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Monte-Carlo - 21-24 Jan 16

Posted: February 7, 2016 1:12 PM - 5742 Hits

Round 1 - 2016 World Rally Championship

Robert Kubica forced out of Monte Carlo Rally after a promising start

Posted: February 7, 2016 1:12 PM

Polish ace Robert Kubica has been forced out of the world-famous Monte Carlo Rally by an icy corner six kilometres into the third stage of the event on Friday morning.

Kubica's Ford Fiesta RS WRC, run by the Cherasco-based BRC Racing Team in Italy, slid wide on a notoriously icy patch and went off the road. It was then struck by another competitor, which forced it further into the ditch. Nobody was injured, but the incident meant that Kubica's rally was over before it had barely begun.

The corner where Kubica went off was well known for being treacherous, and it caught out a number of other competitors who were suddenly surprised by the instant change in grip.

"We went off in an icy section," said Kubica, who was making his debut with BRC. "It's very disappointing because we put a lot of effort into being here. The road was dry before we came to the ice. We did two corners on the ice and it felt quite okay. Then we arrived at the right-hander and I was just a passenger. The anti-lag was pushing me and unfortunately we slid off the road and hit a tree with the front left. Then later Elfyn Evans slid wide into our car and pushed it down into the ditch."

The car could not be recovered to the service area until late into the evening. With a strict deadline for making repairs, the team's engineers soon concluded that the damage was too much to fix in time for Kubica to re-start the following day.

Up until the point where he went off, Kubica had made a very promising start to the Monte Carlo Rally: round one of the World Rally Championship. Eighth fastest on both of the opening night stages run on Thursday, he was looking to move up the leaderboard on Friday. The Pole has a stellar record on the insidious and changeable surfaces of Monte Carlo, having won stages and led the event overall in the past.

The BRC Racing Team was also making its world championship debut in Monte Carlo, having previously tasted success on the Italian Rally Championship with former European champion Giandomenico Basso.

Team principal Massimiliano Fissore commented:
"Although it's not always easy to do so in a situation like this, we have to look at the positives. First and foremost, it's been a great pleasure to work with an international star of the calibre of Robert, and the fact that he has chosen us is a great accolade for our team. His professionalism and dedication was evident from the moment he was first in contact with us. Secondly, as short as it was, we made a promising start to the rally and it's clear that Robert could have scored some important points here, had he reached the finish. I'd also like to pay tribute to our engineers, mechanics and other personnel, who proved beyond doubt this weekend that they are more than capable of running a top car at the very highest levels of the sport, for one of the biggest names in international racing."

Kubica's plans are yet to be finalised for the rest of the season, so it is not yet clear whether or not he will make another appearance run by the BRC Racing Team, with the next world championship round coming up in Sweden in just two week's time.

Other plans for the BRC Racing Team this year include a renewed assault on the Italian Rally Championship title, using an innovative LPG-powered Ford Fiesta R5. The first round of the Italian series, the Rally Il Ciocco, gets underway on March 20.

The BRC Racing Team also remains available to run cars on the World Rally Championship, as well as other international events.

EVANS CLAIMS EPIC MONTE WIN

Posted: February 7, 2016 1:11 PM

M-Sport World Rally Team's Elfyn Evans and Craig Parry secured an epic victory at this weekend's Rallye Monte-Carlo.

Dominating the first round of the FIA World Rally Championship's principal support series (WRC 2), the pairing also concluded the overall event in a strong eighth place - proving the extent of the upgrades M-Sport has made with the Ford Fiesta R5 EVO.

The rally did not start as Evans would have liked, picking up a puncture on the very first speed test, but it wasn't long before he had made up that time and more - claiming the lead on only the fourth stage of the rally.

A second puncture hindered them on Saturday morning (SS9) but come the following stage, the lead was theirs once again.

Throughout the course of the weekend, Evans and the Fiesta R5 EVO have been in a class of their own - regularly beating their rivals by 20 or 30 seconds a stage. His two punctures cost him three minutes to the second-placed WRC 2 Skoda Fabia R5, but Evans was still able to finish more than two minutes ahead of Esapekka Lappi - an incredible achievement when considering that he had just one day of testing on full-snow which was none representative of the conditions faced in the rally.

