Rallye Monte Carlo – Sunday’s Report, Seb Loeb and Isabelle Galmiche win!

The final day then and 67km’s over four stages were ahead of the crews. The startlist looked like this – Katsuta, Solberg, Evans, Neuville, Greensmith, Rovanperä, Breen, Loeb, Ogier. Once again, there wasn’t a midday service, just a regroup and tyre changing zone.

First up was SS14 La Penne / Collongues 1 – 19.37 km and Loeb trimmed 1.1 seconds from Ogier’s’ lead, the two former Citroen teammates setting the pace out front, whilst Craig was just 9 tenths back with the third fastest time. Kalle continued his excellent pace with the fourth best time. It would be the last time we’d see Oliver and Elliott though, as the Hyundai crew withdrew at the end of the stage, still feeling the aftereffects of the fumes that had been coming into the cabin of their i20 Rally1.

SS15 Briançonnet / Entrevaux 1 – 14.26 km was next up and the top three was Thierry, Ogier and Takamoto. Loeb was fifth in the stage, losing some more time to Ogier in their battle for victory, the gap now 24.6 seconds! Elfyn stopped in the stage to change a tyre after getting a puncture, but it was better to have the car in good shape for the final stages.

The penultimate stage then, SS16 La Penne / Collongues 2 – 19.37 km and there was drama! The top three were Loeb, Gus and Takamoto, but a big problem for Ogier, as his left-hand front tyre suffered a puncture and he was 34.1 seconds slower than Loeb. The M-Sport driver was back in the lead, 9.5 seconds ahead of Ogier. Takamoto’s time was good enough to lift him up into ninth overall.

The final stage then, SS17 Briançonnet / Entrevaux 2 [Power Stage] – 14.26 km, and the startlist was changed again – Mikkelsen (WRC2), Cais (WRC2), Gryazin (WRC2), Johnston (WRC2), Munster (WRC2), Evans, Katsuta, Neuville, Greensmith, Rovanperä, Breen, Ogier, Loeb. Elfyn set the early benchmark, which Takamoto, Thierry and Gus could not get close to. Then came Kalle who was almost a second faster than his teammate, setting the fastest time. After Craig finished the stage, only eighth fastest, it was time to see who’s take the win. The early splits showed that Ogier was setting a faster pace than Kalle, but then we found out that he’d jumped the start and would get a 10 second penalty. All Loeb had to do was finish the stage and he’d win the rally. Loeb and Isabelle were the winners of Rallye Monte Carlo 2022 for M-Sport Ford! It was the first time a female co-driver had stood on the top step of the podium since 1997 when Piero Liatti and Fabrizia Pons took the win for Subaru and Prodrive. Just amazing and about time!

Final Overall Classification –Rallye Monte-Carlo

1 S. Loeb I. Galmiche Ford Puma Rally1 3:00:32.8
2 S. Ogier B. Veillas Toyota GR Yaris Rally1 +10.5
3 C. Breen P. Nagle Ford Puma Rally1 +1:39.8
4 K. Rovanperä J. Halttunen Toyota GR Yaris Rally1 +2:16.2
5 G. Greensmith J. Andersson Ford Puma Rally1 +6:33.4
6 T. Neuville M. Wydaeghe Hyundai i20 N Rally1 +7:42.6
7 A. Mikkelsen T. Eriksen Škoda Fabia Evo +11:33.8
8 T. Katsuta A. Johnston Toyota GR Yaris Rally1 +12:24.7
9 E. Cais P. Tesínský Ford Fiesta Mk II +12:29.2
10 N. Gryazin K. Aleksandrov Škoda Fabia Evo +13:41.3

 

Let’s hear from the drivers!

M-Sport Ford WRT

Seb Loeb (1st)

“I feel really happy! I didn’t expect so much when I came here, but it was a great fight. Ogier was really fast and I struggled a bit yesterday and even this morning.”

Craig Breen (3rd)

“It feels amazing. This is the result of 18 months of incredibly hard work by a group of people all the way through Covid, and it’s all worth it because this is an absolutely amazing machine.”

Gus Greensmith (5th)

It’s been a good weekend in terms of performance and I want to congratulate everyone at M-Sport and Ford Performance because this thing is a weapon and it’s going to get better all through the year.”

 

Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT

Sébastien Ogier (2nd)

“It has been a huge joy to compete in this special rally again and to be in this incredible fight. This weekend we don’t come out as the winner but we can definitely keep our head up. Together with Benjamin and the team we did the job. We have done a great performance over the weekend and there were no issues on the car, which is a fantastic achievement. Fate decided differently today but I’m still smiling and I still enjoyed this fight very much. Honestly, I feel there was nothing I could do about what happened on the penultimate stage. It was a cut I avoided on the first pass but on the second pass it was impossible to avoid, it was very dirty and I had to follow the line of the others. But well done to Sébastien and Isabelle for the victory, they have done a remarkable performance and it was a very tough fight. It’s been a good weekend for the sport.”

2022 FIA World Rally Championship / Round 01 / Rallye Monte Carlo 2022 / 20-23 January 2022 // Worldwide Copyright: Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT

Kalle Rovanperä (4th)

“I am really happy to see the progress we made during the rally. I didn’t really know what was happening at the beginning but we believed in ourselves, pushed hard and found a good pace in the car. We did everything we could and finally got the setup much better and I could start to learn the car myself. I have to say big thanks to my engineer for pushing with me and doing big changes to the car. So, it was a really positive weekend in the end and we could do a good run in the Power Stage also. It’s important to get all the points we can so it’s nice to be in this position, even if it means we will be cleaning the road in Sweden. That’s going to be a bit tricky but we will do our best to be ready for that.”

Elfyn Evans (21st)

“It’s been an encouraging weekend in some ways but it’s massively frustrating to make the error that was so costly yesterday. I had a good feeling in the car but that doesn’t count for much because we finish the rally with very few points, which is a disappointment. I had a pretty good run in the Power Stage but maybe towards the end I didn’t make the most of the hybrid system in the tricky conditions. Overall, the team has done a really good job. We didn’t have a lot of testing but I found a much happier place with the car during the event. I think it performed really well without any issues, so a big thank you to the team.”

Hyundai Motorsport

Thierry Neuville (6th)

“At the end of this rally, we are left with feelings of disappointment and frustration. We had a tough weekend. I drove for my life in the Power Stage, I gave it absolutely everything, so I was disappointed with the time. There has been a huge amount of work behind the scenes to prepare for this event, from me and Martijn, as well as the team, so to come away without any reward is hard to accept. We won’t give up. We are trying to keep everyone motivated and we will continue pushing. The will is definitely there and that’s important. There are different areas we are going to work on but most important is the reliability. We need to be much stronger for the upcoming events.”

2022 FIA World Rally Championship Round 01,
Rallye Monte-Carlo 2022, 20-23 January 2022
Thierry Neuville, Martijn Wydaeghe, Hyundai i20 N Rally1, Action during Day 3 of WRC Rallye Monte-Carlo 2022
Photographer: Romain Thuillier
Worldwide copyright: Hyundai Motorsport GmbH

Oliver Solberg (DNF)

“We started the day with some hope. Our plan was to gain more mileage today – for the car, the team and ourselves – we just wanted to drive and have fun. We were seventh through SS14 but after the stage we agreed with the team to retire the car as we were not feeling well after what we’d experienced over the past couple of days. It’s been a long, tough weekend but I am happy with what I’ve done. Even if it’s been tricky, we’ve set some good splits and stage times. There are always positives to take away. Big thanks to the team too, it’s been long days and the dedication is fantastic. Together as a team we’ll keep pushing and working to improve for next time!”

