We could never have won if they had not given us a good car, so congratulations to them.

“We still have some work to do, but we have started in the best possible way. I’m looking forward to the next events and there is nothing that does not allow me to be confident.”

Ott Tänak (3rd) said:

“It’s great to be here! For a moment, we didn’t know if we would make it, but the Ecoboost engine is clearly a very strong and at least we added a little spice to the final day.

“Of course, it’s a shame to have had the issue, but this is Monte-Carlo. We know it’s a tricky event and we have to be pleased with our performance.

“I was quite surprised to see how competitive we were. Normally I don’t enjoy challenging conditions but I felt quite comfortable in the car. We were quietly confident during testing, but you never know until you get into competition so all credit to the guys at M-Sport.

“We’ve got a great base car in the Fiesta WRC and also quite a bit that we can still improve. We had consistent speed this weekend and I think we are only going to get better as we continue to learn throughout the season.

“I must also say thanks and congratulations to my co-driver, Martin. This was one of the trickiest Rallye Monte-Carlo’s that we have ever seen and he did a really great job. He did his job so that I could concentrate on mine and I’m looking forward to seeing what we can achieve in the coming events.”

Toyota Gazoo Racing

Jari-Matti Latvala

“I am so happy with the result, although I am sorry for Ott Tanak, who was second before he had a problem. If you had told me before the start of the rally that this is where we would finish, I would never have believed it. In fact, this equals my best-ever result on this rally. The last stages were very difficult, like the whole rally was in fact, and my main priority was to look after the tyres. On the final stage, there was some snow so it was hard to find the grip. It’s been an amazing rally, and it’s been fantastic to feel all the support of the fans in particular.”

Juho Hänninen

“Today I tried to be as careful as possible in order to be sure of us bringing two cars home on our first rally, which is a fantastic result: especially with one car on the podium. On the last stage, it was really difficult to see exactly where the snow and ice was. It’s a pity that we made a mistake on Friday as otherwise we had no problems and our pace was good. Considering my lack of experience, it was still a good result here for me and as a team we have learned a lot, which is the most important thing. We will try and keep improving now.”

Hyundai Motorsport

Dani Sordo said: “It has not been a good rally for us but there have been positive signs for the rest of the season. Today’s opening stages were really enjoyable. The stage win was good for the confidence and we were able to close the gap to Breen. There wasn’t much between us going into the Power Stage but the conditions were really terrible in the mountains. Unbelievable! All we could do was minimise the time loss and thankfully it was enough to hold onto fourth and to score some important Manufacturer points. The team has put in a lot of hard work on our new car and from the speed we showed this morning, it’s definitely competitive. We need to use all of the encouraging aspects of this weekend and look for a better weekend in Sweden.”

Thierry Neuville said: “We had to put the disappointment of Saturday afternoon behind us, and look to return to form. We definitely did that today. We wanted to push hard in the Power Stage and to pick up some points. When we could see, the snow was falling, we knew it would be tricky but thankfully we did enough. It’s a consolation for what we missed out on this weekend. I would like to say thanks to the whole team for a super job. The i20 Coupe WRC is fantastic to drive and offers us genuine promise for the season. We can leave Monte-Carlo in a positive frame of mind and confident in what we can achieve against strong opposition.”

Citroen Abu Dhabi WRT

Stephane Lefebvre

“The rally finished a lot better than it started! It was a morale-boosting finish to the rally with two good times, including a stage win on the Col de Turini. We made the right call on tyre choice and I felt confident in conditions that I know well. At the same time, I didn’t want to take any risks because it was important to make sure we scored points for the team.”

Craig Breen

“The conditions were unbelievably difficult. I guess that’s why the Col de Turini has become such an iconic test! I did wonder whether or not to go with the snow tyres for the final test, but I kept the slicks and it became more and more difficult the further we went on the stage. But we managed to make it to the end and stay in the top five, which is a great result.”

D-Mack WRT

Elfyn Evans, DMACK WRC driver, said: “It’s a fantastic start to the season for us. We didn’t have a great day on Friday but Saturday’s performance more than made up for that and really raised some eyebrows. I was very happy with my driving and the feeling with the car and tyres was really positive. It was easy to work with Daniel again, everything gelled together right from the start.”

So, what an amazing event! Its tinged with sadness though after the death of the spectator on Thursday evening.

The championship tables look like this

Drivers

1 S. Ogier 25

2 J.M Latvala 18

3 O. Tanak 15

4 D. Sordo 13

5 C. Breen 10

6 E. Evans 10

7 A. Mikkelsen 6

8 S. Lefebvre 6

9 T. Neuville 5

10 J. Kopecky 4

11 J. Hänninen 3

12 B. Bouffier 1

Teams

1 M-Sport World Rally Team 40

2 Toyota Gazoo Racing WRC 24

3 Hyundai Motorsport 20

4 Citroën Total Abu Dhabi WRT 10

Next rally up is Rally Sweden! What chance a second victory for M-Sport, but you can count on Hyundai and Citroen taking the fight to our early surprising championship leaders!

Warren Nel

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