Despite backing well off the pace to secure victory through the final stages, Evans has confirmed the Blue Oval's position at the head of the WRC 2 standings.

The Welshman will next tackle Rally Sweden - eager for a repeat performance in just under three weeks' time.

Elfyn Evans (1st WRC 2) said:
"We've had a lot of fun this weekend and I'm pleased to have delivered such a strong result for the team. It was a big weekend with the debut of the Fiesta R5 EVO and I think this result goes to prove the extent of the upgrades.

"I have to say that the car has been fantastic - beyond what we were all hoping for. The progress that the team have made is incredible and I think it underlines the fact that the Fiesta is the best car in the category.

"Of course it wasn't an easy event for us - Monte-Carlo never is! I had a new co-driver - who did a great job all weekend - and a new car. If that wasn't enough, we also suffered two punctures over the course of the event which certainly made things interesting!

"Once we had a good lead we backed off the pace to consolidate the win, but I think that we have proven what we are capable of. Now I'm really looking forward to Rally Sweden where I'm sure the competition will be tough!"

M-Sport Managing Director, Malcolm Wilson OBE, said:
"We could not have asked for more with the debut of the new evolution Fiesta R5 and Elfyn has driven brilliantly all weekend. To suffer two punctures and still win the rally by a significant margin is very impressive indeed.

"A great deal of work has gone into these upgrades and it is very satisfying to see such a positive result straight out of the box. The team have worked extremely hard and unlocked a massive increase of power which confirms our position at the head of the WRC 2 standings.

"Moreover, the whole team are delighted to see Elfyn really enjoy his driving again. Last season was not the easiest for him and we were keen to see him regain the confidence that he had lost. Success is the best remedy for that and if he can keep up this level of performance then I think he will enjoy a lot of success this year."

MADS EQUALS MONTE BEST

Posted: February 7, 2016 1:11 PM

M-Sport World Rally Team's Mads Ostberg has equalled his best Rallye Monte-Carlo result at the opening round of the 2016 FIA World Rally Championship (WRC) - bringing his Ecoboost-powered Ford Fiesta RS WRC home in fourth place.

The opening round of the season is always a challenge, but it was even more so for Ostberg who had to familiarise himself with a new team, car and co-driver - fellow countryman Ola FlOene.

For the past seven years, Ostberg had been navigated through the stages by a Swedish voice calling a different style of pacenote. The change would take some perfecting, but he and FlOene used the competitive seat time wisely - growing in confidence throughout the weekend.

Proving how intelligent he is in his approach to all rallies, Ostberg read the road perfectly and was rewarded with a strong result ahead of next month's Rally Sweden.

In the sister M-Sport Fiesta RS WRC, Eric Camilli showed real promise on his WRC debut. Proving to be a quick learner, the Frenchman set the fifth fastest time on what was only his fourth competitive stage in a world rally car - an incredible achievement given his limited experience.

Unfortunately, this lack of experience would be to his disadvantage on Friday afternoon when he and co-driver Nicolas Klinger slid off the road on an ice-strewn section of SS6. With damage to the rollcage, the pairing were forced to make an untimely exit but refused to leave the service park. Joining the team for the remainder of the event, their enthusiasm and determination to succeed has not subsided.

Mads Ostberg (4th) said:
"There were lots of new things for us to discover this weekend so I'm really satisfied to have equalled my best result at Rallye Monte-Carlo. It's been a challenging rally, but I think that we coped with everything really well. Ola and I have made a good step forward and we'll be looking to do the same again in Sweden.

"I also have to thank the team because the car has performed perfectly all weekend. This was a great start and now we're really looking forward to Sweden where we hope to be able to fight for the podium."

Eric Camilli (DNF) said:
"Our event might have been shorter than we had hoped, but we learnt many things - about the car and about the level of the WRC. On Friday morning I was able to push a bit more and I was really pleased with the times as it was a bit of a surprise to be that competitive that quickly!

"Unfortunately, it didn't go our way during the afternoon. I really wanted to finish the rally and I think that was the problem because I was driving far too carefully - far too slowly - and slid off the road on a section of ice.

"Unfortunately, there was some damage to the rollcage and we were unable to restart the rally. Of course I was disappointed that my rally ended early but it has not reduced my motivation.