2022 FIA World Rally Championship for Drivers’ Standings
After Round One

1 S. Loeb 27
2 S. Ogier 19
3 K. Rovanperä 17
4 C. Breen 15
5 T. Neuville 11
6 G. Greensmith 10
7 A. Mikkelsen 6
8 T. Katsuta 4
9 E. Evans 4
10 E. Cais 2
11 M. Gryazin 1

2022 FIA World Rally Championship for Manufacturers’ Standings
After round 1

1 Toyota Gazoo Racing World Rally Team 40
2 M-Sport Ford World Rally Team 39
3 Hyundai Shell Mobis World Rally Team 13
4 Toyota Gazoo Racing World Rally Team NG 8

Summary

Well, that was amazing! Just an incredible first round of this season’s championship. Look out for my roundup of the driver and co-driver performances this coming week.

Rallye Monte Carlo 2022 – Saturday’s Report, Seb Ogier and Ben Veillas move into the lead

With five stages and 96km of action, we were set for another really intense day of competition. The startlist looked like this, now running in reverse order – Solberg, Rovanperä, Katsuta, Greensmith, Breen, Tänak, Neuville, Evans, Ogier, Loeb.

Into the first stage then, SS9 Le Fugeret / Thorame-Haute – 16.80 km and Elfyn was fastest from Kalle and Ogier. It was Loeb’s turn to have a slow one, only setting the seventh best time and losing time to Ogier, the gap now just 6.5 seconds. There was drama again for Ott though, getting a puncture and losing three spots to Craig, Gus and Takamoto. The Estonian duo were now in eighth place. Of course, Elfyn’s great time meant that he’d closed the gap to Loeb to just 8.2 seconds.

Next stage then, into SS10 Saint-Jeannet / Malijai 1 – 17.04 km and Ogier was fastest from Elfyn and Kalle. The young Finn was definitely having a better day after his troubles on Friday and getting into a groove for sure. Ogier’s pace meant that he and Loeb now shared the lead after ten stages. There were contrasting fortunes for Craig and Gus. Gus suffered a mechanical problem and then a puncture in the stage, whilst Craig passed Thierry into fourth place.

The next one, SS11 Saint-Geniez / Thoard 1 – 20.79 km and it was smooth drive for Ogier who emerged from this one with a 5.4 second lead over Loeb. It was a disaster for Elfyn though who’s been setting some great splits throughout the stage. The Welshman slid off the road near the finish and the GR Yaris was stuck. His decision to go with studded tyres so nearly paid off with the lead. The stage was red flagged and this would mean that once the remaining cars had proceeded through, the car was moved and Elfyn could continue on and complete the rest of the day’s stages. Kalle continued to go well, setting the second fastest time, whilst Craig was third fastest and moved into third overall after the problem with Elfyn.

It got even better for Kalle SS12 Saint-Jeannet / Malijai 2 – 17.04 km as the Finn took the stage win from Loeb and Ogier. There were problems for Thierry, who was suffering with a damper problem and dropped back two places to sixth with Kalle and Takamoto both moving ahead into fourth and fifth place respectively.

So, to the final stage then, SS13 Saint-Geniez / Thoard 2 – 20.79 km and Kalle put his studded tyres to good work and set the fastest time, whilst Ogier and Oliver were second and third. Gus moved ahead of Thierry into fifth place as the Belgian battled through the stage with the returning problem with his front suspension as it attempted to break through the bonnet.

 

Classification after Day Three

1 S. Ogier B. Veillas Toyota GR Yaris Rally1 2:19:43.1
2 S. Loeb I. Galmiche Ford Puma Rally1 +21.1
3 C. Breen P. Nagle Ford Puma Rally1 +1:26.0
4 K. Rovanperä J. Halttunen Toyota GR Yaris Rally1 +2:03.8
5 G. Greensmith J. Andersson Ford Puma Rally1 +6:33.8
6 T. Neuville M. Wydaeghe Hyundai i20 N Rally1 +7:44.1

 

Let’s hear from the drivers.

Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT

Sébastien Ogier (1st)

“It has been a good day for us and a positive step forward compared to yesterday. Generally, I felt better in the car today. In the first stage this morning I struggled to use the hybrid system in the way I wanted, but it’s something new for everyone and I try to adapt my driving style to make it work. We managed to make a bit of a gap tonight with a slightly crazy tyre choice in the last stage. It has been such a close battle all weekend with Sébastien [Loeb] and knowing him after all these years, I guessed he would try something. I wanted to have a straight fight with the same tyres and see who was faster, even though it was not the best choice for the conditions. It was a bit challenging in the snow but it felt really good on the dry roads and I had a really good stage. But tomorrow is still long and still with the potential for tricky conditions.”

Kalle Rovanperä (4th)

“We changed the car quite a lot from yesterday and the balance is much better for my driving style, it’s much easier to drive. We have done a bit of everything on the setup, a lot of small steps which are finally paying off. It felt really nice to win two stages, and the last stage was particularly good for us. At the beginning of the rally, it was hard to look at the stage times, but now it’s nice to start enjoying the driving. I am happy to have made such a big step and now we’ll try to see what more we can do. It always helps when you finally get a positive feeling in the car because it gives you the confidence to drive a bit better and everything gets easier.”

2022 FIA World Rally Championship / Round 01 / Rallye Monte Carlo 2022 / 20-23 January 2022 // Worldwide Copyright: Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT

Elfyn Evans (26th)

“It is obviously frustrating what happened today. It was going pretty well up until then with a good morning overall and it was going well in SS11 as well. I’d made it out of the difficult part of the stage but then I just got caught out on a tricky right-hander. I had some information in my pace-notes but it seemed to spring out of nowhere and I just braked too late. The car was in a difficult position so thanks to the fans for all their help, they were really good. We got it back on the stage and got going again but we had lost so much time. After that it felt like a bit of a long afternoon. We didn’t want to do anything to jeopardise the Power Stage tomorrow when we will try to get some points.”

 

M-Sport Ford WRT

Seb Loeb (2nd)

I lost some time with my super softs, I had two crossed super softs and I didn’t really understand why, then in Sisteron, Seb was really fast in both runs, so nothing really major. The gap to the front is large, so we’ll see tomorrow.

Craig Breen (3rd)

It’s been a rally of attrition more than others in recent years, and I’ve been quite happy with the pace today, honestly, we’ve definitely increased it up since yesterday, I feel that if we had the same settings as we run yesterday as today, we’d be a level up. That was just a consequence of not having all the seat time in the test, my own fault entirely, but it’s good and I’ve been happy with that. We have a good tyre package for tomorrow as we used old tyres this afternoon, and this means that we have new sets available tomorrow. I’m looking forward to the new stages tomorrow.

Gus Greensmith (5th)

Yeah, from as good as things were yesterday to as bad as things were today. Nothing more could have gone wrong, engine issues, puncture, everything. Not a good day, but not much I could have done about it, I’m proud of my bodge, it’s got us to the end of the day and at least we can go again tomorrow.

 

Hyundai Motorsport

Thierry Neuville (6th)

“I don’t know what to say, really. We have made it through the day somehow after experiencing an ongoing issue with the front-right damper. At the start of the middle morning stage (SS10), the car suddenly felt like it was pulling to one side, but it was only at the end we realised that the top-mount fixation of the damper was gone. We kept fighting, although it was a bit of a struggle without lunchtime service. We had to carry out some repairs ourselves in between the two loops, but a few kilometres into SS12 the damper came through the bonnet. We then did some fixes on the road section before the final stage, but it gave up again in the final kilometres. It’s been a day of survival.”

Oliver Solberg (49th)

“We had the same issue with fuel fumes coming into the car as we have had on the previous days. In SS10, we lost concentration in the middle of the stage and went off the road at a medium speed right-hander. Miraculously, we got the car out and could continue the rally. I really didn’t think we would manage it – we had about 25 people pushing, pulling, and dragging the car out. Thankfully it was just cosmetic damage. We used the afternoon as another valuable learning experience. Setting the joint third-fastest time through a snowy SS13, equalling my best-ever stage result, was a nice way to end to a really difficult day.”

