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Monte Carlo Rally - 16-19 Jan 13

Posted: February 1, 2014 5:03 PM - 4852 Hits

Round 1 - 2013 World Rally Championship

Double Top-Ten For DMACK’s WRC Cars In Monte

Posted: February 1, 2014 5:03 PM

DMACK kicked off its third year in the FIA World Rally Championship with a sparkling double top-ten finish on the season-opening Rallye Monte Carlo. Its Czech driver Martin Prokop took a stunning seventh place and was followed home by Micha? Ko?ciuszko in tenth on his debut for the Lotos manufacturer team – both drivers using world rally cars.

The ultra-tough event saw DMACK launch its new range of tyres for 2013 but the wild winter conditions meant studded snow tyres were predominantly used by drivers throughout the demanding four-day event.

DMACK competitors had four different tyres on tap when the event launched into action on Wednesday morning from Valence in southern France. A new evolution of the DMT-RC asphalt tyre was available in both extra soft and soft compounds alongside studded and un-studded DMT-ICE asphalt snow tyres.

However, the tricky conditions, which saw snow, slush and ice on virtually every stage of the event, meant that the studded DMT-ICE was the tyre of choice to deliver a successful mix of performance and safety on the difficult mountain roads.

Every DMACK snow tyre has an aggressive winter pattern with special sipes to enhance grip in freezing conditions and the studded tyre is equipped with 220 metal pins, each with 2mm protrusion, to bite into frozen ice. But the mix of weather and road conditions meant tyre strategy was always a best guess.

Tyre choice throughout the rally was never ideal and always a compromise. Drivers had no option but to use their studded tyres on dry asphalt sections of stage, which ripped out or damaged some studs, before running on the snow-covered sections. Many resorted to crossing patterns with similar tyres used on opposite diagonal corners of the car in a bid to maximise performance throughout a loop of stages.

Some tests on Thursday and Friday were heavily laden with snow, with near-perfect winter conditions enjoyed by competitors. But today’s final runs through the iconic Col de Turini mountain pass saw many crews reporting some of the toughest driving conditions they had ever experienced. Snow, slush and ice combined to slow cars to crawling speeds as drivers tip-toed their way through the 23.54km stage – which eventually claimed three top runners.

Prokop kept his cool in the freezing conditions and powered his Ford Fiesta RS WRC up to seventh position as others fell by the wayside. Ko?ciuszko was slowed on the first day with an engine misfire but his Motorsport Italia-run MINI WRC climbed the leaderboard and safely into the top-ten by the end of the event.

The DMACK team now switches to winter gravel rallies as Finn Jari Ketomaa takes on Rally Liepaja-Ventspils, the second round of the FIA European Rally Championship on 1-3 February in Latvia. Ketomaa is then joined by Eyvind Brynildsen in a two-car DMACK team on the next round of the world championship at Rally Sweden.

Dick Cormack, DMACK motorsport director, said:
“This event delivered some of the toughest winter conditions we’ve ever seen and it’s been a major challenge for our asphalt snow tyres. We’re really happy with their results in terms of both performance and stud retention, and they’ve given our drivers the confidence to complete such a tough event. It’s a shame we weren’t able to put our newly-developed asphalt tyres to the test as they performed extremely well in pre-event preparations but it’s clear we’ve made some significant steps forward already this year.”

Strong debut: Volkswagen finishes “Monte” in second place

Posted: February 1, 2014 5:01 PM

Absolutely “Monte”: Volkswagen showed an impressive debut in the FIA World Rally Championship. In one of the toughest editions of the Rally Monte Carlo in recent years, Sébastien Ogier/Julien Ingrassia (F/F) managed to lead the Polo R WRC in its first competitive outing to second place. In difficult weather conditions with a mix of snow, ice, and wet asphalt next to bright sunshine, thick fog, and heavy rain Ogier/Ingrassa won two special stages on the classic through the French Maritime Alps. Behind the nine-time world champions Sébastien Loeb/Daniel Elena (F/MC, Citroën), Ogier/Ingrassia achieved top times from the start, thus reaching the podium straightaway and on their own accord in the debut of the Polo R WRC.

Their team colleagues Jari-Matti Latvala/Miikka Anttila (FIN/FIN) were among the top five almost until the end of the rally. Because of the extremely challenging weather conditions with slush and pieces of ice, they were, however, forced to retire after sliding off in the legendary special stage over the Col de Turini.

