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Monte Carlo Rally - 16-19 Jan 14

Posted: January 31, 2014 3:19 PM - 7503 Hits

Round 1 - 2014 World Rally Championship

WRC-2 podium for Barrable on Rallye Monte Carlo debut

Posted: January 31, 2014 3:19 PM

Robert Barrable scored a podium finish on his Rallye Monte Carlo debut, finishing 3rd in WRC-2 (and 13th overall) in his Tunnock’s World Rally Team Ford Fiesta R5.

Co-driven by Stuart Loudon, Robert survived hazardous winter driving conditions throughout the 15 stage / 238.53 mile (383.88km) route to successfully complete the opening round of the 2014 FIA World Rally Championship.

Torrential rain, even in the normally sun-kissed Côte d'Azur, didn’t stop hundreds of thousands of spectators line the route to watch their rally heroes battle through muddy and water-drenched mountain roads – while snow and ice on the highest Alpine passes, including the famous Col de Turini (which at 1607 metres was the highest section of this year’s rally), made conditions treacherous and perfect tyre choice impossible.

Determined to reach the finish and gain the maximum amount of experience on his first Rallye Monte Carlo, Robert started well, with 2nd fastest time in WRC-2. Unfortunately, a repeat run through the loop of three Day 1 stages had to be done in engine ‘road mode’, when a leaking turbo return pipe forced Robert to nurse the car back to service in Gap.

The weather conditions made tyre choice especially tricky on Day 2, yet Robert continued to make great progress. As an indication of how quickly he was adapting to the stages, the 26-year old driver from Dublin was an impressive 39.2 seconds faster through the Vitrolles - Col D'Espreaux - Faye test the second time around – which, at 30.6 miles (49.25kms), was the longest stage of the rally.

Upon arrival in Monaco at the end of the event’s longest day, Robert had moved up from 4th in WRC-2 (and 30th overall) to 2nd WRC-2 (and 13th overall).

Robert was looking forward to driving the Col de Turini for the first time, but unfortunately he couldn’t see it – as the windscreen had completed misted up. Unable to reach the windscreen to wipe it, he had to do all-but four miles of the 25 mile loop of two stages completely blind, losing two and a half minutes and dropping to 3rd in WRC-2.

The CA1 Sport team also had to replace a broken clutch in service, although the second run over the Col de Turini was cancelled as heavy snowfall had made the climb to the summit impassable. A dark and wet final stage was completed without drama, allowing Robert to celebrate a well-judged and experience-gaining Rallye Monte Carlo finish – coming home behind WRC-2 winner Yurii Protasov (Ukraine) and Lorenzo Bertelli (Italy), who were both in Fords.

Robert:
“The Monte Carlo Rally definitely lived up to my expectations of being one of the toughest rounds of the World Rally Championship, and I can see why it’s regarded as a real classic. It’s been quite an endurance, with a hard recce, a lot of road mileage, the technicality of the stages, the weather conditions and tyre choices.

“The Col de Turini is an amazing stage. Three kilometres before the top it’s all snow, coming down the other side is just like glass, and it’s all so narrow. You can see why you don’t get anything like that anywhere else in the world and I really enjoyed it.

“The lads at CA1 Sport have been great again. To change a clutch in under thirty minutes was magnificent, and that allowed us to carry on and score a podium finish. I didn’t come here thinking of a result, I just wanted to get a finish and enjoy it. So first time at the Monte, I wasn’t really expecting a podium, so I’m really very happy.”

Stuart:
“I’m relieved to have reached the finish of the Monte Carlo Rally, as it’s been a very difficult event for us, with the weather conditions, tyre choice and a few issues with the car. We’ve got to the finish and as a team we should be very proud of ourselves. All the guys have done a great job, including changing the clutch which involved taking the gearbox out. To do that without us incurring a time penalty was impressive work.

“I’m extremely proud of Rob to get through his first Monte Carlo Rally and to score a podium result. He’s driven very well, and it’s been far from easy – particularly today, when the windscreen misted up and neither of us could see anything at all. It’s so easy in those situations to get frustrated and throw the car off the road, but Rob kept calm and it’s paid off with a good result.

“We tried where we could to push and set top WRC-2 stage times; not everything was against us, but a lot was! But we’ve gained an awful lot of experience and we’re very pleased.”

KUBICA PROVES PACE, BUT MONTE BITES BACK

Posted: January 31, 2014 3:06 PM

Encompassing some of the world’s most challenging and unpredictable conditions, Rallye Monte-Carlo is renowned as one of the FIA World Rally Championship’s (WRC) most difficult events. Unfortunately the RK M-Sport World Rally Team pairing of Robert Kubica and Maciej Szczepaniak will take no further part having fallen foul of the rally’s unforgiving nature through the second pass of ‘Vitrolles – Faye’ (SS9)

The Polish driver had a sensational start to his ‘Monte’ debut with the Cumbrian outfit. Surpassing all expectations, the Formula One race winner claimed an early lead – fastest times on the opening two speed tests amassing a 36.8 second advantage over reigning champion Sebastien Ogier. Despite losing time with an unfavourable tyre choice for the snow-covered descent at the end of SS3, he regrouped brilliantly – holding third place come the end of Day 1. Gaining a wealth of experience, the Pole continued to impress throughout today’s opening stages. Matching the times of the front runners, Kubica consolidated his position and had become a firm favourite for the podium.

But as the ‘Monte’ bit back, it was not to be. Caught out under braking on what was a rain-soaked first stage after service (SS9), the Pole collided with a bridge 32 kilometres from the start line. With his Ford Fiesta RS WRC stricken down a steep embankment, there was no hope of rejoining the stage and his maiden outing with the M-Sport team came to an untimely end.

With no Rally 2 regulations, Kubica will not restart as the rally ventures south to Monte-Carlo this evening. That said, the popular Pole has gained a wealth of experience and clearly demonstrated that both he and the Fiesta have the pace to challenge at the top of the field.

Robert Kubica (DNF) said:
“There was a sudden change of grip. We knew to be cautious because we had it marked in our pacenotes from the ice note crew, but unfortunately I misjudged how big the change would be. Just before [the incident] the grip was really good, but there was also a lot of mud on the stage. We went into the corner, the front went straight, we hit a bridge and unfortunately that was the end of our rally.”

Team Principal, Malcolm Wilson OBE, said:
“I can understand how Robert [Kubica] feels tonight. Having spoken with him, he is hugely disappointed and feels as though he has let the team down, but that is certainly not the case. We are absolutely delighted with his performance and the entire team is now 100 per cent behind him.”

PIRELLI MAKES PROMISING RETURN TO THE WRC IN MONTE CARLO

Posted: January 31, 2014 2:56 PM

Pirelli made its return to the World Rally Championship after a year’s absence at the Monte Carlo Rally this weekend, fighting at the forefront of a competitive WRC2 field.

The Italian firm was sole supplier to the World Rally Championship between 2008-2010 and then supplied the WRC Academy until 2012. For the company’s return, Pirelli has proposed a range of rally tyres for customers that have been created entirely from scratch, enabling privateers to fight at the front of their classes.

One of the highlights of the weekend was a remarkable third-fastest time overall with a Super 2000 car on only the third stage, thanks to Swiss driver Olivier Burri.

The normally- aspirated Super 2000 cars have a considerable performance deficit to the headlining turbocharged WRC class, yet Burri’s Pirelli tyre choice enabled him to set a time that outclassed all the regular WRC stars such as reigning World Champion Sebastien Ogier.

Pirelli’s return this year is aimed at private entries, complying with the latest tyre regulations that impose strict limits on the quantities and tread pattern design of the tyres available.

Pirelli took eight class victories out of the 14 stages that were run competitively, setting a number of top-10 times overall without even having a car in the WRC class.