2022 FIA World Rally Championship
Round 01, Rallye Monte-Carlo
20-23 January 2022
Oliver Solberg, Elliott Edmondson, Hyundai i20 N Rally 1
Photographer: Dufour Fabien
Worldwide copyright: Hyundai Motorsport GmbH

Ott Tänak (DNF)

“The car felt OK today, there was no real drama. The puncture on the first stage was one of those things that happen. We continued but with no spare tyre left we had to keep things as tidy as possible. Unfortunately, in the final stage on the icy conditions, we made a very small, but ultimately costly mistake. We picked up some damage and that was it. We were leaking coolant and the engine was overheating so we had to stop the car on the road section. Unfortunately, we won’t be able to continue tomorrow but we are committed to learning from this challenging weekend to build for the rest of the season.”

Sunday

Well, we are set for 67km’s over four stages and no service again either. Who will emerge on top? Can Loeb fight back for M-Sport Ford, or will Ogier triumph again? We shall find out tomorrow!

Rallye Monte Carlo 2022 Preview – The Hybrid Era starts!

Time for the fiftieth world rally championship season to start with the new rules and new cars that were launched on Saturday evening. The driver movements are well documented as well, so let’s get on and review this incredibly iconic rally. With four days of competition ahead, lets take a look at the stages.

The 90th running of this event this year is based in Monaco instead of Gap and with 296km over 17 stages the challenge of this rally remains as tricky as ever. We may not see any snow, but there will almost certainly be ice on the stages making it a big challenge to stay on the road.

Shakedown takes place on Thursday the 20th of January with a short 2.29km stage that starts at 9:31 local French time.

Later the same day the opening ceremony takes place in Monaco followed by two stages run in the dark: Luceram / Lantosque (15.20km) and La Bollène-Vésubie / Moulinet (23.25km)

Friday’s itinerary consists of two attempts of Roure / Bevil (18.33km), Guillaumes / Péone / Valberg (13.49km) and Val-de-Chalvagne / Entrevaux (17.11km) with just a tyre fitting zone between the morning and afternoon loops

Saturday begins with Le Fugeret / Thorame-Haute (16.80km), before presenting the challenge of two passes of Saint-Jeannet / Malijai (17.04km) and Saint-Geniez / Thoard (20.79km)

Sunday features two loops of La Penne / Collongues (19.37km) and Briançonnet / Entrevaux (14.26km). The second pass of the latter will be the rally’s Power Stage.

The usual crews will be challenging for the podium spots I suspect.

Let’s hear from the drivers!

Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT

Team Toyota poses for a photograph during the WRC launch at the Hangar 7 in Salzburg, Austria on January 15, 2022.

Sébastien Ogier

“I’m at the beginning of a different stage in my career, and as I’m not taking part in the full championship the feeling is a little bit different to usual for me at this time of the year. But being part of this programme with TOYOTA GAZOO Racing is still exciting and going to Rallye Monte-Carlo is always special for me. I’m still a competitor and I still want to win, so I will be giving my best to perform. I know the team has been working very hard to be ready with this new generation of car and big steps have been made in every test. I’ve had the chance to do three days of testing in the GR YARIS Rally1 in December and another day last week, all to prepare for this event. It’s quite a big change and it’s an exciting challenge to try and adapt to that. But I think going to Monte Carlo will be a huge challenge for everybody: There’s more uncertainty than ever going into this rally.”

Elfyn Evans

“This is an exciting time in our sport and I’m looking forward to the challenge of these new cars. Since I first tested the GR YARIS Rally1 we’ve made some good progress, but it’s impossible to know where we stand relative to the competition until we get to Monte Carlo. So much has changed and it’s a clean sheet of paper. It’s not been easy to jump from a car that was so well-developed, where everything was coming quite easily, and into something that is a lot more unknown. The additional power from the hybrid system makes a huge difference and how you manage it could be worth quite a lot in certain cases. We’ve already learned a lot in testing and I’m sure we’re going to continue learning a lot during the year, starting in Monte Carlo. It’s a rally that’s always a bit of a lottery with the weather anyway, and now the base has moved south there’s a lot of new stages and different terrain to get to grips with.”

Kalle Rovanperä

“My feeling with the new car is good and we have some good preparation behind us. With any new car there are always many things to work on and to improve, but I feel we have been making good progress all the time. It’s been especially interesting to get used to the boost from the hybrid. It gives you much more power, and that’s usually a good thing, but it can also be a bit tricky in certain points if you’re not ready to use it. As a driver you need to think about how to use it and if you can do that better than the others it could make quite a big difference. Rallye Monte-Carlo is going to be quite special this year. It’s always a tricky rally but this year we are going to have a lot of new stages as well as a totally new car. Friday and Saturday are going to be long days without mid-day service and if you can get through those days without issues that will already be quite good.”

Hyundai Motorsport

2022 FIA World Rally Championship, WRC Launch 2022,
15 January 2022
X
Photographer: Vincent Thuillier
Worldwide copyright: Hyundai Motorsport GmbH

Thierry Neuville

“Our main target in Monte-Carlo is to finish and gain experience in the car. I don’t think we are going to have a completely dry event but I don’t think it will be full of snow either; as usual, we are expecting a mix of conditions. Because of this, it’s very hard to have the perfect tyre choice for all the stages, so it’s all about compromise next weekend – the driver who does it best is going to be the most competitive. Choosing the tyres is not so easy because you have to collect a lot of information, trust yourself and commit. It will be a challenge, but I like driving in these conditions, so it is going to be exciting.”

Ott Tänak

“I think there is some uncertainty heading to Monte-Carlo, so it is important that we get through the rally without any major issues and keep the car running so we gain as much experience as possible – that will be the priority. Rallye Monte-Carlo is not as much about pure performance; it is about the reliability and the small decisions you make. Of course, we want to finish well and score many points for the championship this weekend. The very first stage in the dark with the new car will certainly be an adventure.”

Oliver Solberg

“Starting my first WRC campaign in Monte-Carlo is going to be very exciting. I think we have realistic expectations for the event – the most important part for us is just finishing and helping the team as much as possible. Rallye Monte-Carlo is an event where everything can happen; a stage can start with snow and end with tarmac, so it’s a very interesting and unpredictable way to begin the season with the new cars, but it’s also very exciting. I know I will take some time to find my feet but I have the best guys in the team to learn from.”

M-Sport Ford WRT

Sebastien Loeb

“It’s a radical change of scenery after spending three weeks on the Dakar Rally but it’s still very exciting to be at the start of the Monte Carlo Rally, especially with the WRC’s new hybrid era.

“I’m also proud of this collaboration with Malcolm’s team, working with them has been talked about throughout my career but never quite managed to happen, so thank you all, M-Sport, Ford Performance and Red Bull for finally making this happen on such an amazing event.

“For this rally, I will certainly be less prepared than the other drivers but the feeling with the Puma Hybrid Rally1 was immediately very good and everything just came together. I am looking forward to having fun this weekend with Isabelle, my new co-driver, and the whole M-Sport team.”

Craig Breen

“It is always something very special competing on Rallye Monte Carlo, but to be doing it for the M-Sport Ford World Rally Team, is a dream come true! The team has done an unbelievable job building and developing the Puma Hybrid Rally1 and it really shows. It is by far the best rally car I have ever driven and with the addition of the hybrid unit, it is going to add another dimension to the rally. Paul and I are relishing the challenge and are really looking forward to the year ahead with M-Sport and Ford.”

Adrien Fourmaux

“For Rallye Monte-Carlo, we will try to do our best, feel the car and understand its level of performance compared to the others. It will be the first time here in the top category of the WRC, I have been here previously in the Fiesta Rally2, my first appearance was already a top ten overall finish! I love these roads; I have performed quite well in the past so I have good hopes. By the way it’s a new era for everyone so we’ll need the perfect match between the car’s reliability and driving skill to perform well until the end of the rally. We hope to deliver the best result as we can, everything is possible!”