Milestones: Fastest times for Ogier/Ingrassia

First special stage, first fastest time – for Volkswagen the Rally Monte Carlo began with a milestone achievement. On “Le Moulinon”, with 37.1 kilometers the longest special stage of the rally, Sébastien Ogier/Julien Ingrassia achieved the best time. On the second day, the French duo also secured their position with the best time in the fifth special stage, “La Batie D'Andaure”, in their home rally “Monte”. With other top results Ogier/Ingrassia consolidated their second position in the overall ranking. In total, Volkswagen managed to record top-three results in 14 of 16 special stages.

Extreme weather: premature end to the “Monte” for safety reasons

Extreme weather conditions and safety concerns resulted in a premature end of the Rally Monte Carlo. The organizers of the rally called off the remaining two stages on Saturday evening, including the final round over the Col de Turini. Heavy rain and the resulting unpredictable weather conditions in the night from Saturday to Sunday as well as traffic chaos around the mythical special stage caused safety concerns. Shortly before the cancellation of special stages 17 and 18, Jari-Matti Latvala/Miikka Anttila had slipped from the track into the barriers with their Polo R WRC. Slush and pieces of ice had made the opening stage of last day of the rally unpredictable. Besides Latvala/Anttila, other top drivers crashed out in this special stage.

Tyre gamble and driving skills most crucial

Changing road textures and unpredictable weather: The conditions in the Rally Monte Carlo are unique in the WRC calendar. In no other rally is the skill of the driver as important as in the “Monte”. An additional success factor: the tyre choice. In the 2013 edition of the classic rally spike tyres turned out to be a rare commodity. No more than 20 pieces per car are permitted by the regulations. When which tyres are used, is a decision that the teams decide based on the information provided by weather crews along the stages and precise weather forecasts. Here, Volkswagen not only proved to be ready for the WRC with the Polo R WRC technically but also in driving and logistically.

The next round of the FIA World Rally Championship (WRC) will take place in Sweden from February 07–10, 2013.

Quotes, day four of the Rally Monte Carlo

Jost Capito, Volkswagen Motorsport Director
“Second place in the first rally of the new Polo R WRC is more than we could have expected. The team did an exceptional job in the last four rally days and prepared the cars perfectly. The Rally Monte Carlo is the most complex event in the calendar and the team has here shown that they are ready for the World Rally Championship. There was no mistake, not the slightest problem. One cannot value the performance of Sébastien Ogier high enough. He drove the ‘Monte’ for in a World Rally Car the first time. There is no other rally in which the driver’s impact on the result is bigger. That is why we will not see where we stand with the Polo R WRC until after the upcoming events.”

Sébastien Ogier, Volkswagen Polo R WRC #8
“I never was as happy about a second place as I was today. To reach the podium in our debut with the Polo R WRC is just great. These were probably the most difficult conditions in a Rally Monte Carlo I have ever experienced. Especially today, during the first run to the Col de Turini, it was extremely slippery, so that speeds of more than 20 kph were not possible. It was just about keeping the car on the road. The entire team worked very hard during the last year, and I am happy to give something back to them. I am sorry for Jari-Matti but I am sure that we will celebrate further victories together for Volkswagen in the future.”

Jari-Matti Latvala, Volkswagen Polo R WRC #7
“I am very disappointed. There was more wet snow in the first run through the Col de Turini stage than I expected. I was too fast right in the beginning, the car did not turn as expected, and I crashed heavily. Another car had slipped there before I did and I hit the same lane. There was nothing I could do. It was my goal to gather lots of experience with the Polo R WRC. It is bitter to end the rally this way. I am sorry for the guys because they prepared the cars brilliantly. I really wanted to give them a points result.”

And then there was ...

... the Volkswagen Group brand Audi, which got on board the World Rally Championship at the “Monte” in 1981 with the Quattro, winning, just like Volkswagen with the Polo R WRC, the very first special stage in its debut as a manufacturer. At the time, it was Hannu Mikkola who had a dream start; in 2013, it was Sébastien Ogier who started in a similarly spectacular way in the very first and longest special stage. The Quattro was revolutionary within the World Rally Championship in the early eighties and helped start the triumphant march of the four-wheel drive. This kind of transmission technology is indispensable in World Rally Cars today.

LOEB/ELENA CLAIM SEVENTH MONTE WIN

Posted: February 1, 2014 5:00 PM

Just as testing as the first three days, despite Saturday’s two night stages on the Col du Turini being cancelled, day four saw Se?bastien Loeb and Daniel Elena win the Rallye Monte-Carlo for the seventh time. Two Citroe?n DS3 WRCs finished on the podium at this year’s opening round, with third place overall secured by Dani Sordo and Carlo del Barrio. Thanks to the fourth position of Mikko Hirvonen and Jarmo Lehtinen, the Citroe?n Total Abu Dhabi WRT now leads the Manufacturers’ World Rally Championship standings.