"The times that we were able to set has shown me that we have the potential to be fast one day and this was definitely not a bad rally for me. My ambition is higher than ever and we will be sure to learn from our experiences this weekend."

Team Principal, Malcolm Wilson OBE, said:
"It's been a good weekend for us. Mads and Ola's partnership is coming along nicely and it was great to see him equal his best Rallye Monte-Carlo performance.

"We know how intelligently Mads approaches his rallies and he has shown that he can never be discounted for a strong result. They drove to their own pace whilst perfecting the relationship inside the car and I am sure that they will both be really looking forward to Rally Sweden.

"It was a shame that Eric's rally ended prematurely, but I have been really pleased with him and Nicolas. To set the fifth fastest time on only your fourth stage with a world rally car is no mean feat and it just proved to all of us that he has the potential to go all the way.

"He understood his mistake and I have no doubt that he will have learnt a lot this weekend. It was a shame that they missed out on some experience, but they didn't go home. They stayed with the team until the end of the event. That really meant a lot and they have already gained a lot of respect amongst all of the M-Sport personnel."

DMACK Scores Top Finish On Tough Monte Carlo Opener

Posted: February 7, 2016 1:00 PM

DMACK started its 2016 FIA World Rally Championship campaign in style this weekend when a solid debut for its new DMT-RC2 asphalt rally tyre saw the manufacturer score its best-ever finish on the season-opening Rallye Monte Carlo.

The new tyre helped take DMACK World Rally Team driver Ott Tanak to an excellent seventh overall finish and placed the team fifth in the race for the Manufacturer Championship, sealing the team's top result on the magical Monte.

The controlled drive from Estonians Tanak and Raigo Molder saw them master the mixed conditions over the four-day event, which kicked off with a glitzy opening ceremony outside Monte Carlo Casino on Thursday evening.

It was a strong start to DMACK's sixth season as an authorised tyre supplier to the FIA World Rally Championship (WRC) as the iconic event lived up to its legendary reputation.

Tanak, once again piloting an M-Sport-run Ford Fiesta RS WRC, had to cope with a diverse range of road conditions - ranging from dry and damp asphalt to ice and snow-covered frozen asphalt roads. Choosing tyres over the weekend involved a mix of experience and skill with a degree of luck and compromise as weather conditions changed.

The tough Monte event saw Tanak use DMACK's all-new range of asphalt tyres, developed specifically to compete at the top of the sport against tyre giants Michelin and Pirelli. The DMT-RC2 featured a completely new tread pattern and latest generation compounding, resulting in a significant step forward in performance.

Tanak used new extra soft and soft compounds alongside DMT-ICE winter tyres in studded form to extract traction and grip from the frozen surfaces.

Monte Carlo was a tough start to the season. One of the most famous and respected events, the timed special stages wind their way through the high-altitude mountain passes. Most of the competitive element was based in the town of Gap in the Hautes Alpes region of France.

After two night stages on Thursday, Friday's action was played out north of Gap over a three-stage loop. Then competitors returned to Monaco on Saturday via the classic Sisteron test and the huge 51.55km runs through Lardier et Valenca - Faye.

The rally came to an exciting finish today when action included the legendary Col de Turini where thousands of fans lined the iconic mountain pass. In total, 377.59km across 16 timed special stages were contested before finish podium celebrations back in the principality.

Dick Cormack, DMACK managing director, said:
"We've made a big step forward with our new asphalt tyre and everyone is encouraged with such a strong result on its debut. With lots of performance data from this tough event, we're well equipped to make even further improvements for the remainder of the season. Overall it's been an extremely positive event and a strong start to the new season for the DMACK World Rally Team."
Ott Tanak said:
"We've had a challenging weekend but overall it's a good start to the championship on one of the toughest events. DMACK has made good improvements and we've got some really useful and positive experience from this event. I've driven more or less a perfect rally and we pushed when we could when the conditions suited us more. Now we move to Sweden and I event I really enjoy."

PODIUMS FOR PIRELLI DRIVERS ON MONTE CARLO RALLY

Posted: February 7, 2016 12:45 PM

Pirelli-backed drivers have finished on the podium of the WRC2 and WRC3 classes of the Monte Carlo Rally: the opening round of the 2016 World Rally Championship.