Gus Greensmith

“I’m excited to be a part of the 2022 M-Sport Ford World Rally Team as we head into the most significant rule change in WRC history. The team has done a great job developing the new car, and I feel really comfortable driving it. We’re all confident the car should be a lot more competitive than recent years, which will hopefully give us more opportunities to fight near the front. I was happy with my improvements last season, and I want to build on that going into 2022. I was within a second of my first stage win last year, and I feel that with the new package, this is definitely an achievable goal, and we also want to try to push for our first podium as well. Monte Carlo has always been a tricky opener for the championship, but I have done the rally a few times now, and with the new car feeling so good, I am really looking forward to the challenge. It will be essential to build the speed throughout the weekend, especially with this being Jonas and I’s second rally together. Thanks again to all the team for all the hard work they have put into the Puma Hybrid Rally1, and I hope we can repay them with a good result in Monte.”

Summary

Well, we are set for another gripping season of top-level rallying. Which team have done the best job with the new regulations and who will take victory this weekend? Make sure that you are following the action online and pop back at the end of each day for my daily reports.

Rallye Monte Carlo 2021 Review –

Rallye Monte Carlo 2021 Review – Seb and Julien take their Eighth Monte Carlo Victory

 

Thursday

The first day saw just two stages. The starting line-up looked like this – Ogier, Evans, Tänak, Neuville, Rovanperä, Suninen, Sordo, Greensmith, Katsuta, Loubet.

 

First up was SS1 Saint-Disdier – Corps – 20.58 km first up! Ott was fastest in the stage, from Kalle and Elfyn. Thierry and Martijn started their first ever stage as a crew, going fourth fastest, 3.9 off their teammates best time. The big news was Teemu and Markko’s crash though, near the end of the stage. They were pushing hard and the stage was really wet in the last sector. The Finn put his tyres on the white line on a left hander, and the car slid into a bank which sent the car onto its roof, and then off the road backwards into a tree, leaving the broken rear wing on the road in bits. It was a huge shock and surprise and a big shame as well.

It was a second stage win for the Estonian crew in SS2 Saint-Maurice – Saint-Bonnet – 20.78 km, with Kalle only three tenths off, and Elfyn a further five seconds off in third. Thierry continued a good start, moving into fourth overall at the expense of Seb, who was suffering with a braking problem, which was holding him back from his ultimate pace.

Classification after Day One

1 O. Tänak M. Järveoja Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC 24:17.5
2 K. Rovanperä J. Halttunen Toyota Yaris WRC +3.3
3 E. Evans S. Martin Toyota Yaris WRC +8.5
4 T. Neuville M. Wydaeghe Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC +16.0
5 S. Ogier J. Ingrassia Toyota Yaris WRC +16.9
6 D. Sordo C. del Barrio Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC +42.7
7 P. L. Loubet V. Landais Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC +1:07.8

 

Let’s hear from the drivers.

Ott Tänak (1st)

“At the start, it was looking like quite a simple start to Monte-Carlo; we never started before in daylight and with consistent conditions. The second one, with more cuts and muddy places, was very demanding and with lots of surprises. We have more stability with the car compared to last year and definitely better feedback. Overall, in wet conditions, the Pirelli tyres have some grip and seem to have good performance but in other places, when you hit some mud or some dirt, the step is quite big. It’s something we still need to learn and get experience.”

Thierry Neuville (4th)

“Everything went quite OK in these opening stages. It was all pretty new for Martijn in the Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC, driving at fast speeds, so we have to be satisfied. We didn’t know what to expect with no shakedown or testing together, but it worked well. We have some things to improve with the in-car communication over the weekend, but he has done a good job so far. I was able to drive at a good rhythm without taking any big risks. The first stage went well but we perhaps lost a bit too much on the second one. Tomorrow is a much longer, trickier day and I expect a more difficult tyre choice; we look forward to it.”

Dani Sordo (6th)

“This is not the way we were hoping to start this rally. I had a weird feeling from the car right from before the first stage. There was a noise that I have never heard before, perhaps in the differential, it sounded like something was not fixed properly. We need to check to see what it is. The rally is very long and tomorrow we are expecting some different conditions but honestly, I wanted more from today. I was confident I could do well on the first stage which is why I think something is not quite right. We need to keep pushing.”

2021 FIA World Rally Championship
Rallye Monte-Carlo 2021 21-24 January 2021
Dani Sordo, Carlos del Barrio, Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC, Action during Day 1 of Rallye Monte-Carlo 2021
Photographer: Romain Thuillier
Worldwide copyright: Hyundai Motorsport GmbH

Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT

Sébastien Ogier (5th)

“I had a cautious start in the beginning of stage one, because I have very little experience with these tyres and I needed to get a bit of a feeling. Then in the middle of the stage I started to have this brake issue, and so then the rest of the loop was tricky. When you are not confident with the brakes it’s quite hard to drive on the limit. It’s not an ideal start but for sure we will keep fighting and I’m quite sure the car will be 100 per cent tomorrow morning and now it’s up to me to do my best. Tomorrow morning it will be a super early start with probably some tricky conditions, so there is still a long way to go in this rally.”

Elfyn Evans (3rd)

“It was a difficult couple of stages to open the rally. It was quite wet and we had a lot of surface changes, so the grip was changing all the time. To top it off we had a delay waiting to start the second stage, so we had to enter it with cold tyres and that was pretty difficult. Immediately we went into a narrow village with ice on the road, so it was very difficult to generate temperature and gain confidence. But we got through it. We have the possibility of more wintery weather tonight, so we’ll have to wait until the morning and see what conditions we’ll face.”

Kalle Rovanperä (2nd)

“The feeling was good in the first loop. The first stage was quite nice. It was my first time driving on wet asphalt with the new Pirelli tyres but the feeling was good. The second stage was much more tricky with the ice, but there the pace was also quite good and I enjoyed the challenge. I was a bit surprised about the pace because it didn’t feel so fast or a big push, but the car felt good. Tomorrow will be really tricky starting in the dark with ice and snow maybe but we’ll try to keep the same pace up.”

2021 FIA World Rally Championship / Round 01 / Monte Carlo Rally / 21-24 January, 2021 // Worldwide Copyright: Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT

M-Sport WRT

Teemu Suninen (DNF)

“Everything was going well and I had a really good feeling in the car. Then coming into a corner, I lost the line and touched the bank which sent us off the road. It’s a really big shame because the car was quick and everyone has worked really hard to be here. The pace was good and the car was looking really strong, so this isn’t the start to the season that any of us wanted – and with too much damage, we won’t be back tomorrow.”

Gus Greensmith (10th)

“It’s not been a great start for us and all of the confidence we had on the test seems to have gone amiss somewhere. I’m feeling really uptight and uncomfortable in the car, and not relaxed in my driving – so that’s something we’re going to have to try and solve for the morning. There could be some snow in first stage which will make the rest of the loop pretty tricky when it comes to the tyre choice. But they’re all really nice, flowing stages – especially the last one which is probably my favourite of the rally; so, let’s see if we can have some fun in there!”

Adrien Fourmaux (2nd WRC 2)

“We saw some very tricky conditions today with the grip levels changing all the time. We decided where to push and where to be a bit more cautious and I have to say that I was really pleased with my pace – especially on the last stage which is where we decided to push to make the most of our tyre choice. It was a really clean drive and to be only eight seconds away from the lead is nothing on a rally like this. For tomorrow we should see some snow and ice which means a lot can still happen – so we have to stay focused.”

 

Friday

The second day of this event saw five stages, totalling 104.70km. The start list looked like this – Ogier, Evans, Tänak, Neuville, Rovanperä, Sordo, Greensmith, Katsuta, Loubet.

It was all change in SS3 Aspremont – La Bâtie-des-Fonts 1 – 19.61 km, with Seb, Elfyn and Kalle locking out the top three fastest times and with that, Kalle was now leading from Elfyn and Seb. Overnight leader, Ott, fell to fourth overall, 8.7 seconds from the lead now. Also falling down the leaderboard was Gus in his Fiesta WRC. He was only 14th fastest, and dropped one place to eleventh overall.

Seb struck back in SS4 Chalancon – Gumiane 1 – 21.62 km, winning the stage from Kalle and Elfyn, and moved into the lead from his younger Finnish teammate, and now had a lead of 3.3 over Elfyn, with Kalle a further 6.4 back, but still holding third overall. Gus had a much better stage, setting the seventh best time and climbing back into tenth overall.