Flashback to Valence, early on Friday afternoon: while the crews headed off to complete the final two stages of the day, the Citroe?n Racing team were beginning to dismantle the service park structures. After covering some 393 kilometres, the five articulated lorries arrived in the Principality in the middle of the night. By dawn, everything was ready to welcome the DS3 WRCs in the place where the pits are set up for the Formula 1 Grand Prix.

The switch of the rally base to the far south of France did not result in any milder weather conditions. Incessant rain fell in Monaco, turning to snow above 800 metres. The conditions meant the crews had to fit studded Michelin Pilot Alpin snow tyres again. The first loop was made up of two runs up the Col du Turini (Moulinet - La Bolle?ne Ve?subie), interspersed with a run through the Col de Loda (Lantosque – Luceram).

At the end of SS14, Se?bastien Loeb couldn't quite believe how difficult the conditions were: “It was just undriveable... I had to carve a line through a thick layer of slush, and we were aquaplaning all the time. You couldn’t go any faster than 30kph on the straight sections, otherwise you lose the car completely and you go off!” Forced to carve out the line for his rivals, Seb’s efforts certainly delighted Bryan Bouffier, who took his DS3 WRC to the top of the timesheets.

ØSTBERG PROSPERS FOR QATAR M-SPORT AS TURINI PROVES TREACHEROUS

Posted: February 1, 2014 4:55 PM

Rallye Monte-Carlo is treacherous at the best of times, but the 2013 edition of the legendary event witnessed some of the most difficult conditions the FIA World Rally Championship (WRC) has seen in years. Nevertheless, as always rising to the challenge, Qatar M-Sport’s Mads Østberg put in a sterling performance on his Monte debut to claim sixth place and get his championship campaign off to a solid start.

M-Sport’s Ford Fiesta RS WRC proved competitive throughout the rally with each of the four Qatar M-Sport drivers taking a fastest time from the event – Thierry Neuville on Shakedown, Evgeny Novikov on SS6 and SS7, Juho Hänninen on SS9 and Østberg on SS12. Equally inspiring, Novikov had been running in a strong podium position before succumbing to the perfidious conditions lying in wait through the fearsome ‘Col de Turini’ stage on the 14th test.

Damaging the rear-left wheel of his Fiesta some three kilometres into the stage, the ambitious Russian was forced into an untimely retirement having impressed on what was only his second venture to the season’s opening classic.

The lack of grip caused by melting snow and ice on SS14 also caught out team-mate Juho Hänninen, who was similarly left with no option other than to retire when he damaged the front-left wheel of his Qatari-liveried Fiesta. Making his debut in the new generation of world rally cars, the Finn had been running strongly – securing the fastest time on SS9, a full 6.6 seconds quicker than his nearest rival.

But it was Østberg and co-driver Jonas Andersson who were to make the most of the tricky conditions. Claiming a stage win on the third day of competition, the Norwegian joined just a handful of drivers to have impressed to such an extent on their Monte debut. Adopting a composed approach over the final day, Østberg proved he has the maturity as well as the speed.

Despite narrowly avoiding disaster on SS16 when he slid wide and damaged the rear of his Fiesta, the 25-year-old kept his composure. Making it back to service, Østberg secured his sixth place as organisers opted to cancel the final two stages on safety grounds.

Mads Østberg (6th) said:
“I have never seen anything like the conditions we had today. There was a good layer of snow, but it was all slushy and wet so there was no grip at all – the car was just sliding around on the top.

“The first time through [SS14] we were just working to stay on the road. I was completely out of stage mode because there was nothing – you just had to try and be really careful on the throttle to find some grip.

“The second stage [SS15] was OK. There were a few slippery places at the top but it was driveable at least. But the next stage [‘Moulinet – La Bollene Vesubie’ – SS16] was just horrible. We hit a wall and had to stop in the stage to check that everything was OK. We bent something on the rear of the car and lost about five minutes but still we only lost one position so that was good at least.

“With the rally stopping now [after SS16], we have sixth position. Considering the conditions that we have encountered here, I am very happy to have finished the rally and to take some strong points away from what has been a really difficult event for us. We’ve learnt a lot and made a lot of progress, so that is something positive. Now I am looking forward to Sweden and an event that I know really well!”

Evgeny Novikov (DNF) said:
“We ran wide on the third corner into the stage [SS14] – it was a very slippery one and the information from the gravel crew was not the same as the conditions on the road. The conditions were changing so quickly, and there was just no way for us to avoid what happened. We hit a stone wall and spun. We damaged the rear-left wheel and then had to stop about four kilometres down the road

“It is true that we were setting some really good times before this, but no-one will remember that; history remembers results so this is very disappointing for me. Having said that, we completed almost the entire rally and had some really good pacenotes up until that point – that means we should be in a really good position when we come back here next year.”