Monte Carlo is one of the toughest tests for drivers and tyres all season, with the outcome revolving heavily around the tyre choices on each stage. Conditions can range from dry asphalt to slush to heavy snow: with all three much in evidence this year for Pirelli’s return.

The Italian firm equipped five runners in the WRC2 category: former European Rally Champion Armin Kremer, Italian Production Car Champion Max Rendina, Greek driver Jourdan Semeridis, France’s Julien Maurin and Italy’s Lorenzo Bertelli.

In the Production class, there were two Pirelli runners: multiple Swiss champion Olivier Burri and Matthieu Margaillan from France.

Bertelli finished runner-up in the WRC2 class, while Rendina won the Production category.

The tyres available were the Sottozero and RK, in the softest compound available (RK9). The Sottozero comes in two versions: studded, for snow and ice, and without studs – like a normal winter road car tyre. The RK was used for dry and damp asphalt, with the Sottozero used for snow and ice: typical of the conditions seen on the famous Turini stages that conclude the rally.

Pirelli’s senior tyre engineer Matteo Braga said: “Our intention in returning to the World Rally Championship this year was to provide our customers with competitive tyres that will enable them to fight for top positions. Even on our first event, the new tyres showed plenty of potential, as our class positions and stage times show. Olivier Burri’s choice of Sottozero tyres on SS3 enabled him to seal a remarkable third-place overall on the stage, while Lorenzo Bertelli also led the WRC2 class before taking a podium on his Monte Carlo Rally debut. The conditions, as always, were extremely difficult this year meaning that not just pure speed but also the adaptability of the drivers and the tyres to the changing conditions held the keys to success.”

Pirelli’s next World Rally Championship outing will be Rally Sweden from 5-8 February, when the new Sottozero Ice will be seen for the first time.

DMACK WRC 2 Podium As Monte Snow Bites Back

Posted: January 31, 2014 2:54 PM

DMACK kick started the new 2014 FIA World Rally Championship season in style after overcoming some tough winter weather conditions on this weekend’s iconic Rallye Monte Carlo.

DMACK’s range of four asphalt competition tyres, specifically designed for the event, helped competitors safely master a mix of extreme conditions – from snow and ice to torrential rain.

Heavy snowfall on the final day’s action saw one of the most hotly-anticipated stages cancelled as some crews became stuck in the snow as they struggled to make the top of the pass. However, Irish asphalt ace Robert Barrable sealed a WRC 2 podium on his Monte Carlo debut using DMACK tyres to finish third in the series after 384km of competition across three days.

Rallye Monte Carlo traditionally delivers a mix of tough conditions which match the technically challenging asphalt mountain roads across the Haute-Alpes region in southern France. The stage construction means that crews can face sun-kissed dry roads on one side of the mountain but hit snow and ice as the terrain changes.

Tyre choice on the Monte is never an easy or a correct decision – but usually a compromise based on the current and predicted conditions. At every service there’s constant and last minute deliberations concerning the tyre choice for the next loop of stages – with crews opting for a mix of different patterns to cover the mixed conditions.

DMACK nominated four different tyres for the rally. Its winter tyre, the DMT-ICE, was available in un-studded and studded form. Each studded tyre was equipped with nearly 200 metal pins to bite into the frozen ice and snow.

For dry and damp asphalt roads, crews opted for the DMT-RC tyre with DMACK nominating two compounds – the soft S3 and the super soft XS3.

It was this range, and DMACK’s significant technical experience from previous editions of the event, which helped runners master the tough conditions. Right from the start of the opening stage near Gap on Thursday, competitors faced a mix of snow, slush, ice and rain for the two days of action around the new rally base.

On Friday night crews and teams moved 300km south to Monaco where Saturday’s final-day action was based. The tough loop of four stages provided a snowy sting in the tail with the second pass over the legendary Col de Turini stage cancelled after some cars became stuck in the heavy snow. The other tests suffered from hazardous standing water after torrential rain turned the roads into rivers.

However, DMACK was both happy and encouraged with the performance of its tyres – mastering the range of extreme conditions and allowing competitors to safely and competitively start their season in style.

Dick Cormack, DMACK motorsport director, said:
“Monte Carlo always throws up a range of hugely demanding conditions but our experience of the event from the last three years has allowed DMACK to supply drivers with a resilient range of winter tyres. Each tyre has performed well, we’ve had no issues or punctures so it has definitely been a strong start to the season for us.”

“Monte” victory! Dream start to the WRC for Ogier and Volkswagen

Posted: January 31, 2014 2:53 PM

Triumph at the Rally Monte Carlo – Volkswagen opened the new season of the FIA World Rally Championship (WRC) with a dream result. Sébastien Ogier/Julien Ingrassia (F/F) produced an irresistible fightback and an outstanding driving display to secure victory on the first weekend of the 2014 season. The success at the “Monte” is their 17th victory in the WRC, and their tenth with Volkswagen. The win was the duo’s second at the rally classic, having previously won in 2009 when the event in the Mediterranean principality did not form part of the world championship. Second place went to Ford driver Bryan Bouffier, who won here in 2011, with Citroën’s Kris Meeke taking third.

The competitors at the notorious “Monte”, also known as “The Unpredictable One”, faced extremely difficult weather and road conditions. Rain in the valleys, snow at altitude – as has often been the case in the past, tyre selection was the decisive factor at the “Monte”. Volkswagen ended the classic with all three Polo R WRCs in the points. Jari-Matti Latvala/Miikka Anttila (FIN/FIN) and Andreas Mikkelsen/Mikko Markkula (N/FIN) picked up valuable points in fifth and seventh place respectively.

Typical “Monte” – tricky tyre selection makes for excitement, weather for chaos

The sudden onset of winter in the French Maritime Alps and heavy rain in the valleys – the start of the Rally Monte Carlo literally caught everyone cold. Based on the weather data available, the Volkswagen drivers opted for virtually tread-free slicks for the first three special stages of the “Monte”. With the shock arrival of snow in the principality, this made driving a real challenge. Sébastien Ogier/Julien Ingrassia and their team-mates lost a lot of time in these conditions. The World Champions found themselves back in ninth place. They showed their undoubted class from the fifth stage onwards, however, finishing consistently in the top-three from then on in and winning seven special stages. By the midway point of the “Monte” they had moved into the lead and never looked back.

Weather conditions were so extreme that the 14th special stage of the Rally Monte Carlo had to be cancelled. So much snow fell on the notorious Col de Turini between the first and second loop on Saturday that the second run had to be neutralised, with some World Rally Cars stuck in the snow.

The comeback kid: Jari-Matti Latvala and the double fightback

Sébastien Ogier’s team-mates Jari-Matti Latvala/Miikka Anttila twice thrilled fans at the Rally Monte Carlo with a remarkable comeback. On the Friday of the rally, “JML” fought his way back from 18th to seventh place overall. He then climbed another position on Saturday, before a puncture saw him drop back down the field. However, he had battled back from eighth to fifth by the end of the day. Latvala/Anttila were in the top-three on eight of the special stages at the “Monte”, clocking the fastest time on three occasions.

Points reward for “Monte” trainee Mikkelsen

Lessons learned, points scored – Andreas Mikkelsen’s first outing in a World Rally Car at the Rally Monte Carlo was rewarded with six World Championship points. Together with co-driver Mikko Markkula, Mikkelsen showed the necessary caution on all 14 special stages. However, even that was not enough on the tenth stage: on slicks at the time, Mikkelsen/Markkula slid slowly off the snow-covered road in a slow corner between Sisteron and Thoard. Despite losing a lot of time they were able to continue, with the help of the fans, and capitalised with a series of top times on the final day.