Monte Carlo is one of the trickiest rallies of the year from the point of view of a tyre manufacturer, as the surface conditions and grip levels are constantly changing. With drivers only able to carry six wheels at one time (four on the car and two spares) they have to decide, several hours in advance, which allocation of soft, supersoft, and snow tyres they should take ' with or without studs ' to cope with a wide range of conditions.

Former FIA European and Asia Pacific champion Armin Kremer drove a Pirelli-equipped Skoda Fabia R5 to finish third in the WRC2 category: a 47-year-old privateer behind two factory-backed cars, having held off the works Skoda of Esapekka Lappi until the penultimate stage.

"I'm very happy with my rally," said Kremer. "Tyre choice is key here and with the help of Pirelli we generally found the best compromise on this tricky event."

In the two-wheel drive WRC3 class, Fabio Andolfi finished third in his Peugeot 208 R2. Andolfi is backed by Pirelli and ACI, the Italian motorsport federation, who are supporting his season in a bid to get a young Italian onto the world stage.

However, Pirelli's WRC1 contenders suffered mixed fortunes on an event that is often compared to the roulette wheel in Monaco's famous casino.

Former grand prix star Robert Kubica - who has starred in Monte Carlo on Pirelli tyres previously - slid off the road on Friday morning's SS4 at a place that caught out many other competitors.

"The road was dry before we got to the ice," said the Ford Fiesta RS WRC driver. "We did two corners on the ice and it was okay. Then we arrived at the right-hander and I was just a passenger. The anti-lag was pushing me and I slid off the road into a tree."

Lorenzo Bertelli was also caught out by the notoriously treacherous conditions, retiring his Ford Fiesta RS WRC following an off on SS6 on another patch of ice.

The Pirelli drivers used the RKS soft and RKSS supersoft compounds, as well as Sottozero snow tyres (with and without studs) for snowy conditions. The weather was generally dry throughout the event, although there were some isolated snowy and icy patches.

Pirelli's rally activity manager Terenzio Testoni commented: "Congratulations to all our drivers who finished on the WRC2 and WRC3 podium, after a complicated event. It's disappointing though that Robert Kubica was not able to repeat his stellar performance on our tyres of last year, when he was dominating some of the stage times. Full snow conditions would have suited us better, but Monte Carlo is always unpredictable and we have taken away some useful information for the future."

Pirelli's next World Rally Championship event will be Rally Sweden from February 12-14: the only full snow rally in the championship. Pirelli's Sottozero ice tyres will also be in action the weekend before in Latvia, at the opening round of the European Rally Championship.

Third "Monte" victory in a row: Ogier wins opening round of the WRC, Mikkelsen second

Posted: February 7, 2016 12:40 PM

One-two at the "Monte", the third in a row for driver, co-driver and team - Sebastien Ogier/Julien Ingrassia (F/F) enjoyed a magnificent success at the Rally Monte Carlo. Their team-mates Andreas Mikkelsen/Anders Jaeger (N/N) finished runner-up to complete a Volkswagen one-two and round off a dream start to the 2016 FIA World Rally Championship (WRC). The latest victory marked the 35th triumph in 40 rallies for the Polo R WRC the 33rd career win for Ogier/Ingrassia, while Mikkelsen racked up his 15th podium finish. Furthermore, Mikkelsen's new co-driver Anders Jaeger crowned his debut in the top category of the World Rally Championship with his first podium. This is something that no other WRC co-driver in the current field can claim to have achieved.

"Monte" winner three years in a row - Sebastien Ogier takes his place among the rally legends

Sandro Munari did it with Lancia, Walter Rohrl with Opel, Lancia and Audi, Tommi Makinen with Mitsubishi and Sebastien Loeb with Citroen. Sebastien Ogier has now joined this elite circle of rally legends - as the fifth driver in the history of the World Rally Championship to win the Rally Monte Carlo three times in succession. He emerged triumphant with Volkswagen in 2014, 2015 and 2016. The 318-hp Polo R WRC joins the Porsche 911, Lancia Stratos, Lancia Delta, Mitsubishi Lancer and Citroen Xsara as the sixth model of car with three "Monte" wins in a row to its name. With 35 victories from 40 rallies, the Polo R WRC is also the most successful car in rally history, thanks to an impressive win ratio of 87.5 per cent.