Juho Hänninen (DNF) said:
“I haven’t seen conditions like that ever before – it was horrible if I am honest! But in the end, most of the guys made it through and I didn’t. As I’ve been saying all weekend, I needed to be patient and make sure I learnt the car so I am very disappointed.

“After about 15 kilometres when we started the downhill section [on SS14] there was a very narrow line, and I lost it. If you leave that line then there is no grip and unfortunately it was all over for me. We hit a stone wall quite heavily. OK, the car was still driveable but with two stages to go it wasn’t worth the risk.

“On some stages we set some good times which was promising. I was hoping to set some better times but I need to be realistic. This was my first time in a new WRC car and my first time in the Ford. It was such a difficult rally and I was actually quite happy with my driving up until the mistake. I don’t think I could have done much better to be honest and we learnt a lot for sure. Now we just have to concentrate on doing a good job at Rally Sweden.”

Team Principal, Malcolm Wilson OBE said:
“Obviously the rally didn’t end the way we would have wanted with Evgeny [Novikov] and Juho [Hänninen] not making the finish, but I think that there are still a lot of positives that we can take from this event.

“All of the drivers put in a great performance and I think they’ve all shown a lot of potential. When you take youngsters to an event like this it is always going to be a challenge. Experience counts for a lot here, and especially this year with some of the worst conditions the rally has seen in more than 20 years.

“The whole team is now looking forward to the challenges ahead. Looking at the performance these young guys have shown, I am sure that we will be in contention for some top results as the season progresses.”

Results

Posted: February 1, 2014 4:55 PM

First stage, first fastest time – Volkswagen off to a flying start

Posted: January 17, 2013 9:11 AM

First outing in the FIA World Rally Championship, first stage, first milestone: Volkswagen made an impressive start to the legendary Rally Monte Carlo with the Polo R WRC. Sébastien Ogier/Julien Ingrassia (F/F) won the opening special stage of the iconic classic in extremely difficult conditions – finishing ahead of multiple world champions Sébastien Loeb/Daniel Elena (Citroen). All the top teams adopted identical tyre strategies on the opening “Le Moulinon” stage, as they looked to overcome the challenge thrown up by parts of the stage being run on grippy tarmac and other sections on smooth ice. After the first leg of the four-day “Monte” challenge, Ogier/Ingrassia are currently 1:20.30 minutes behind world champion Loeb in second place, following further excellent stage results. Their team-mates Jari-Matti Latvala/Miikka Anttila (FIN/FIN) follow in fifth place overall after their progress was halted by a puncture on the final stage of the day.

However, the good results at the Rally Monte Carlo cannot really be seen as a true indication of how the Polo R WRC will fair over the course of the season. The conditions – a mixture of ice, snow and tarmac – are unlike any others on likely to be experienced over the remainder of the WRC calendar.

Quotes, day 1 of the Rally Monte Carlo

Jost Capito, Volkswagen Motorsport Director
This is our first competitive outing with the Polo R WRC, and we are obviously pleased to we need to remain realistic. One single stage win does not mean a great deal. It does, however, give us confidence and the knowledge that the entire team did a great job coming into the season. However, there is certainly no question of euphoria breaking out. Our learning phase with the Polo R WRC has only just begun. The ‘Monte’ is always something of a lottery. Second and fifth at the end of day one is far more than we were expecting.”

Jari-Matti Latvala, Volkswagen Polo R WRC #7
“We have survived this typical and unpredictable opening day of the ‘Monte’. That is the most important thing. However, today was not really my day. The first special stage put so much strain on the tyres that we had to change them on the way to the second special stage. We than made a mistake with our timing and arrived at the start too late. On the fourth stage we had to complete five kilometres with a puncture and lost a lot of time as a result. From a driving point of view, I am yet to really find my rhythm. That will come though.”

Sébastien Ogier, Volkswagen Polo R WRC #8
“A good start to the ‘Monte’, and one I am more than happy with. However, that was just the first day, which does not mean an awful lot. The rally still has a long way to go, and we still have some tough days ahead of us. The Polo R WRC feels good and I am obviously pleased with my special stage win this morning. I just drove my own rhythm without really pushing too hard, and was really surprised when I looked at the times. It is extremely difficult to drive in these conditions and the tyre selection is even more important than usual. For this reason, I must say a big thank you to the Gravel crew, with whom I have been working for the first time. That was worth its weight in gold: the ‘Monte’ is at its best out there, as it is totally unpredictable.”