The Frenchman took SS5 Montauban-sur-l’Ouvèze – Villebois-les-Pins 1 – 22.24 km as well, from Elfyn and Ott. Kalle had taken a ten second penalty for arriving at the next stage late, and this meant that former rally leader Ott was now back into third overall. Further down the leaderboard, Takamoto and Gus swapped positions, with the Japanese driver back in front and back in the top ten. Seb now held a 11.3 second lead over Elfyn in their battle over the win.

After service, everything changed! The second run of SS6 Aspremont – La Bâtie-des-Fonts 2 – 19.61 km saw Seb have a puncture, and he spun on one of the hairpins and was only twelfth fastest. Top three was Elfyn, 6.9 ahead of Ott with Thierry a further 2.8 behind his Estonian teammate. Takamoto was also on the move up the leaderboard, after setting the fifth best time in the stage and was now in eighth overall, gaining two places at the expense of Adrien Fourmoux and Pierre-Louis. So, what of Seb? Well, he was now in third, 23.4 behind Elfyn.

The last stage of the day, SS7 Chalancon – Gumiane 2 – 21.62 km, now run-in daylight saw things improve for Seb though. He was a massive 16 seconds faster than Elfyn, reducing Elfyn’s’ advantage to just 7.4 seconds. After a troubling day for Dani, he found a rhythm, and was just 1.3 from Seb and second fastest, with Kalle third. Takamoto was making eighth overall his position, going fourth quickest. Meanwhile, Gus was also moving up, and was now in tenth overall.

 

Classification after Day Two

1 E. Evans S. Martin Toyota Yaris WRC 1:33:57.5
2 S. Ogier J. Ingrassia Toyota Yaris WRC +7.4
3 O. Tänak M. Järveoja Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC +25.3
4 K. Rovanperä J. Halttunen Toyota Yaris WRC +53.1
5 T. Neuville M. Wydaeghe Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC +59.1
6 D. Sordo C. del Barrio Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC +1:49.6

 

Let’s hear from the drivers

Toyota Gazoo Racing

Elfyn Evans (1st)

“Even though we’re leading I’m not completely satisfied with the day, to be honest. Seb has driven very well today and it’s been difficult to keep up with his times. In some sections I was able to do quite well, but when the surface gets more slippery, I’m struggling to feel the grip and I don’t get the confidence to push more in those areas. Hopefully we can make some changes and be in a better position in those conditions tomorrow. It’s been a difficult rally with the conditions so far and it sounds like there’s the possibility for more interesting weather overnight, so it’s not going to be easy all the way to the end.”

Sébastien Ogier (2nd)

“After the difficult start yesterday, I was able to wake up this morning and have a good rhythm from the first kilometres. It was a difficult start on the first stage with some fog and a lot of icy sections. But I was happy with the car and it was much more enjoyable to drive now that I had the confidence. This afternoon the roads were more muddy as expected, but with the winter tyres on it was still nice to drive. I think we were pretty unlucky in the penultimate stage where we lost a lot of time, but other than that I think we’ve done the best we could do today. I came here to win this rally and I’m going to do everything to make that happen.”

2021 FIA World Rally Championship / Round 01 / Monte Carlo Rally / 21-24 January, 2021 // Worldwide Copyright: Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT

Kalle Rovanperä (4th)

“I had a good feeling this morning. It started with a tricky stage but we managed quite well. Then we had a small issue on the road section and we couldn’t make it on time to the next stage but at least we got it fixed. In the first stage after service in the beginning there was a really big cut with a lot of mud: I was expecting a bit more grip from the tyre, and we had a spin and took us some time to get back on the road. I’m pretty happy with the driving, but with the time penalty and this small off it’s quite a big gap we have given away.”

 

Hyundai Motorsport

Ott Tänak (3rd)

“It’s been a bit of a mixed day with some tricky conditions. In some places, things have felt consistent, but then you have sections where the grip changes a lot and it’s difficult to figure out and find the limit. I tried my best, but I am lacking confidence at times and this is not the place to be a hero. In the final stage of the afternoon, we had no visibility with a misted-up screen, so things got extra complicated.”

2021 FIA World Rally Championship
Round 01, Rallye Monte-Carlo
21-24 January 2021
Ott Tanak, Martin Jarveoja, Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC
Photographer: Dufour Fabien
Worldwide copyright: Hyundai Motorsport GmbH

Thierry Neuville (5th)

“We ended the day with a really nice stage and an incredible job from Martijn. I have been feeling increasingly confident after a less than easy morning. We didn’t make the best tyre choice in the opening loop so we had to make the most out of it. We tried to stay cautious as the conditions have been really difficult. A top job at midday service, with a strong team spirit, allowed us to tackle the afternoon stages in a more positive manner. It still wasn’t a really big push because it’s tricky to catch back the time lost from the morning.”

Dani Sordo (6th)

“Conditions have been difficult, and it’s honestly been a challenge to find the grip and the confidence. I have struggled a lot, although we had a better run this afternoon. We lost a lot of time this morning which will be hard to catch back, but we keep on doing what we can. I can’t say I am happy with the performance but our time in the final stage shows that I can set good pace when I feel comfortable and confident in the car.”

 

M-Sport WRT

Gus Greensmith (10th)

“For some reason things just aren’t clicking for us this weekend. The car is good, it’s just the driver and I wish I had the answer as to why things aren’t going right. Normally I really enjoy these conditions. I’ve won here before and I’d see challenging, changeable conditions like this and think, great, I can make some time here. But this weekend, I just don’t seem to have the confidence.

“We’re still here which is the most important thing – and we’re getting the mileage and the experience which is definitely a positive. But it’s not the weekend we anticipated after such a good feeling on the test. We’ll have another look through the data tonight to try and identify where to improve, and hopefully that will be the case tomorrow.”

 

Adrien Fourmaux (2nd WRC 2)

“It’s been another really tricky day out there, but we had good pace and can only be happy with our performance. The conditions were so difficult and dirty with almost every cut full of gravel – so we had to compromise. We set a fastest time, but sometimes we also had to back off the pace as it’s so easy to make a mistake.

“The conditions aren’t going to get any easier tomorrow and they could be even trickier if we have snow and ice – so we need to stay focused. We’ve done a good job so far, and just need to continue like that tomorrow.”

 

Saturday

With three stages on the third day, and the first run in the dark, there had been some changes in the conditions. Snow had fallen, and we were seeing a much more normal challenge out there for the crews. The starting line-up looked like this – Loubet, Greensmith, Katsuta, Sordo, Neuville, Rovanperä, Tänak, Evans, Ogier.

Into SS9 La Bréole – Selonnet 1 – 18.31 km then, and we saw Seb take advantage of his experience going through the stage 17.8 seconds faster than Elfyn who was second and Dani who was getting some confidence in the conditions going third fastest. Gus was also finding some confidence, and set the fifth best time. Unfortunately, it was going wrong for Ott, who picked up a puncture on the stage, and dropped more than a full minute and fell to fifth overall as well.

The penultimate stage of the day, SS10 Saint-Clément – Freissinières – 20.48 km, had a very interesting outcome. Pierre-Louis was first through the stage, and had set a very good time. The fresh snow on the stage had given the young Frenchman good confidence. As the other crews came through, they couldn’t beat that time, but finally, Thierry and Martijn took their first stage victory as a duo. As the top drivers came through, they found that the conditions were such that they couldn’t get anywhere the times set earlier.

Top three was Thierry, Pierre-Louis and Dani. Top three overall remained, Seb, Elfyn and Kalle, but Thierry was now just 1.4 seconds from taking the third place from the Finn. It was a disaster for Ott though. He had another puncture! What a nightmare for the 2019 champ. He stopped to put the wheel rim back on, so that he and Martin would have a tyre on a rim to drive back to service.