Bonus points for Latvala/Anttila and Ogier/Ingrassia on the Power Stage

Three extra points for Jari-Matti Latvala and Miikka Anttila, and two bonus points for Sébastien Ogier and Julien Ingrassia – Volkswagen claimed a one-two on the Power Stage. Five of the six bonus points up for grabs on the Power Stage – the final stage of a rally, on which points are awarded to the top three cars – went the way of the manufacturer from Wolfsburg.

Dream start: Ogier/Ingrassia and Volkswagen lead the World Championship

Victory at the first rally of the year and two bonus points on the Power Stage mean the reigning World Champions lead the WRC after the opening act of 2014. Sébastien Ogier and Julien Ingrassia leave their home rally with 27 points to their name, while Jari-Matti Latvala and Miikka Anttila are fourth with 13 points, courtesy of their Power Stage victory. Volkswagen also holds an early lead in the Manufacturers’ Championship: 37 points went to Wolfsburg, 33 to Citroën.

Quotes, day three of the Rally Monte Carlo

Sébastien Ogier, Volkswagen Polo R WRC #1
“What a perfect start to the season! The team did a fantastic job. I am overjoyed. It is an amazing feeling to win the Rally Monte Carlo in these difficult conditions – especially now that the Monte is a round of the World Championship again. For that reason, this win obviously ranks above the victory in the IRC in 2009 for Julien and me. Even more so when you consider the last three days: the fightback in extreme rain, and then the snow chaos on the Col de Turini. I really wanted to win my home rally here. I will celebrate the win appropriately – with my family, my girlfriend and the entire Volkswagen team.”

Jari-Matti Latvala, Volkswagen Polo R WRC #2
“I am really happy with fifth place. That was the goal we had set ourselves right from the word go. I have finally brought an end to my poor run at the Rally Monte Carlo. The conditions out on the route were very, very difficult in places – as was the tyre selection, which we did not get right at the start. The stages in the mountains were hard work, but it was worth it. We scored important points. I am particularly pleased with the extra points from the Power Stage. We now head to the Rally Sweden full of confidence.”

Andreas Mikkelsen, Volkswagen Polo R WRC #9
“An incredibly strenuous rally for us. There were so many conditions we had never come across before. Like many others, we found ourselves driving with slicks on snow and spikes in the rain. The tyre selection was definitely extremely difficult. However, I learned a lot at the Rally Monte Carlo. I am very happy that we finished in the points. That was always our goal, and I am still flabbergasted how difficult it was to achieve that goal.”

Jost Capito, Volkswagen Motorsport Director
“I am very proud of the entire team today. The drivers, co-drivers, engineers and mechanics all did an outstanding job. Sébastien Ogier’s performance was worthy of a champion, while Jari-Matti Latvala and Andreas Mikkelsen also did a magnificent job. Together with their engineers, and using the information available from the ice spies and weather crews, they always made intelligent tyre selections – even if they did not always turn out to be perfect. But that is just typical of the ‘Monte’, which is always unpredictable and temperamental. To have all three Polo R WRCs in the points and to have won the iconic ‘Monte’ for the first time as a team is an outstanding success.”

And then there was ...

... Nicolas Vouilloz, the ice spy for Sébastien Ogier, who is known as the “inventor of tyre crossing”. In unclear and fluctuating weather conditions, rally drivers are increasingly opting for a mixed tyre set-up in a cross configuration. For example, slick and wet tyres are used at the same time, with slicks fitted on the front left and rear right, and wets in reverse. “We tried this out years ago at tyre tests with Michelin, and it worked better than having different tyres on the front axle to the rear axle. We were probably the first to use it in competition,” said the 37-year-old from Nice, who has proven to be more than adept at overcoming the extreme on two wheels too: Vouilloz was crowned World Downhill Mountain Bike Champion on ten occasions.

MIXED EMOTIONS FOR M-SPORT IN MONTE

Posted: January 31, 2014 2:51 PM

There were mixed emotions for M-Sport as Rallye Monte-Carlo came to a close today. Bryan Bouffier secured a sensational second place behind the wheel of an M-Sport run Ford Fiesta RS WRC and Elfyn Evans got his FIA World Rally Championship (WRC) campaign off to a flying start with sixth place on his Monte debut. Elsewhere however, there was disappointment for Mikko Hirvonen as his Ford Fiesta RS WRC developed an electrical issue on the final stage – relegating the Finn from the overall results.

This year’s event has seen some challenging conditions, and as the crews ventured south to Monaco, the final day was to be no different. As one of the WRC’s most legendary stages, ‘Col de Turini’ is one which rarely fails to excite, and this year’s offering certainly achieved that.

With full snow over ‘the Col’ for ‘La Bollene Vesubie – Moulinet’ and streams of running water for the high-speed ‘Sospel – Breil sur Roya’, the final loop of stages were amongst the event’s most daunting. But that was not to faze Evans and co-driver Daniel Barritt as the British duo equalled their best performance on what was their maiden outing at the season’s traditional opener.

Taking to the wheel of the Ford Fiesta RS WRC, the Welshman was one of the event’s most impressive contenders. Keeping his head where the more experienced faltered, Evans showed the determination which will see him go far in years to come. Gaining a wealth of invaluable experience through the treacherous speed tests, the 25-year-old also demonstrated flashes of brilliance – with a fourth fastest time on SS11 and being just 0.5 seconds shy of a WRC stage win on SS3.

Unfortunately, there was less good fortune for the sister M-Sport World Rally Team Fiesta RS WRC of Hirvonen and co-driver Jarmo Lehtinen. In what had been a difficult transition back to their former team, the Finns had to adapt in less than ideal circumstances. Upping the pace as the event ensued, the Finn was on course for a strong sixth place before an untimely electrical issue put pains to his efforts on the final stage.
He and the team made every effort to get the Fiesta back to service. Determined to the last, Hirvonen even removed the windscreen to improve visibility in the lashing rain having lost power to the wipers. Regrettably, it was not to be. As his hard work went unrewarded, Hirvonen had to accept some good mileage in difficult conditions as his only consolation.

The Finn now focusses his attention on a successful Rally Sweden – an event on which he has previous good form having claimed victory with the team in 2011.

Elfyn Evans (6th) said:
“I’m absolutely delighted to have made it to the finish in such a strong position. Obviously it is very disappointing for Mikko [Hirvonen], he and Jarmo [Lehtinen, co-driver] helped us a lot this weekend and sixth place should have gone to them.

“We managed to keep our noses clean all event – no moments, no dramas, no big slides. To drive round a tricky event like this, like we did, it is a big achievement for us and it fulfils everything we wanted from the weekend.

“There are a lot of people who made it all possible – the ice note crew being one, the team being another. It was a big step to come into a squad like this, and with a top car for my first outing on the Monte, so a big thanks to Malcolm [Wilson] and the team for the opportunity.”

Mikko Hirvonen (DNF) said:
“It’s been a frustrating weekend. We struggled to get back to grips with the Fiesta [RS WRC] in the early stages, but the pace was coming so it is a real shame that it had to end the way that it did. Now, I just need to focus on the next event. Sweden is a rally that I enjoy, so hopefully we’ll be able turn it around and really show our potential.”

Team Principal, Malcolm Wilson OBE, said:
“It’s been a fantastic start to Elfyn’s [Evans] WRC campaign and he richly deserved this sixth place finish. He has coped well in one of the most difficult Montes for number of years and it sends out a strong message that he has a great career ahead of him.

“Obviously it was a huge disappointment to lose Mikko [Hirvonen] with an electrical problem on the final stage. He and the team tried hard to get the car back home, but unfortunately it was not to be.

“On the positive side, he managed to get a lot of mileage in what were far from easy circumstances. Hopefully he will be to put this weekend behind him and prove his true pace at Rally Sweden next month.”

ADDITIONAL M-SPORT DRIVERS

Bryan Bouffier and Xavier Panseri secured a well-deserved second place behind the wheel of an M-Sport run Ford Fiesta RS WRC today. Constantly challenging the front-runners throughout the event, Bouffier set a string of competitive times – including two stage wins – and proved the performance of M-Sport’s top-specification Fiesta.