And then there were ...
... former world rally champion and Volkswagen consultant Carlos Sainz and his co-driver Timo Gottschalk, who surprisingly turned up on site to support the Volkswagen team at the Rally Monte Carlo. Immediately after crashing out during the first week of the Rally Dakar, Sainz and Gottschalk flew straight back to Europe in order to be in Valence in time for the opening day of the event. The ‘Monte’ is the toughest way to start your World Rally Championship campaign,” said the man known as ‘El Matador’. “That makes it even more satisfying that we managed to win the first special stage this morning. We need to stay calm though, as that was just a starter. The Rally Monte Carlo is a long race.”

Sainz won the Rally Dakar with Volkswagen in 2010, while Gottschalk was successful the following year – both in a Volkswagen Race Touareg. Sainz and Gottschalk were joining forces for the first time at the 2013 “Dakar” – in a privately run Buggy.

New DMACK WRC Tyres For Monte Carlo Opener

Posted: January 12, 2013 1:41 PM

DMACK will start its third year in the FIA World Rally Championship next week with a completely new range of motorsport tyres – developed after a series of successful performances in 2012.

DMACK will again line up alongside Michelin, as the only two authorised tyre suppliers to this year’s championship, when the new-look series kicks off at the iconic Rallye Monte Carlo on Wednesday 16 January.

However, every single tyre on offer to competitors this year has been re-worked with new constructions and compounds as the British-Chinese partnership steps up its performance.

Competitors in Monte Carlo will use the latest evolution of the DMT-RC asphalt tyre. It features the same tread pattern as last season but has a completely new construction which should deliver increased precision and improved steering response. It will be available in soft and extra-soft compounds for this event, both of which are new for this season, with the extra-soft delivering enhanced grip in damp and moist conditions.

Due to the ever-changing winter weather conditions traditionally associated with the rally, DMACK will also have its DMT-ICE winter asphalt tyre available in both studded and un-studded form. The studded version is equipped with 220 metal pins – each protruding 2mm to help find traction on ice-covered roads.

In addition to the asphalt advances DMACK will also launch a new winter snow tyre for Rally Sweden with new stud technology developed in-house in conjunction with its partners in Finland. The gravel tyre for 2013 will also feature new constructions and compounds.

DMACK’s first-ever fastest WRC stage time at Rally de Espana, the last round of the 2012 championship, has given the manufacturer a renewed focus on performance. It’s top challengers on Monte will be world rally car drivers Martin Prokop in a Ford Fiesta RS WRC and Micha? Ko?ciuszko in a Motorsport Italia MINI John Cooper Works WRC. Both drivers have recently tested the new DMACK rubber as part of their pre-Monte preparations.

World rally car drivers are permitted a total of 45 tyres over the course of the mammoth four-day event while other priority and support-series drivers can use 37. However, choosing tyres is likely to be pretty tricky. With snow and ice-covered asphalt changing to dry mountains roads in a matter of corners, tyre choice is usually a compromise and an educated guess.

Event Details
Rallye Monte Carlo’s 465km makes it the longest version of the event since 1995. Starting with two days action around the city of Valence, where the service park is based, competitors then make their way towards Monaco on Friday 18 January via the well-liked 36.7km Sisteron test.

Then on Saturday crews will attack one of the world’s most famous motorsport mountain passes, the Col de Turini, as part of the Moulinet-La Bollene stage. The rally comes to a close with the traditional ceremonial finish in Monaco.

Dick Cormack, DMACK motorsport director, said:
“Our 2013 motorsport products are the result of two years experience at the highest level of rallying and that experience has been crucial in driving forward this new range. We’ve made significant advances in tyre construction to offer more precision and performance while the new compounds are ongoing evolutions to deliver enhanced traction and durability. The feedback already has been pretty positive.”

The stage is set: Volkswagen Polo R WRC makes its debut at the Rally Monte Carlo

Posted: January 12, 2013 1:39 PM

When the first World Rally Car sets out on the opening stage of the Rally Monte Carlo, from Moulinon to Antraigues, at 09:00 on Wednesday 16 January, it will mark the start of something rather special: Volkswagen’s first season in the FIA World Rally Championship (WRC). 20,000 kilometres of testing, 1,700 parts designed completely from scratch, 17 months of preparations – all for this one moment, the dawn of a new age. The appearance of the Polo R WRC in the FIA World Rally Championship heralds a new era in motorsport for Volkswagen – and where better to make your debut than the legendary Rally Monte Carlo. In Jari-Matti Latvala/Miikka Anttila (FIN/FIN) and Sébastien Ogier/Julien Ingrassia (F/F), the works team from Wolfsburg lines up at the WRC season-opener with two young crews who nevertheless already possess a wealth of experience. From 15 to 20 January, Volkswagen will face strong opponents and a new technological challenge. The WRC is regarded as the biggest all-round test in international motorsport and, alongside Formula One, it is the most iconic of the FIA’s world championships.