Elfyn took the last stage of the day, SS11 La Bréole – Selonnet 2 – 18.31 km. He and Seb had swapped and the Welshman, meaning that Elfyn was last to complete, and was the only driver on the second run to drop below 12 minutes, setting a time, 1.3 seconds faster than Seb. Kalle was third, and increased the gap over Thierry to seven seconds over their battle for the final podium position.

 

Classification after Day Three

1 S. Ogier J. Ingrassia Toyota Yaris WRC 2:16:31.9
2 E. Evans S. Martin Toyota Yaris WRC +13.0
3 K. Rovanperä J. Halttunen Toyota Yaris WRC +56.8
4 T. Neuville M. Wydaeghe Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC +1:03.8
5 D. Sordo C. del Barrio Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC +2:11.3
6 T. Katsuta D. Barritt Toyota Yaris WRC +4:43.1

 

Let’s hear from the drivers!

Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT

Sébastien Ogier (1st)

“It has been a good day, although not perfect. The first stage went very well in super tricky conditions. I really pushed hard so I was happy to cross the finish line and keep the car on the road with that kind of speed. The second stage was much more difficult for us. The conditions were really extreme and I had absolutely no grip, and we lost quite a lot of time compared to the drivers running at the front of the road order. Maybe we also didn’t do the perfect job with the tyre management but they are new and we’re still learning about them. In the final stage the conditions had changed a lot since the first pass and also since the gravel crew went through, but it was a clean drive for me. Most importantly we are in the lead and that’s what we need to keep now.”

Elfyn Evans (2nd)

“It has been a bit of frustrating day for me. I didn’t start off too well in the first stage this morning. Once I got my rhythm the time was not so bad, but Seb was obviously very strong. In the second stage it seemed to polish a lot and as later runners we seemed to have a lot less grip. Still, our time was quite close to Seb’s, although we had a small stall at a hairpin which cost us a handful of seconds. The last stage was difficult because the gravel notes were telling you it’s much worse than what you were seeing on the road. I tried to stay clean and out of trouble and it seemed OK. There was more to get out of it today and I wasn’t brave enough really, but of course it’s about finding a balance in these conditions. We’ll keep the pressure on tomorrow.”

2021 FIA World Rally Championship / Round 01 / Monte Carlo Rally / 21-24 January, 2021 // Worldwide Copyright: Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT

Kalle Rovanperä (3rd)

“It was a nice start this morning, the first stage went quite well. I was quite careful in the tricky conditions but the time compared to others was good. The second one was really tricky, it felt good but I think the road was getting much slower all the time and we lost some time there. The last stage was tricky because I had a problem with my earplugs, so Jonne had to scream all the time so I could hear the notes! But I think it was a good run – we were faster than the driver behind us so it was enough.”

 

Hyundai Motorsport

Thierry Neuville (4th)

“It has been another tricky, challenging day but we have been constantly improving in the car. It was a difficult start; I wasn’t feeling comfortable in the first stage and not in the rhythm but that improved in SS10. I tried to be as efficient as possible in the car, looking for traction and keeping it clean. There was a mid-section where I felt I had more grip so I could push a bit more. Still, I was surprised to see the time, especially after we lost a lot in that opening stage. It was our first stage win of the season and the first for Martijn, which was nice after the progress we have made this weekend. The target has been to get mileage and get used to working with each other. Monte is the best school you can get!”

2021 FIA World Rally Championship
Round 01, Rallye Monte-Carlo 2021
21-24 January 2021
Thierry Neuville
Photographer: Austral
Worldwide copyright: Hyundai Motorsport GmbH

Dani Sordo (5th)

“Today was all about the grip and getting the car to the end. We knew the opening stage would be ‘interesting’ with lots of ice when we heard the comments of the gravel crew this morning. We changed to a softer car set-up to get a better feeling. The first stage was difficult to read the road, as we knew it would be, with some slippery places and other parts less so. I lost a bit of confidence in the middle of the second stage, so I didn’t push as much there. We didn’t have any problems and it’s been important to get through today with no mistakes. We took the final stage slowly because it’s so easy to go off the line, so we took no risks.”

Ott Tänak (DNF)

“Unfortunately, another early finish to Monte for us. On the first stage, I hit a stone – or something similar – and damaged the wheel, which caused a puncture. It was my mistake, something I didn’t notice during the recce. From the very beginning of the second stage, we had a slow puncture, so it was a long way to come back on the rubber. We tried to put the first damaged tyre back on the car to make the road section, but it didn’t last. Nothing much more we could do. We made it to service but had to retire the car. With no opportunity to re-join tomorrow that’s the end of the rally for us.”

 

M-Sport WRT

Gus Greensmith (8th)

“It’s been pretty icy out there today! There was quite a lot of grip on the compacted snow at the start of the first stage and I didn’t feel as though I was making the most of it – but to be fair, the splits were pretty okay.

“I didn’t commit as much as I could after that. I wasn’t sending it into the entry of the corners as much as I could, but the driving did feel better. There’s still a lot more confidence to be found out there, so let’s see if we can find some of it tomorrow.”

Gus and Elliott found some pace on the snow and ice. Photo credit M-Sport WRT

Adrien Fourmaux (2nd WRC 2)

“Just after a long right-hander there is a small left, and I was already focused on the next corner. I took the cut, but there was a rock on the inside which I hit and picked up a puncture. We had to do almost the whole stage on the rim and lost a lot of time.

“It was frustrating because we had a really strong second place and didn’t have to push too much – but that’s rallying. I made a little mistake, and now we need to push a little bit more to keep our second place and keep Éric behind us.”

Adrien and Renaud at speed. Photo credit, M-Sport WRT

Sunday

The last day then. There were some penalties handed out to some. Here is the running order – Loubet, Greensmith, Katsuta, Sordo, Neuville, Rovanperä, Evans, Ogier.

The first stage, SS12 Puget-Théniers – La Penne 1 – 12.93 km, saw ice on the road, and the first two crews in both slid wide and hit the scenery early in the first sector. They were however able to continue. In terms of the battle between Kalle and Thierry, with the Belgian setting the second fastest time and Kalle getting a puncture, the Hyundai crew took third place. Seb was fastest, whilst Elfyn was third in the stage and now 21 seconds from the leader, and holding second overall. The drive of the stage, I think, was Oliver Solberg and Aaron Johnston who were fourth fastest, just 15 seconds slower than the fastest time in their Hyundai i20 Rally2 car.

Onto SS13 Briançonnet – Entrevaux 1 – 14.31 km, and it was a second stage win for Thierry and Martijn, with Elfyn and Scott setting the second fastest stage and Seb third. The gap came down a little between Elfyn and Seb, but only a little over a second. There was drama for the drivers who opened the stage, with Pierre-Louis sliding into a barrier filled with snow, but getting away with it. At the same point and he set the fourth fastest time. Gus had the same problem, and hit the barrier harder with the left rear and the car spun to the point that the front was facing the barrier. Gus had to manoeuvre the car and lost quite a lot of time. Another to spin was Takamoto, who ended up setting a similar time to Gus, with the two of them fifteenth and sixteenth on the timesheets.

The rerun of SS14 Puget-Théniers – La Penne 2 – 12.93 km saw Seb take the stage win, with Dani and Thierry second and third fastest. Elfyn was fourth, and although Thierry was faster, the gap between the two of them remained just a little under 30 seconds.

Onto the last stage then, SS15 Briançonnet – Entrevaux 2, the power stage. Gus set the early benchmark, which was first eclipsed by Dani. Then Kalle cam through with the fastest time, but said that it would not be fast enough to take the stage victory. Thierry was next, but didn’t set the best time, unlike last year. Elfyn came through and was a 1.2 from Kalle’s time. Sadly, Pierre-Louis who was pushing hard got stuck in a snowbank, and ended up losing about two minutes. A big shame, but it was the first time that he had competed in this event, and there were some promising times.  Finally, Seb came through, and took the fastest time, 3.3 faster than Kalle. The top five was Seb, Kalle, Elfyn, Thierry and Dani.