Bryan Bouffier (2nd) said:
“I have to say that before the start of the rally, it was my dream to finish on the podium. To have actually achieved it is a fantastic feeling and truly surpassed my expectations.

“It was a pleasure to battle for the lead. On some stages were really pushed and it was great to see that our pace was strong enough to challenge.

“This is my first WRC podium on my first time with the Fiesta [RS WRC]. I need to thank my co-driver and my entire team because without them, this result would not have been possible.”

M-Sport Managing Director, Malcolm Wilson OBE, said:
“It has been an absolutely superb drive from Bryan [Bouffier] from start to finish. To finish in second place at Monte – on his first time with the Fiesta [RS WRC] – shows that he has real potential and I hope that we can find a way to get him back behind the wheel as the season continues.”

WRC2

There was a clean-sweep of the podium for the Ford Fiesta R5 in the FIA World Rally Championship’s premier support series today as Yurri Protasov, Lorenzo Bertelli and Robert Barrable piloted their M-Sport machinery to the WRC2 podium.

M-Sport Managing Director, Malcolm Wilson OBE, said:
“A fantastic weekend for M-Sport, with second in the rally overall, was topped off with a one-, two-, three- for the Fiesta R5 in WRC2. It’s been a great week of results and more proof that the [Fiesta] R5 is a top performer.

“A big congratulations to Yurii [Protasov] on his first WRC2 victory and for securing his first overall top-ten result. Congratulations must also go to Lorenzo [Bertelli] and Robert [Barrable]. All three of them put in a fantastic performance and the result is very satisfying indeed.”

FIRST WRC PODIUM FINISH FOR KRIS MEEKE/PAUL NAGLE

Posted: January 31, 2014 2:49 PM

Only four stages remained on today’s leg before the competitors reached the end of this 82nd running of the Rallye Monte-Carlo. But they weren’t just any old stages: two successive runs, at day and then at night, on La Bollène Vésubie – Moulinet, via the Col de Turini, and Sospel – Breil sur Roya!

With a huge amount of water on the roads and plenty of snow at the top of the Col de Turini, the first run provided the drivers with a genuine test of guts and bravery. Third and fourth respectively, Kris Meeke and Mads Østberg consolidated their positions.

After dark and with the snowfall getting heavier, the organisers decided to cancel the second run on the Col de Turini. The Power Stage, held in heavy rain and fairly dense fog, enabled Kris Meeke to pick up an extra point. Kris finished third overall in the final standings to become the first British driver since 2003 to finish on the podium at the Rallye Monte-Carlo… Colin McRae and Derek Ringer had finished second back then, also in a Citroën! Mads Østberg and Jonas Andersson made a successful debut in their Citroën DS3 WRC, ending the rally in fourth position.

QUOTE, UNQUOTE

Kris Meeke:
“I’ve never witnessed conditions like these at a rally. It was incredibly difficult, but we achieved our goal. I had a very good feeling in the Citroën DS3 WRC. Monte-Carlo is always a tough rally. It’s not really a tarmac rally and it’s a snow rally either. It’s got a bit of everything! I’m very pleased for those who put their faith in me. It’s really nice to be able to pay back the team for their support with this result.”

Mads Østberg:
“This fourth position feels like a small victory! I must thank the fantastic team that helped us achieve this result. We made some minor mistakes but the conditions were especially difficult. I know we could have been quicker on some of the stages, but we had to make sure of our position so we didn’t take any unnecessary risks. Bring on the snow at Rally Sweden!”

Yves Matton (Citroën Racing Team Principal):
“We asked our crews not to take any risks when the conditions were difficult… and we pretty much only had difficult conditions! They raced sensibly and followed the instructions we gave them, pushing when they felt confident. This performance is a great way to start the season, and highly motivating for the entire team. We all know about Kris’s speed. This weekend, he showed his maturity and his ability to manage a result. It’s an important stage in building the foundations of the rest of the season. Mads is not really a tarmac driver. However, he felt confident in the Citroën DS3 WRC straightaway. During the shakedown, he said that he had really enjoyed driving on this surface for the first time. He then went on to set some very good times.”

Results

Posted: January 31, 2014 2:47 PM

1. Sébastien Ogier / Julien Ingrassia (Volkswagen Polo R WRC) 3:55:14.4
2. Bryan Bouffier / Xavier Panseri (Ford Fiesta RS WRC) +1:18.9
3. Kris Meeke / Paul Nagle (Citroën DS3 WRC) +1:54.3
4. Mads Østberg / Jonas Andersson (Citroën DS3 WRC) +3:53.9
5. Jari-Matti Latvala / Miikka Anttila (Volkswagen Polo R WRC) +6:08.3
6. Elfyn Evans / Daniel Barritt (Ford Fiesta RS WRC) +8:37.4
7. Andreas Mikkelsen / Mikko Markkula (Volkswagen Polo R WRC) +11:42.3
8. Jaroslav Melicharek / Erik Melicharek (Ford Fiesta RS WRC) +21:56.2
9. Matteo Gamba / Nicola Arena (Peugeot 207 Super 2000) +23:50.7
10. Yuriy Protasov / Pavlo Cherepin (Ford Fiesta R5) +25:43.1

In Car: Kris Meeke/Paul Nagle - SS3

Posted: January 17, 2014 8:08 AM

Day One: KRIS MEEKE EMERGES IN SECOND POSITION

Posted: January 17, 2014 8:06 AM

Long before sunrise, each crew tried to predict the conditions they would face on the day’s first three stages in order to choose the best possible tyre set-up. Sixth on the road, Mads Østberg opted for five Michelin Pilot Sport SS2 supersoft tyres, suitable for dry and wet tarmac. Twelve minutes later, armed with new information about the conditions, Kris Meeke set off with four Michelin Pilot Sport SS2 supersoft tyres and two Michelin Pilot Alpin 4 tyres (non-studded for snow and ice) in the boot.

Although the first two stages were mainly wet, the third – and especially the section through the Col de Perty where there was a lot of snow – handed a significant advantage to the crews that had taken winter tyres. Third after SS2, Kris Meeke moved into second after SS3, stealing a march on his rivals by making the right tyre choice. With his supersoft tyres, Mads Østberg managed to stay on the road whilst losing as little time as possible.

In the afternoon, both drivers went for four Michelin Pilot Alpin 4 tyres and two Michelin Pilot Sport SS2 tyres. Kris Meeke won his battle with Robert Kubica to end the first leg in second place. Mads Østberg took advantage of the afternoon loop to add to his experience and move up into fifth position in the overall standings.

QUOTE, UNQUOTE

Kris Meeke:
“Clearly, running twelfth on the road was a bit of a disadvantage and I had trouble finding the right pace in the early part of the afternoon, because the racing line was covered in mud. I also felt it was better to be very cautious, even if that cost us some time. On such difficult stages, finishing the day in second place is obviously a good result. I’ll have to make sure I get plenty of sleep tonight, because we’ve a very long ahead of us tomorrow.”

Mads Østberg:
“It was a positive day. We learned a lot in the conditions which were especially complicated. We didn’t make the best tyre choice in the morning, but we managed not to lose too much time. And although we made a few mistakes, none of them were serious enough to put us out of the rally. We’ll be able to work with the team now to try and continue to improve tomorrow. We know that we have the potential to go faster, but we have to be careful.”

Yves Matton (Citroën Racing Team Principal):
“Unusually for us, our two cars set off this morning having made different tyre choices. This decision was due to their starting positions. The option taken by Kris was the better one. And that is the main reason for the gap between the two drivers. They both drove well, very much in line with what we asked them to do. They were not to take any risks when the conditions were tricky and then try and push when things were a little easier. They managed the day well. Kris is second overall, and has a good road position for the rest of the rally; Mads is very close to the podium places.”