“I cannot wait to finally getting going. The entire team at Volkswagen is looking forward to the WRC debut of the Polo WRC,” says Volkswagen Motorsport Director Jost Capito.
“World Championship rallies in the top WRC class are new territory for the team. Furthermore, the Polo R WRC has been developed from scratch, features a lot of innovative ideas, and will be making its competitive debut. The ‘Monte’ will give us our first indication of how we compare with the opposition – our rivals already have two years’ experience of the regulations that came into force in 2011, and have been driving in the WRC for many years. Our goal for the Rally Monte Carlo is to gain as much experience as possible and to finish with both cars.”

Debut time: Volkswagen, the World Rally Championship and the Rally Monte Carlo

The Rally Monte Carlo is a first for Volkswagen in many regards: the team is competing at a World Championship rally in the top category for World Rally Cars. At the same time, the Polo R WRC will make its first competitive outing and the team will be working with a new driving duo for the first time under rally conditions. Finn Jari-Matti Latvala and his compatriot and co-driver Miikka Anttila officially joined the Volkswagen outfit at the start of the year. Prior to their appearance at the “Monte”, the duo with seven WRC wins to their name have completed a number of test drives.

Latvala and Anttila start the 2013 season in the number 7 Polo R WRC. In the cockpit of the number 8 Polo will be Frenchmen Sébastien Ogier and his co-driver Julien Ingrassia. They have been under contract as Volkswagen works drivers since the end of 2011 and have played significant roles in the development and testing of the Polo R WRC. Together with co-driver Ingrassia, Ogier, who was born in Gap (F), has already won his home rally on one occasion. In 2009 the French pair won the classic as guest starters in the Intercontinental Rally Challenge (IRC). Like Latvala and Anttila, Ogier and Ingrassia currently have seven WRC race wins to their name.

Simply legendary: the “Monte” challenge in the snow and ice of the mountains

The Volkswagen Motorsport team could hardly be facing a tougher challenge. After all, the “Monte” is the oldest rally in the world and the “mother of all rallies”, having been held for the first time in 1911. The majority of the Rally Monte Carlo is held on narrow tarmacked roads in the French Maritime Alps to the north of the principality of Monaco. While the lower roads close to the Mediterranean are regularly dry, the drivers are often faced with black ice and snow on the many mountain passes they are required to negotiate. This makes it essential to select the right tyre – and makes the “Monte” one of the most difficult and complex rallies on the World Championship calendar.

Thoughts ahead of the Rally Monte Carlo

Jari-Matti Latvala, Polo R WRC #7
“I can hardly wait for the season to get started. I may already have five years as a works driver in the World Rally Championship under my belt, but both the Volkswagen Motorsport team and the Polo R WRC are new to me. As such, I will be making my debut in two regards. The tests up to now have shown that the Polo R WRC is very reliable. This is probably the most important finding so far – and a good basis for future technical developments over the course of the season. I have already developed a good feeling for the car on asphalt and snow, which is a good sign ahead of the Rally Monte Carlo. It is great fun driving the Polo R WRC. It is very stable and the driveability of the engine is also very good. I would like to get the season off to a good start at the ‘Monte’. The result is not the top priority yet, although I would obviously love to pick up some World Championship points.”

Sébastien Ogier, Polo R WRC #8
“The ‘Monte’ is a very special rally. After all, it is my home rally. However, the season-opener near my home will be an extraordinary experience for the entire team, as it is the first rally with the new Polo R WRC. We have been working towards this moment with Volkswagen for over a year. We can hardly wait to finally get started. However, it is difficult to judge how we will compare to the opposition, as we have not yet raced against the other teams under competitive conditions. Making your debut in a world championship with a completely new car is a big challenge, particularly as the other manufacturers have several years more experience than we do. For this reason we must be patient and concentrate at first on reaching the finish without any problems. Experience shows that this is anything but simple at the Rally Monte Carlo, as anything can happen at this event.”

Volkswagen in the FIA World Rally Championship (WRC)

The start in the FIA World Rally Championship (WRC) sees Volkswagen continue its successful history in motorsport. Volkswagen claimed overall victory at the Rally Dakar in 2009, 2010 and 2011 with the Race Touareg to claim a hat-trick of titles at the toughest marathon rally in the world. The Polo R WRC is the first World Rally Car to come out of Wolfsburg, with the manufacturer now entering its own works team at the pinnacle of rallying for the first time. This presents Volkswagen with the opportunity to prove itself in direct sporting competition on a global stage. No model is more suited to the challenge than the Polo, which is one of Volkswagen’s most internationally manufactured and distributed cars.