 

Final Overall Classification – Rallye Monte-Carlo

1 S. Ogier J. Ingrassia Toyota Yaris WRC 2:56:33.7
2 E. Evans S. Martin Toyota Yaris WRC +32.6
3 T. Neuville M. Wydaeghe Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC +1:13.5
4 K. Rovanperä J. Halttunen Toyota Yaris WRC +2:33.6
5 D. Sordo C. del Barrio Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC +3:14.2
6 T. Katsuta D. Barritt Toyota Yaris WRC +7:01.3
7 A. Mikkelsen O. Fløene Škoda Fabia R5 +7:23.6
8 G. Greensmith E. Edmondson Ford Fiesta WRC +8:21.1
9 A. Fourmaux R. Jamoul Ford Fiesta R5 +9:15.8
10 E. Camilli F. Buresi Citroën C3 R5 +10:41.0

 

Let’s hear from the drivers!

Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT

Sébastien Ogier (1st)

“This is a perfect start to the season. Watching this rally as a kid gave me the dream to become a driver one day. If I could have only one record, for sure I would take this one. It has a lot of meaning for me, and this is also the reason I was quite emotional on the podium. The Yaris WRC has been fantastic this weekend: I had such a good feeling in the car. I think it was a good decision to do one more year. The team is great, so a huge thanks to all of them. The first stage this morning was incredible: There were so many grip changes and it was impossible to read because it was like black ice. The gravel crew went through the stage two hours earlier and there was nothing there at the time, just a little bit of frost. So, it was really surprising. It is never the easiest to manage a lead and especially on this rally, but we did it.”

Elfyn Evans (2nd)

“It was a tough final day with very challenging conditions, as it has been throughout the weekend really. Maybe I didn’t push quite enough to really challenge Seb for the victory, he was very very good this weekend. It’s his home rally so it was always going to be tough – but credit to him. And as a team it’s a fantastic start to the year. We can be happy with the points, but of course you always want more and hopefully next time I can be a bit stronger. I don’t think I quite had the feeling this weekend. Perhaps at the start of the year it was better not to risk everything to try to win, but we know if we want to challenge for the title, we’ll have to do that during the year. However, I feel we’ve got a really strong car and a very strong team to go with it.”

Kalle Rovanperä (4th)

“I would say the conditions were really quite extreme this morning. The first stage was really tricky with the ice and then then we had snow in the second stage. I think I was a bit unlucky with the tyre damage but that’s also rallying sometimes. In the Power Stage we had a nice time. I was a bit surprised because I wasn’t really pushing on the maximum. I just picked up the pace a bit more, and it was good to have proper points from there too. Overall it was a really nice weekend from my side because I didn’t do so many kilometres on asphalt last year. We were a lot faster than on this rally last year and more consistent also, so it was a good weekend with just a bit of bad luck.”

 

Hyundai Motorsport

Thierry Neuville (3rd)

“A challenging start to the new season for us, especially after a late co-driver change. We were able to find a solution to be competitive and, step by step, Martijn and me were able to find more confidence in the car to improve our collaboration and to improve our speed day by day. To finish on the podium is a satisfying result considering the situation we have faced. The job in the car has been really impressive considering the difficulties of Monte.”

Dani Sordo (5th)

“We haven’t had a very good rally, so to take some manufacturers’ points away is some consolation. From the beginning, we have not really been on the pace and I am not particularly happy with myself, to be honest. We have faced some incredibly tricky stages and there have been some parts where I have just lacked confidence. The only thing we’ve been able to do is survive: to bring the car home and to score points for the team. At the end of the year, they could be very important. We need to reset and go to the next one with full power. It is sad to finish my partnership with Carlos; we’ve had some good results over the years, and it’s been great to work with him.”

 

M-Sport WRT

Gus Greensmith (8th)

“It goes without saying that this wasn’t the weekend we wanted. I had a lot of confidence after the test and was really looking forward to this rally – but as soon as we got to that first stage the confidence just went to zero.

“So much work went on behind the scenes to get us here, and with the preparation we had I know we should have been better. Teemu proved on the first stage that there were no issues with the car – it was just the driver. I have to learn from this weekend, and work hard to get back to where I know we should be.”

Adrien Fourmaux (2nd WRC 2)

“It was a really nice rally for us and I’m really happy with our performance. We had very good pace and it was nice to be able to fight with Andreas – a guy who has so much speed and experience in this sport.

“I also have to say thank you to the team because they did a perfect job all weekend and really deserve this result. To finish in the top ten made it even better, and I look forward to continuing the fight at the next rally.”

 

2C Competition

Oliver Solberg (DNF)

“We came here to make experience,” said Oliver. “Of course, like always, I wanted to push hard and set some good times and I think we have done that. I wanted to finish and it’s very frustrating not to be back in Monaco this afternoon, but it was a small mistake.

“The car is fine and if we had some more people around, we could have come to the finish. OK, sometimes it’s like this. I won’t think so much to this. Instead, I take the positives.

“The time in the first stage on Sunday was really cool, to be fourth fastest overall was something special – it’s my best ever time on a WRC round. The conditions were so complicated there with a lot, a lot, a lot of black ice in places; every time you were going to the corner, you were asking yourself: “How will it be? Will the grip be there?”

“But I was able to find a rhythm and deal with the changing grip. It was nice because we were fifth fastest overall on the last stage on Saturday as well. Trying to forget the last stage, it’s been a fantastic event and almost the perfect way to start our time with Hyundai Motorsport in the WRC.”

 

Warren’s Thoughts

Well, it was a perfect start for Seb and Julien at the start of their final season. If you think about what happened in stage five, with the puncture and spin on the ice, the way that the world champions came back was incredible. They took eight stage wins including the power stage, meaning they’d taken the full points as well.

Elfyn and Scott drove really well too. A second podium finish on this event and one place better than last year showed how much they’d shown they could compete at the top, and they took two stage wins as well. They led for a short while again, just like last year, but were caught by a fired up Seb and Julien. It was a very good drive and they will once again be championship contenders.

Kalle and Jonne were also very good, and improved on their fifth place with fourth this year. It could have been a podium, but after their punctures, it slipped away from them. However, it was still a good drive and just like his teammates, an improvement from last year.

 

Thierry and his new co-driver Martijn settled in really well, and took two stage wins along the way. To secure a podium on their first ever event together is quite amazing, and I suspect that we will see them in the car on the next event.

Elsewhere in the Hyundai team, Dani with Carlos in the car for the final time, found it hard to get settled in the conditions, and then when things started to gel, the team suffered the retirement of Ott and then I suspect that the drivers were told to bring the cars to the end.

For the second year in a row, Ott and Martin really didn’t have things their way. It started well with two stage wins on Thursday, but once he hit the problems with the punctures, it really didn’t end well. He will hope that the next event is better.

Making their debut in a Hyundai i20 WRC 2020 spec car, Pierri-Louis Loubet and Vincent Landais had an up and down event. The Corsican had never competed in this rally before, but certainly had their good moments, with some top three times, but their crash also took any hope of points away. They re-joined and then on the final stage, were pushing on when they slid off the road, losing any hope of points in the power stage.

 

At M-Sport, it was a rally to forget. With Teemu and Markko crashing out on stage two and no hope of a restart, the Finns part season did not get off well. This left Gus and Elliot as the only remaining Fiesta WRC in the field, and they were all at sea. The young Brit was really hard on himself. There were moments however, when things came together and they showed what they could do. At least there wasn’t the large mistake from last year and they managed to complete all the stages.

Adrien and Renaud in their Fiesta R5 took second in the Rally 2 category, as they started their season well, taking ninth overall as well. They will be looking forward to the moment that they step into the Fiesta WRC.