HOW THE ACTION UNFOLDED

SS1 – Orpierre – Saint-André-de-Rosans 1 (25.49km) – Thierry Neuville was the first driver to be caught out by the very slippery conditions. Robert Kubica set the fastest time, despite sections of the stage being covered in snow. Mads Østberg and Kris Meeke finished in fifth and sixth positions.

SS2 – Rosans – Sainte-Marie – La Charce 1 (17.98km) – No snow on this second test. Robert Kubica extended his lead at the front, as Kris Meeke moved up into third overall. Mads Østberg held onto fifth position.

SS3 – Montauban Sur l’Ouvèze – Laborel 1 (19.34km) – The section through the Col de Perty handed a significant advantage to the crews that had opted to take winter tyres. Bryan Bouffier set the fastest time and moved into the overall lead ahead of Kris Meeke, who was also fast on this stage. Mads Østberg did his utmost on his supersoft tyres but slipped back to eighth overall.

SS4 – Orpierre – Saint-André-de-Rosans 2 (25.49km) – Jari-Matti Latvala went fastest as all the crews opted to fit winter tyres. Kris Meeke defended his second position. Mads Østberg clocked the fourth fastest time to move up into sixth overall.

SS5 – Rosans – Sainte-Marie – La Charce 2 (17.98km) – Dani Sordo was forced retire on the road section before the start of the stage. Sébastien Ogier won his first stage of the rally. Kris Meeke lost a place in the overall standings (down to third) whilst Mads Østberg gained one (up to fifth).

SS6 – Montauban Sur l’Ouvèze – Laborel 2 (19.34km) – The conditions were very different compared to the morning loop. The roads were wet and the snow was melting. Sébastien Ogier claimed his second consecutive stage win. Mads Østberg and Kris Meeke finished third and fourth respectively in their Citroën DS3 WRCs. Thanks to this performance, Kris reclaimed second position overall.

CITROËN RACING OPENS ITS SEASON AT THE RALLYE MONTE-CARLO

Posted: January 15, 2014 4:27 PM

CITROËN AND THE RALLYE MONTE-CARLO: A SHORT HISTORY LESSON…

Among its record number of WRC wins (93 victories since 2001), Monte-Carlo has a very special place in Citroën’s sporting and media history.

André Citroën was a big fan of marketing and therefore had no hesitation in entering his latest model at the 1934 rally. This was in spite of the fact the new car, the T45, was a pre-production vehicle, driven by a dozen or so crew members and finished the race 98th overall!

In 1959, the Brand won the rally for the first time in a Citroën ID 19 driven by Paul Coltelloni and Pierre Alexandre. Seven years later, Pauli Toivonen and Ensio Mikander secured a more unexpected win for the DS 21. Since it entered the WRC as a works team at the start of the last decade, Citroën has scored a series of wins in the Principality. In 2002, Sébastien Loeb and Daniel Elena dominated the event, but came away as runners-up. The Franco-Monegasque pair then went on to win seven out of the next eight rallies in a Xsara WRC, C4 WRC and DS3 WRC. The 2003 rally even saw an all-Citroën podium made up of Sébastien Loeb/Daniel Elena, Colin McRae/Derek Ringer and Carlos Sainz/Marc Marti.

Last year, Sébastien Loeb and Daniel Elena once again proved unbeatable, dominating the event after managing to negotiate the tricky road conditions created by the weather.

VERY SPECIFIC PREPARATION FOR AN EVENT LIKE NO OTHER

A winter rally held in the hills between the Alps and the Mediterranean, the Rallye Monte-Carlo is reputed for its highly varied, testing road conditions. The tarmac can be dry or wet, covered in ice or snow: the road surface changes over time, varies in different parts of the stages and as more cars come through.

To prepare for this testing rally, the Citroën Total Abu Dhabi World Rally Team organised several test sessions in the south east of France, close to the route of the rally.

Chief Operations Engineer for the DS3 WRCs, Didier Clément detailed the method applied by the team:
“Our test campaign was split into two stages. Before Christmas, both crews spent two days in the Alpes-Maritimes department. They were able to get used to driving the Citroën DS3 WRC on roads without any tricky sections. Then, a few days ahead of the rally, we made things more difficult for them. They had to drive with studded tyres on dry roads and slick tyres on the snow. We also tested the intermediate configurations, with combined tyre set-ups. Kris and Mads had to get to grips with these kinds of situations, which can easily arise at some point or another in the rally.”

By trying to cover as many different situations as possible in testing, the team was therefore able to boost its already very extensive knowledge base.
“During the rally, it’ll be a question of making the best – or the least bad – tyre choice. You have to anticipate the conditions, comparing the information provided by the gravel crews with data from our weather experts and from Météo France,” explained Didier Clément. “Using all this information, as well as our experience and feedback from testing, we recommend a tyre choice to the crews. However, it is always the driver who has the final say, because he must feel confident in the car to be able to push.”

For this rally, each driver will be able to use a maximum of 45 tyres. Within the Michelin range, the Citroën Total Abu Dhabi World Rally Team works crews will choose between soft and super-soft slick tyres, as well as studded and non-studded winter tyres.

KRIS MEEKE’S SIXTH OUTING AT MONTE-CARLO, BUT HIS FIRST IN THE WRC!

Kris Meeke has plenty of experience of competing at Monte-Carlo, having raced here five times already:
“My favourite memory goes back to 2005. It was my first rally in a Citroën; I was competing in the Junior WRC in a C2 Super 1600. The conditions were difficult, as ever, with snow and ice. I remember that year in particular, as I took the JWRC category win!”

From experience, Kris knows that Monte-Carlo can be decided by minor details:
“Understanding the road – being able to read the surface conditions and reacting accordingly – is the best way to do well here. It is pointless aiming for a particular result. The goal is to be consistent, not make any mistakes and focus on the main priority, which is to make it to the finish. If everything goes well, your efforts will be rewarded by a good result.”

“Testing allowed me to get used to the handling of the DS3 WRC in particularly demanding conditions,” continued the British driver. “On the snow or ice, it’s essential to be confident in yourself and in the car. The work we did helped me to learn and improve. Now we’ll just have to wait and see what sort of weather we get in the race!”

MADS ØSTBERG IS HOPING FOR SNOW!

Reflecting on his first outing at the rally in 2013, Mads Østberg particularly remembered the legendary Col du Turini stages:
“I thought I had lost several minutes, because I was struggling to find any grip. I was fighting in the car, but had the impression I was totally powerless. At the end of the stage, I was so frustrated that I took off my helmet and put my head in my hands… And then someone told me that I had actually just set the fastest time so far. I was ahead of all of the leaders!”

Like all Scandinavian drivers, Mads is especially comfortable in slippery, low-grip conditions. The Norwegian would therefore not be averse to facing genuinely wintry conditions:
“Monte-Carlo is a real challenge for the first race of the season. I haven’t done a lot of miles in the car as yet, but I had a good feeling in testing. I feel that the Citroën DS3 WRC is a really steady car, with a very powerful engine. Testing gave me the chance to experience just about everything that might be thrown at us during the rally. I thought that I fared pretty well with slick tyres on the snow, although it was sometimes more a question of survival than of racing… In any case, if I could choose the weather, I’d ask for as much snow as possible!”

CLASSIC STAGES RETURN TO MONTE-CARLO

Based in Valence in recent years, the rally looks very different this year, with over 90% of the route changed compared with last year. The 82nd edition of the rally gets underway in Gap on Thursday, 16 January. The race will start with two runs on a loop of three stages, in the morning and then in the afternoon: Orpierre – Saint André de Rosans (25.49km), Rosans – Sainte Marie – La Charce (17.98km) and Montauban sur l’Ouvèze – Col du Perty – Laborel (19.34km).