Three questions for ... Jost Capito

If you could have chosen a rally for the Polo R WRC to make its debut at – would you have taken the Rally Monte Carlo?
Jost Capito: “The Rally Monte Carlo is not only the most iconic rally on the World Championship calendar, but also the most difficult and complex. The surface alternates regularly between ice, snow, rain and dry asphalt, which can make the strategy difficult and tyre selection something of a lottery. We are obviously delighted that the Polo R WRC will make its debut at this highlight.”

In Sébastien Ogier and Jari-Matti Latvala you have signed two very quick drivers. Who do you feel is the stronger?
Jost Capito: “They are both equally strong. As a Scandinavian, Latvala grew up on gravel – however, he has made huge progress on asphalt in recent years. The same applies to Ogier, who also has what it takes to win on any surface. Both have seven WRC wins to their name. In the end it will come down to who performs best on the day to determine who is the quickest.”

What goals does Volkswagen have for the 2013 season?
Jost Capito: “We are aware that we will be up against strong opposition with decades of World Rally Championship experience. The Polo R WRC, on the other hand, is making its debut this year and the team also has a new look to it. As such, we have to set realistic goals. We want to make it onto the podium under our own steam in the second half of the year.”

ŠKODA’S NEW YOUNG GUN READY FOR MONTE CARLO DEBUT

Posted: January 12, 2013 1:36 PM

ŠKODA Motorsport’s new young gun, Esapekka Lappi, is ready to tackle one of the most famous rallies in the world, the Monte Carlo Rally, for the very first time – and he’s doing it in a Fabia S2000.

The Finnish ace, who celebrates his 22nd birthday on Day 2 of the event on Thursday (17 January), is set to appear on selected rounds of the WRC-2 this year in a factory ŠKODA.

Lappi, the reigning Finnish Rally Champion, will be co-driven by Janne Ferm.

“We can’t wait to make our first appearance at the Monte,” said Lappi.
“It is a tough and difficult rally, but also a great experience for any driver. It is great that we can start the new WRC-2 and our mission in the ŠKODA Motorsport team at this event. It will be a big challenge for us, because everybody wants to succeed at the Monte.”

This year’s Monte Carlo Rally, the opening round of the FIA World Rally Championship, contains 18 stages. It’s an asphalt rally, but snow and freezing temperatures are forecast – making the switchback Alpine mountain roads even more demanding.

Monte Carlo is a very special place for ŠKODA. The 2009 event saw ŠKODA Motorsport make its rallying debut and start the successful era of the ŠKODA Fabia Super 2000 project. Over the past four years since then, ŠKODA has won three IRC championship titles in both the Manufacturers and Drivers categories (2010-2012), the Drivers category of the European Championship (2012), both the Manufacturers and Drivers categories of the Asia-Pacific Rally Championship (2012) and a total of 18 national championships (2009-2012).

The event starts in Valence on Wednesday (16 January), with four special stages in Ardeche, covering more than 130kms: Moulinon - Antraigues and Burzet - St Martial.

On Thursday 17, the three specials in Ardeche and Haute Loire will be driven twice, with a halfway stop in Valence at around 12.45 (130kms).

Friday 18 will comprise of three specials, with a long St Jean en Royans - La Cime du Mas stage (33kms) in Vercors. Then, after a stop in the Valence service park, there are two classic Monte Carlo Rally stages on the way back down to Monaco, which haven’t been run for many years: St Nazaire le Desert - La Motte Chalancon (22kms) and Sisteron – Thoard (37kms). Cars are allowed to arrive at the Monaco time control earlier than the 19.30 target time.

On Saturday 19, five stages are scheduled for the 60 highest-ranked teams, with three Col-de-Turini runs (Le Moulinet - La Bollene - 23kms), two of which are at night, and two passes through Col St Roch (Lantosque - Luceram - 19kms), one of which is at night. The latter is classed as a Power Stage, and awards bonus points to the three top finishers.

In all, 465kms of timed stages will need to be driven to reach the final podium in the Place du Palais, Monaco, at 11.00 on Sunday 20 January.

CHALLENGING DEBUT AWAITS QATAR M-SPORT QUARTET

Posted: January 12, 2013 1:32 PM

A challenging debut awaits the Qatar M-Sport and Qatar World Rally Teams next week as the outfits make their debuts in the FIA World Rally Championship (WRC) at the series’ traditional start to the season – Rallye Monte-Carlo. Famed as one of the most demanding and punishing rounds on the calendar, a strong result in Monte-Carlo is no mean feat, but Mads Østberg, Evgeny Novikov, Thierry Neuville and Juho Hänninen will be aiming for just that as the quartet embark on their 2013 campaign with the Ford Fiesta RS WRC.