2021 FIA World Rally Championship for Drivers’ Standings
After Round One

1 S. Ogier 30
2 E. Evans 21
3 T. Neuville 17
4 K. Rovanperä 16
5 D. Sordo 11
6 T. Katsuta 8
2021 FIA World Rally Championship / Round 01 / Monte Carlo Rally / 21-24 January, 2021 // Worldwide Copyright: Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT

2021 FIA World Rally Championship for Manufacturers’ Standings
After Round One

1 Toyota Gazoo Racing World Rally Team 52
2 Hyundai Shell Mobis World Rally Team 30
3 M-Sport Ford World Rally Team 10
4 Hyundai 2C Competition 8

 

Next event is the Artic Rally in Finland, which takes place from the 26th to the 28th of February. It is a replacement for the cancelled Rally Sweden. Pop back closer to then to read my preview for round two!

Rallye Monte Carlo 2021 Preview

It’s time for the new season, and with twelve rounds planned for this year and some new rounds as well, with Rally Croatia, Ypres Rally, Safari Rally and Rally Japan all looking to hold events throughout the year, subject to the current Covid pandemic.

 

Looking at the teams then, we see that Toyota Gazoo Racing have a completely unchanged line-up, with 2020 Champions Seb Ogier and Julien Ingrassia, Elfyn and Scott, Kalle and Jonne still in the cars, whilst Katsuka and Dan will be also doing their first full season, as part of the Toyota Development program.

 

At Hyundai Motorsport, Ott and Martin start their second season with the Korean world champions, whilst there was shock this week as Thierry and Nicolas split after ten years together. Martijn Wydaeghe is joining Thierry, and it will be interesting to see how their partnership develops. Sharing the third car will be Dani and Craig, with the Spanish driver competing this weekend.

 

Lastly, M-Sport will have Gus Greensmith doing his second full season, whilst Teemu and Adrien will share a car throughout the year. The young Finn will start in this first round, and Mikko Markkula is named as Teemu’s co-driver. M-Sport will continue its role in the sport, giving young drivers their chance at the top with Adrien making his debut in the top class, and then also competing in the WRC2 category.

 

This first round of the year sees 15 stages over the three days. Because of the Covid restrictions, the stages will all be completed by early afternoon. Here is the full stage schedule and stage map.

Sébastien Ogier

“Everybody knows that Rallye Monte-Carlo is the rally that I want to win the most. But it’s a rally that you have to face with a lot of humility because it’s always challenging with the conditions and you have to be really clever to win it. This year it will feel different to usual: For me there has always been massive support, but even if they will not be there physically at the side of the road, I’m pretty sure my supporters will cheer from in front of the TV and I will try to make them happy. I’m more prepared for this season having done some rallies in the Yaris WRC, and that gives me more confidence. Still, we will need to adapt to the new tyres, especially on Monte-Carlo when we have a bigger package available than any other event. But I’m looking forward to it because for me it’s an interesting aspect of rallying: To try and make the best tyre strategy and use them as best as you can.”

Elfyn Evans

“It was a strong first season for me with the team in 2020, but of course there was an element of discovery at some points as well. Now, 12 months in, I’m a bit more familiar with my surroundings and that should make things easier to start the year. But it’s always very competitive, so we have to continue to make improvements and to want to be better all the time. There’s a few classics on the calendar that always draw your eye and which you think that it would be cool to win, and Rallye Monte-Carlo is obviously one of those. Normally the stages are very nice and I really enjoy the driving, but of course the conditions can make it quite difficult – especially when it’s dark and there’s snow and ice about and it’s really difficult to judge how much grip you have. In testing with the new Pirelli tyres, I had two quite different days in terms of conditions, and that’s been good to explore the various options that we have available on this rally.”

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

Kalle Rovanperä

“It has been a really short off-season this year; it basically feels like we’re just going to the next event, not like we’re starting a new season. I learned a lot last year but the season was too short and I still haven’t driven so many kilometres in this car. I’m hoping that we can drive much more this year and then the feeling will get better all the time. Rallye Monte-Carlo has always been the trickiest rally on the calendar. I want to try to be better than last year and to push a bit more, but it’s always very easy to make a mistake. Hopefully we can have a clean rally and a good result. It has been interesting to test with the Pirelli tyres in proper Monte conditions: We have had dry conditions as well as snow and ice, and I have had quite a good feeling.”

 

Hyundai Motorsport

Ott Tänak

“Monte is always a challenge, perhaps the biggest one of the season. It’s the first event of the year and you’re always a bit more anxious, nervous, and unsure of what to expect. The weather is always changeable so it’s a place where you can expect to see everything at the same time, as it was in our first rally of 2020; you need to get a feeling for the year ahead.”

Thierry Neuville

“Monte-Carlo is always a tricky event to start the season, mainly due to the conditions we can face. It’s a tarmac event but obviously, during the winter period, we can come across black ice, snow, slush, rain. It’s one of the only events where we have four tyre choices as well. The last two editions were great for the team, missing out on the win by two seconds in 2019 and then scoring our first victory in 2020. It will be my first event with Martijn as my co-driver and we are working hard to get ready although it is set to be a very challenging event for both of us.”

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

Dani Sordo

“For me this is one of the most challenging rallies of the year. The conditions can change quickly; in the same stage you can have snow, ice and dry conditions. It is always important to make wise tyre choices, and to have really good information from the gravel and weather crews. There’s a lot of things going on around you that you need to get to work in Monte-Carlo. This is my final rally with Carlos, and we want to go out on a high.”

 

M-Sport Ford WRT

Teemu Suninen

“It’s great to be at the start of another season and I want to say a big thanks to the team for their continued trust in me. It was really good to get a couple of days’ testing, and we tried to focus on gaining as much knowledge and experience as possible – both of the conditions and set-up, but also of the Pirelli tyres which we’ll be using for the first time this year.

“Mikko wasn’t able to join me on the test and we’ve not sat together since 2018, but I’m sure it will all come back to us once we get going – and we plan to give it our very best. Anything is possible on an event like Rallye Monte-Carlo, and we plan to make the most of every opportunity and push for the best possible result.”

Gus Greensmith

“There’s nothing quite like Rallye Monte-Carlo, and it will always be a special event for me. It’s where I secured my first victory, and I really enjoy the challenge which is unlike anything else on the calendar. There’s no other rally that gives as much satisfaction behind the wheel, and I can’t wait to get back out there and see what the Monte has to offer us this year!

“But as rewarding as this event is when you get it right, it can also be really unforgiving. Experience counts for a lot, so it was good to get some testing under our belts – getting the mileage and learning as much as we can about the conditions and the new Pirelli tyres. As always, it’s going to be a big challenge – but one that I’m really looking forward to.”

Adrien Fourmaux

“Every year Rallye Monte-Carlo provides a really big challenge, and it’s great to be starting my season at this legendary event again this year. The conditions are always tricky, and I expect this year to be no different. But it’s those conditions that create some fantastic stories – and I hope that we will be the subject of one of those stories this year!

“We’ve been getting really close to securing a WRC 2 victory with the Ford Fiesta Rally2. We have everything we need to make it happen, and it would be great to achieve it this week – at what will effectively be my home round of the FIA World Rally Championship.”

 

Look back to Monte Carlo 2020

We saw a fight for victory between Toyota teammates Seb and Elfyn and Hyundai’s Thierry. The Belgian took his first Monte win, something that he’d threatened to do for a few years. We had three different leaders over the three days, with Seb leading at the end of day one, Elfyn at the end of day two, and then Thierry make his charge, and took the lead with two stages left on Sunday and took victory by 12 seconds.

 

Summary

We are set then for the return of the championship, and many fans will be tuning in to watch on WRC Plus. Who will be challenging for the top positions then? Well, almost certainly the crews that have some continuity, with Ott and Martin, Seb and Julien, Elfyn and Scott and dare I say it, Dani and Carlos. Drivers with new co-drivers like Thierry and Teemu will likely have work to do to get up to speed. One advantage that the Finns have in the M-Sport run Fiesta is that they have worked together before.

In terms of points finishers, I can see that Gus will want to get his second year at the top level, off to a flyer and will hope for a top ten finish, and the drivers that he will be fighting with, well you can take it for granted that any of the crews from the top teams will be the who they are battling.

Anyway, enjoy the event, and pop back to check out my review!!

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!

©2017 The Pitcrewonline