On Friday, 17 January, the crews will complete another loop around Gap with Vitrolles – Col d’Espreaux – Faye (49.03km) and Selonnet – Col des Garcinets – Bréziers (22.68km). After the midday break, the cars will head for Monaco with a second run on Vitrolles – Col d’Espreaux – Faye followed by the Sisteron – Col de Fontbelle – Thoard stage (36.85km). A regroup at Digne-les-Bains will enable the teams to change tyres, before the crews tackle the Clumanc – Col du Défend – Lambruisse stage (20.77km) after nightfall.

Meanwhile, the teams will dismantle the service structures installed near to the aquatics centre in Gap. They will be reinstalled overnight on the port of Monaco, the nerve centre for Saturday’s final leg. The final day’s action will revolve around the Col du Turini with two loops of two stages, made up of La Bollène Vésubie – Col de Turini – Moulinet (23.40km) and Sospel – Col de Brouis – Breil sur Roya (16.55km). The rally is scheduled to finish at 10.41pm.

KUBICA READY FOR MONTE DEBUT

Posted: January 15, 2014 3:57 PM

As the 2014 FIA World Rally Championship (WRC) embarks on the first round of the season next week, so too will Robert Kubica and Maciej Szczepaniak make their competitive debut behind the wheel of their RK M-Sport World Rally Team Ford Fiesta RS WRC.

As a weekend of firsts, next weekend’s fixture will also mark the Pole’s maiden outing at the championship’s traditional opener. As one of the most challenging events of the year, Rallye Monte-Carlo is famed for its unforgiving stages – treacherous roads littered with a combination of ice, snow and dry asphalt.

Success is often found in compromise, and a daunting task awaits the Formula One race winner as he gets to grips with both his new machinery and the changeable conditions on offer. Of course there are few individuals whose dedication and passion are as high, and Kubica will be keen to make the most of his debut – gaining experience and confidence with each new kilometre. The Pole certainly collected a wealth of experience at last weekend’s Internationale Jänner Rallye. As the first round of the European Rally Championship, the Austrian event provided the perfect pre-season warm-up with conditions similar to those traditionally found in the Principality: and Kubica coped with them supremely, securing victory on his competitive debut with the Fiesta.

He and the team managed their tyre strategy brilliantly. Piloting a Ford Fiesta RRC, he and Szczepaniak went into the final stage with a 11.8 second deficit to make-up. Opting for the optimum tyre choice, Kubica took half a minute out of his rival to secure the win by an impressive 19.9 seconds.

As he takes to the wheel of the Fiesta in its WRC guise, the lessons in strategy and precision driving will hold the Pole in good stead as he looks to make the most of his WRC debut with the M-Sport team.

Robert Kubica said:
“As a new chapter in my rally career begins, I am really looking forward to next week’s Rallye Monte-Carlo. It is a big challenge that should never be underestimated. My priority is to gain priceless experience while I participate there for the first time.”

M-SPORT BUILD MOMENTUM FOR MONTE

Posted: January 15, 2014 3:56 PM

Marking the start of the 2014 FIA World Rally Championship (WRC), Rallye Monte-Carlo provides the ultimate test of ability and strategy. With a mix of youth and experience, the two M-Sport World Rally Team crews may have differing objectives, but each will be looking to make their mark amongst the Principality’s coastal glamour and challenging terrain.

Building momentum for the season’s traditional opener, the team spent the week testing on roads surrounding the rally route – gauging the likely conditions and deciphering how to best cope with the trials ahead.

With constant changes in grip and unpredictable forecasts, the key to success is widely regarded as ‘confidence in compromise’. Victory would be no mean feat and the rally can be won and lost on shrewd tyre selection – requiring the team to master the perfect configuration. Next week’s rally is the only event of the year where crews will have four Michelin compounds to choose from – the soft and supersoft Pilot Sport and the studded and non-studded Pilot Alpin – which makes the optimum formation all the more challenging to find.
In a change from recent years, this year’s fixture will see a move from the previous base in Valence, to the Alpine town of Gap. The change of location brings a revised route which may level the playing field to some extent, but experience could still prove pivotal. The very nature of the rally calls for an understanding of the region’s ever-changing conditions, and that fact holds M-Sport’s returning heroes in good stead.

Making a welcome return to the M-Sport squad, Mikko Hirvonen and Jarmo Lehtinen know what it takes to tame Monte’s treacherous Tarmac. This will be the Finns’ ninth appearance, making them one of the event’s most experienced crews. In fact only Francois Delecour can boast more Monte-Carlo appearances.

Hirvonen’s knowledgeable skills have proved fruitful in the past. Having won the event behind the wheel of a Ford Fiesta S2000 in 2010, and claiming the runner-up spot as part of the WRC in 2008, the Finn should not be discounted for a strong result. Reunited with the Ford Fiesta RS WRC, Hirvonen will be looking towards the podium and has the potential to upset the status quo next week.

In contrast, Elfyn Evans will be making his maiden Monte-Carlo outing on what is only his second time behind the wheel of a Fiesta RS WRC. The first test of the season will be a real baptism of fire for the young Welshman, but with expert guidance from the team as well as Hirvonen, Lehtinen and his own co-driver Daniel Barritt, he is in safe hands. All have been victorious at the event in the past, Barritt navigating Fumio Nutahara to the Production World Rally Championship win in 2006.

Ultimately however, next week will be a journey of discovery for Evans. With the added challenge of no Rally 2 regulations – which allow competitors to restart after a non-finish the following day – the Welshman will be determined to make Sunday’s finish ramp; his goal to gain as much knowledge and experience of the specialist stages as possible.

Mikko Hirvonen said:
“I’m really excited to be back with the team and back in the Fiesta [RS WRC]. As soon as we got back behind the wheel we had a good feeling with the car and it is that kind of thing that can really help. Of course there is always room for more testing and it would have been nice to have a few more days after two years away, but I feel as though we are ready for the challenge.

“Monte-Carlo is a difficult event. The conditions can be so changeable and you often have to make compromises with the tyres. We didn’t have much snow for our test and it was actually quite mild, so if the weather stays like that I would be quite happy.

“We need to see what happens, but a podium will definitely be in my mind. This season will be a little different, and I think we can look to take a few risks in the beginning. We need to see what happens, but I am here to be competitive and if we can secure a podium finish it would be a very good result for us.”

Elfyn Evans said:
“Our approach for this event will be to gain as much knowledge as we can. There is no doubting that it will be a difficult start to the year, but I am really looking forward to the challenge. We’re here to learn and to make the most of this opportunity for the years to come.

“Monte is known to be a bit of a lottery. The conditions can be really unpredictable and it will also be the first time that I have had to work with an ice note crew, so that might take some getting used to. We started testing earlier this week. We had some really tricky conditions on the first day, but we were able to run a lot of different variations with the tyres which should hopefully see us well prepared for anything the Monte has to offer.

“Of course we all understand how unforgiving this event can be. I’ve only ever driven the Fiesta RS WRC on gravel in competition, so our main objective will be to make it to the finish ramp with as much experience as possible.”

DMACK Equipped For The Full Monte

Posted: January 15, 2014 3:54 PM

DMACK will start the new rally season with a bang when the 2014 FIA World Rally Championship bursts into life with the iconic Rallye Monte Carlo next week. As one of the most famous, well-known and respected rally events, it provides a unique challenge for both competitors and tyre manufacturers.

The traditional asphalt speed tests ribbon their way through the high-altitude, mountain passes and it’s that terrain, mixed with the traditional tough winter conditions, which make the event a classic.

However, this year’s event heralds a number of changes. Rally base has moved from Valence to the Haute-Alpes town of Gap taking in a number of new special stages. The finish ceremony and base for the final day’s action remains in Monaco nearly 300km from Gap.