Steeped in motorsport history, Rallye Monte-Carlo is regarded by many as the jewel in the WRC’s crown. But the glitz and glamour of the principality hide a demanding asphalt route through some of the region’s most treacherous mountain roads. Tackling 465 competitive kilometres over four days, crews can encounter snow, ice and dry asphalt – occasionally on the same stage – making shrewd tyre selection the best compromise and often the key to success.

If this were not challenge enough, crews will have to be extra vigilant as Rally 2 regulations – which allow drivers to restart after a non-finish the following day on other events – will not apply. Yet with two substantial tests in an array of varying conditions already complete, Qatar M-Sport’s quartet will be fully prepared for the demands ahead.

The tricky conditions could well play into the hands of Østberg and Novikov. This will be Østberg’s first venture to Monte-Carlo and only the second outing for the young Russian. But with the prospect of snow covering some of the higher mountain tests and ice making the going exceedingly difficult, the conditions could well lessen the advantage of those with more experience of these notoriously difficult stages.

Novikov also secured an excellent fifth place finish on his debut last year and with the Qatar M-Sport duo having the benefit of some legendary names as part of their ice-note crews – Morten Østberg and Ola Floene for the Norwegian and Denis Giraudet and François Delecour for Novikov – the pairing will be well equipped.

Making their competitive debuts in the Ford Fiesta RS WRC, Neuville and Hänninen will also be looking for a strong result. This will be Neuville’s third time at Rallye Monte-Carlo and Belgium’s latest protégé will be looking to score his first points from the event for Qatar and M-Sport. Despite this being his debut in a world rally car, Hänninen has an impressive record in Monte-Carlo – finishing second to Mikko Hirvonen’s Ford Fiesta S2000 in 2010 – and will be looking to make an early impact on the world stage next week.

Mads Østberg said:
“First of all I am very excited to finally start the season. For me it will be a very big challenge as I have never competed in Monte-Carlo before. I’m excited, but I know that I need to focus on all the details and do everything I can to ensure we are as best prepared as possible.

“I think if the rally is really difficult with lots of snow and ice, then the experience that the other drivers have won’t be as great. But if it’s nice and clean, then experience of the stages is really important and could make a big difference in terms of stage times. Hopefully we will have some tricky conditions and be able to fight with the other drivers.

“It’s not easy to go to an event for the first time and fight for a podium. We need to be realistic, but if we have a good rally then a top five position is certainly possible. If we are able to do that and score some good points for the championship then I will be really happy.”

Evgeny Novikov said:
“I am feeling really good ahead of the new season. We have had two very successful tests – one in dry conditions this week and one in the wet last month. This week’s test was really good as we learnt a lot about set-up and tyres but, most importantly, we now have some knowledge of almost all the conditions we could face next week. Of course the weather in Monte-Carlo is always changing, but that is part of the challenge and we are feeling as well prepared as we can be.

“It will be difficult with no Rally 2 this year so that makes it all the more important to have a clean run and finish every stage. This will only be my second time competing [at Rallye Monte-Carlo] so it is important to gain as much experience and knowledge as possible. Of course I will push where I can and when I have confidence, but we won’t be taking any big risks. The most important thing is to finish and score some good points for the team.”

Thierry Neuville said:
“We had a very good test yesterday [Thursday] so I am feeling positive ahead of the event. This will be my first competitive outing in the Fiesta [RS WRC] and we leant a lot about set-up and tyre choices which is good. There is still a lot to do – we just need to make sure we have a good recce to get a feel for the stages and be as well prepared as possible.

“For sure this is a difficult event – especially for us with this being our first event with the new car. This rally is a lot like a lottery so if you finish with no problems you are likely to not be in a bad position. If we can secure a top-ten finish on our first rally with the team then that would be a good result for us on this difficult event.”

Juho Hänninen said:
“We have had two very different tests in the lead-up to the rally – one very slippery in the wet before Christmas and one on some very quick, dry stages this week – which has been very good preparation.

“The difficulty with Rallye Monte-Carlo is that, as a driver, you need to understand that you cannot be the quickest all of the time. This event is all about compromise – sometimes you need to drive slower than you might naturally want to and tyre selection can make all the difference.

“Thanks to this week’s test especially I am feeling really confident with the car. There is still a lot to learn, but we have a lot of kilometres behind the wheel now. Our confidence is growing all the time and we are ready to rally.

“I want to finish the event – it would of course be a pity to go home on Day 1 – but my main goal is to set some good stage times and try to challenge some of the more experienced WRC drivers. Many of the stages I know from the past, and we want to be in Monaco on Friday and Saturday.”

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Posted: January 12, 2013 1:21 PM

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