In addition to fulfilling the usual demands around tyre performance and safety, DMACK will be providing an increased range of products to master the diverse conditions experienced on the event.

For snow and ice covered roads, competitors will use DMACK’s DMT-ICE in either studded or un-studded form. The studded tyre is equipped with nearly 200 metal pins – each protruding 2mm to help bite into the frozen ice and extract as much grip as possible from the cold conditions. The un-studded tyre is best suited for mixed slush and melting snow.

DMACK’s asphalt snow tyre benefits from an all-new compound for 2014 and has been studded using the firm’s in-house T-bar stud system which helped seal victory on Rally Liepaja-Ventspils last year.

For dry, wet and mixed asphalt roads, crews will turn to the proven DMT-RC asphalt tyre which DMACK retains from last year. It is available in two compounds – the soft S3 and the super soft XS3.

DMACK is set to supply competitors in the WRC 2 series and privateers. They can use a maximum of 36 tyres from an allocation of 76 – this allocation is made up of 24 studded snow tyres, eight un-studded snow tyres, 20 super soft and 24 soft asphalt tyres.

Traditionally, tyre choice is made even more difficult due to varied conditions on the stages. It’s not uncommon to see half a stage covered in snow and the other half over the top of a col completely dry. Drivers have been known to save chunks of time by making inspired tyre choices consisting of a mix of different patterns.

One of those crucial decisions could come on Friday afternoon at Digne les Bains when DMACK transports tyres for crews to fit at a remote tyre zone to complete the day’s action.

This year DMACK and Michelin are joined by tyre manufacturers Pirelli and Hankook as the world series becomes a more exciting proving ground generating tough competition between top tyre brands.

Event Details

After shakedown on Wednesday the competitive action will kick off with six stages, a repeat loop of three tests, covering 125km to the west of Gap on Thursday. Friday is a huge day with over 178km of competitive driving across five stages. The action includes two runs over the massive 49km Vitrolles - Faye special before competitors head south for the day’s final action on the way to an overnight halt in Monaco.

Saturday sees more familiar territory with a repeat loop of two stages taking in the legendary Col de Turini where thousands of fans line the mountain pass to catch some of the most exciting action the event has to offer.

Dick Cormack, DMACK motorsport director, said:
“Monte Carlo is renowned for its classic format and hugely demanding conditions. DMACK brings four different tyres to help competitors master the conditions and once again we’ve introduced an evolution of our snow tyre after our experience on the event in 2013. After some significant news around the Drive DMACK team and the recently announced Drive DMACK Fiesta Cup, we’re all really looking forward to getting the championship underway.”

The legendary “Monte” – Volkswagen starts the WRC with a classic

Posted: January 15, 2014 3:50 PM

From the hunter to the hunted: Volkswagen’s mission to defend its titles in the FIA World Rally Championship (WRC) opens with a genuine motorsport classic at the Rally Monte Carlo, as the “Monte” is the oldest rally in the world. From 14 to 19 January, the French pairing of Sébastien Ogier and Julien Ingrassia will line up for the first time as defending World Champions in both the Driver and Co-Driver competitions. Together with team-mates Jari-Matti Latvala/Miikka Anttila (FIN/FIN), they are the team to beat in the Manufacturers’ Championship, in which they can also count on able assistance from Andreas Mikkelsen/Mikko Markkula (N/FIN). The first of the 13 rallies on the 2014 calendar is immediately one of the hardest nuts to crack in the WRC. Virtually unpredictable conditions and 15 testing special stages on asphalt, ice and snow in the French Maritime Alps, not to mention night stages and temperatures well below freezing – the Rally Monte Carlo is one of the greatest challenges in motorsport.

“We line up at the Rally Monte Carlo with start number 1 on one of our Polo R WRCs for the first time,” said Volkswagen Motorsport Director Jost Capito. “This honour is reserved for the World Champion, and is something we are very proud of. However, this does not mean that we will be arrogant or complacent this season – particularly not at the iconic ‘Monte’. We will approach it with the greatest respect, maximum concentration, and absolute commitment. It is easier to win a World Championship title than it is to defend it. And that is our goal. The 2014 ‘Monte’ will give us the first indication of where we stand compared to the new-look opposition. We are looking forward to it.”

Victory at the “Monte” – a question of prestige

Formula One Grand Prix in Monaco, the Le Mans 24 Hours, the Indianapolis 500, the Rally Dakar and the Rally Monte Carlo – they are the five most prestigious motorsport competitions in the world. This year’s “Monte”, as the mother of all WRC rallies is affectionately known by fans, features four former winners. Sébastien Ogier/Julien Ingrassia, now driving for Volkswagen, won in 2009. They were followed in 2010 by Mikko Hirvonen/Jarmo Lehtinen, who will race for Ford in 2014, and fellow Ford pairing Bryan Bouffier/Xavier Panseri who triumphed in 2011. However, all three of these duos are missing the icing on the cake – their victories all came in the IRC (Intercontinental Rally Challenge) in a car complying with the Super 2000 regulations. A “Monte” win in the World Rally Championship? Only old hand François Delecour from France – also in action for Ford in 2014 – can boast one of those.

New rules, new challenge

A new sporting format and a new challenger – the 2014 World Rally Championship season has a number of new features for fans and competitors alike. The previous qualifying procedure at gravel rallies is omitted. Instead, the starting order will now be based on the current World Championship standings. Detailed amendments have also been made to the rules allowing competitors to return under Rally2 regulations. Over the course of the season, the itineraries for the rounds of the World Rally Championship will be standardised. In the future, the rallies will all begin with the start ceremony on Thursday and end with Sunday’s final stage at about midday. The final special stage will always form the so-called Power Stage, in which bonus points are up for grabs in the Drivers’ and Co-Drivers’ Championship for the first three cars. However, the “Monte” is an exception to the rule when it comes to the itinerary: it ends with the final special stage – “Sospel – Breil-sur-Roya” – in the dark on Saturday evening.

Home race for Sébastien Ogier – Gap hosts “Monte” start

Home banker? Well, there can certainly be no doubting that this is a home race for one man. The Rally Monte Carlo begins in the birthplace of the reigning World Rally Champion – in Gap. The town, with a population of 40,000, hosts the opening two days of the Rally, before the WRC circus heads to Monaco. For Sébastien Ogier, this means both an extra incentive and a little extra pressure. Scores of friends and family are expected in his home town to support the Volkswagen works driver at the start of the “Monte”.

Ice spies and tyre tactics – skill and flair are the order of the day in the Alps

Rain in the Service Park, dry conditions at the start of the stage, snow in the middle and ice at the end – the standard madness at the Rally Monte Carlo. Selecting the right tyres for a loop consisting of three special stages is a real gamble. Winter tyres with and without spikes, soft and super-soft slicks are available to the drivers, who can call on the detailed information they receive from their trusted ice spies. Nowhere in the World Rally Championship is it more important for the weather crew to be perfectly coordinated and communicate clearly than at the legendary “Monte”.

15 special stages, over 380 kilometres, two Service Parks

The Rally Monte Carlo traditionally winds its way through the French Maritime Alps and thus through the hinterland of the principality. The mother of all the stages on the 2014 rally promises to be the special stage between Vitrolles and Faye. At 49.03 kilometres, it is one of the longest on the WRC calendar. The final stage, from Sospel to Breil-sur-Roya, will also play a crucial role. Its 16.55 kilometres form the Power Stage. The fastest three cars here will earn bonus points towards the championship. The anomaly: starting at just after nine o’clock in the evening, the Power Stage at the “Monte” will take place in the dark. The Service Parks are another anomaly: the cars will be maintained in Gap on the opening two days of the Rally, with the harbour in Monaco – a stone’s throw from the famous Rascasse corner from the Formula One Grand Prix – providing the backdrop to the second Service Park on the final two days.

Quotes ahead of the Rally Monte Carlo

Sébastien Ogier, Volkswagen Polo R WRC #1
“Our main goal is obviously to defend the title. It is never easy to win a title, but successfully defending it is even more difficult. I am certain that the other teams will put us under pressure. However, I am confident about the new season on the back of such a successful 2013. We have made small improvements to the Polo R WRC. For example, it is now even more reliable. A new manufacturer is joining the series in 2014, in the form of Hyundai, and this will make the competition even fiercer. That is what I am really looking forward to in Monte Carlo. I am also pleased that the ‘Monte’ will start from my home town of Gap this year. That is an extra incentive for me to be the fastest come the end of the rally.”

Jari-Matti Latvala, Volkswagen Polo R WRC #2
“For me, the start of the new season is a completely different situation to one year ago. Back then, both the team and the car were new to us. We are now familiar with everything. However, the first rally of the season in Monte Carlo is always a challenge. I will try to finish in the top five at the ‘Monte’. The Rally Monte Carlo is an extremely unusual rally. Tyres will play a major role, as the Service Park is not located in the mountains. As such, you have to speculate on what the weather will be like up there. The ‘Monte’ features 30-kilometre special stages, on which you are driving on dry asphalt for 20 kilometres and ice for the remaining ten. 20 kilometres of asphalt on spikes is just as awkward as 10 kilometres of ice on slicks. Choosing the right tyre is the biggest challenge. Do you opt for snow tyres with spikes, snow tyres without spikes, super-soft slicks or soft slicks? You have to find the perfect compromise between these four options.”

Andreas Mikkelsen, Volkswagen Polo R WRC #9
“The main goal is to claim the odd podium finish in 2014. This is only my second ‘Monte’. I lined up there in 2011 and crashed out on the first special stage. This means the ‘Monte’ is a completely new experience for me. As such, I will not put all my eggs in one basket, but will take a rather cautious approach. My goal is to complete the rally and finish in the points. I did not race at the ‘Monte’ last year, so my expectations there are not as high as the rallies I drove in 2013. I would be happy to get through the Rally Monte Carlo without any mistakes this year.”

Did you know ...

... the Polo R WRC completed the first special stage in its World Championship history at the Rally Monte Carlo? Sébastien Ogier caused quite a shock in winning last year’s opening stage, “Le Moulinon”.

…the Rally Monte Carlo was not originally planned as a motorsport event? Back at the start of the 20th century, the residents of Monaco were looking to attract tourists to the Côte d’Azur in the winter months. It was for this reason that Prince Albert I gave the green light for the inaugural “Monte” in 1911.

… the first “Monte” in 1911 started from Paris? 23 cars started out from the French capital, crossing the finish line in Monte Carlo 1,020 kilometres later.

… the first winner of the “Monte” was Henri Rougier (F)? The cyclist, pilot and racing driver from Marseille crossed the line first in his Turcat-Méry 24CV.

… the first Rally Monte Carlo was not just about speed? Besides the time spent driving, a jury was also on hand to judge the elegance and comfort of the cars, as well as their condition when they reached the finish.

The numbers for the Rally Monte Carlo: “15”, “17”, “18”

Chassis number 15, 17 and 18 will be used at the Rally Monte Carlo for the Polo R WRCs driven by Andreas Mikkelsen, Sébastien Ogier and Jari-Matti Latvala. This is already the sixth rally for chassis number 15, with which Andreas Mikkelsen made his Volkswagen debut in the World Rally Championship in Portugal last season. The youngster then used the same chassis in Greece, Finland, France and Great Britain. Chassis number 17 was run solely on asphalt by Sébastien Ogier in 2013 – in Germany and France. Jari-Matti Latvala will take his place in chassis number 18 for the second time, having previously used it at the Rally Germany.

Barrable’s late entry confirmed for Rallye Monte Carlo

Posted: January 4, 2014 10:32 PM

Robert Barrable has made a late entry and will contest the opening round of the 2014 FIA World Rally Championship, Rallye Monte Carlo (14-19 January), in his Tunnock’s World Rally Team Ford Fiesta R5.

The car will be prepared and run by Carlisle-based rally experts CA1 Sport and challenge for WRC-2 honours on D-MACK tyres.

This will be the first time Robert has contested one of rallying’s oldest and most prestigious events – although the 26-year old Dublineer did make ice notes on last year’s Rallye Monte Carlo for his co-driver Stuart Loudon. Stuart was the only British competitor last year, finishing 44th (out of 113 starters) with Japanese driver Ryozo Saito in a Subaru Impreza.

Although this year’s route is significantly different, Robert and Stuart’s experience 12 months ago will undoubtedly help, whilst the depth of talent in the team continues with Seb Marshall (Tunnock’s World Rally Team co-ordinator) and Martin Wilkinson (CA1 Sport boss), both of which also have experience of the event.

Robert’s main rivals in the WRC-2 category are likely to be Yurii Protasov (Ukraine), Armin Kremer (Germany), Julien Maurin (France) and Lorenzo Bertelli (Italy) – all driving similar Ford Fiestas. Whilst all have vastly more Rallye Monte Carlo experience, Robert aims to challenge for a podium and start the 2014 season off with a strong points-scoring finish.

Robert: “When an opportunity came up to contest the Monte Carlo Rally, I wasn’t going to turn it down! It’s an exciting event and my main aim is to go and enjoy the experience of contesting one of the sport’s most historic rallies. Without doubt, it’s going to be the biggest challenge of my career.

“The shear size of the rally makes me a little nervous, but I drove the stages last year, I’ve got a feel for the terrain and I know what Stuart and I will need to do to make good pace notes.

“We’ve got high-hopes of scoring a good WRC-2 result, but most of all we hope the New Year brings us a little more luck and we’ll start 2014 with a good trouble-free run.”

Stuart: “I’ve been to Rallye Monte Carlo twice as a spectator and I did the event last year, so I’m really looking to returning in the Tunnock’s Fiesta. It’s good that Robert did my ice notes last year, because there was a lot of snow and ice about and he got to see how difficult the conditions can be – so between us we know what to expect, even if we won’t be the most experienced crew out there.

“Our strategy will be to see how things go on the first day and take it from there. If it goes well, we’re quietly optimistic of scoring a WRC-2 podium and bagging some early championship points. I think we have the pace of most of the opposition, but Monte Carlo is a very long rally and if the conditions are anything like they were last year, it will be extremely difficult.”

The 82nd Rallye Monte Carlo begins with a ceremonial start in Casino Square in Monaco on Tuesday 14 January. The rally moves to Gap, 410 miles (660kms) north in the Hautes-Alpes, for a shakedown (on a 2.23 mile/3.6km stretch of road near the small town of Chateauvieux) the following day, before the opening six stages on Thursday 16 January (totalling 78.05 miles/125.62kms).

Friday (17 January) is the longest day of the event in terms of stage distance, with five stages (totalling 110.82 miles/178.36kms) as crews head back to Monaco for another overnight halt. The action includes the famous 22.8 mile (36.7km) Sisteron - Thoard stage, and the Vitrolles - Col D'Espreaux - Faye test which, at 30.6 miles (49.25kms), is the longest stage of the event.

The final 49.64 miles (79.9kms) takes place on Saturday 18 January in the Alpes-Maritime region, with two high-speed runs over the legendary 14.67 mile (23.61 km) Col de Turini stage and the 10.37 mile (16.69km) Sospel - Breil sur Roya test – once by day and another by night.

After 238.53 miles (383.88kms) of competition have been completed, the event ends on Sunday 19 January with a traditional awards ceremony in the square in front of the Prince's Palace in Monaco.

Seeded Entry List

Posted: December 20, 2013 11:44 AM

Website / Details / Rally Guide

Posted: December 4, 2013 3:07 PM

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