Well-staffed for the tyre lottery

Typical "Monte": dry or wet asphalt on one stage, ice and snow on the next. Sometimes, a bit of everything in the space of just a few kilometres. The Rally Monte Carlo is unique on the World Rally Championship calendar. And the 2016 rally lived up to its reputation as perpetually unpredictable. With 16 special stages and 377.59 kilometres against the clock, the drivers had to get the tyre selection just right. Thankfully, the three Volkswagen duos could rely on their route note cars. The "ice spy" for winner Sebastien Ogier was Simon Jean Joseph, Andreas Mikkelsen was given valuable advice by Bernt Kollevold, and Jari-Matti Latvala was able to call on Toni Gardemeister for assistance. Their information helped the Volkswagen drivers make intelligent decisions ? none more so than Andreas Mikkelsen, who was the only driver to take more spiked tyres with him on Saturday and gained time on his rivals as a result.

Power Stage points 151 to 154 for Volkswagen drivers, 26th Power Stage win for Ogier

The Power Stage, on which bonus points are awarded to the fastest three drivers and co-drivers, has always been Volkswagen's playground. The Rally Monte Carlo saw Sebastien Ogier/Julien Ingrassia win this special stage for the 26th time, adding points 151 to 153 to Volkswagen's account. Andreas Mikkelsen finished third to add point number 154.

Crash brings Rally Monte Carlo to a premature end for Latvala/Anttila

For Jari-Matti Latvala/Miikka Anttila (FIN/FIN), the Rally Monte Carlo came to a disappointing end on Saturday. The duo came off the road on stage eleven, skidding into a ditch and out into a field on the other side. In the process, light impact was made with a spectator, who was thankfully unhurt. Damage to the car resulted in Latvala/Anttila arriving late at the checkpoint ahead of the following special stage, bringing their rally to a premature end. The Finnish duo was subsequently fined for not stopping at the scene of the incident, as stipulated in the regulations. The stewards also handed Latvala/Anttila a suspended sentence, which will only come into effect should they be found guilty of another breach of regulations. Driver, co-driver and team have accepted the penalty.

Quotes after day three of the Rally Monte Carlo

Sebastien Ogier, Volkswagen Polo R WRC #1
"Winning here in Monte Carlo is such an emotional moment for me! It is just an indescribable feeling to win this iconic rally for the third time. The conditions were so tricky. It was so icy and slippery. I am really happy with this success. I would like to thank the entire team, which did a fantastic job this weekend. My ice spies were awesome. Jean Joseph Simon was doing the job for me for the first time here at the 'Monte'. It was really tough for them to provide us with accurate predictions regarding the state of the roads. The Polo ran superbly. Then there were the many, many fans cheering on Julien and me ? it was just a perfect weekend!"

Jari-Matti Latvala, Volkswagen Polo R WRC #2
"My co-driver Miikka Anttila and I fully accept the stewards' decision. The safety of spectators and participants must take top priority at any rally. Miikka and I are in absolutely no doubt about that. We very much regret the incident and will do everything possible to avoid this kind of thing happening again in the future. At the same time, we are pleased that the spectator got off so lightly this time, and that nothing serious happened."

Andreas Mikkelsen, Volkswagen Polo R WRC #9
"An absolutely fantastic start to the WRC season. Second at the 'Monte' - that is always going to be rather special. However, it was also the first rally with my new co-driver Anders Jaeger - and to stand on the podium together is simply fantastic. I knew that Anders was talented, but he did a perfect job all weekend, for which he deserves my greatest compliment. It was typical 'Monte', making it the toughest possible debut for him. The many changes in the weather and varying road conditions, ranging from ice and snow to dry asphalt, meant we had to make a lot of amendments to the pace notes. We drivers also had to be wide-awake all the time. It is thanks to my ice spies, Bernt Kollevold and Timo Alanne, that we are stood on the podium as runners-up today. Not to forget the entire team, who all did a perfect job again. To sum it up: an absolutely fantastic day for us."

Jost Capito, Volkswagen Motorsport Director
"To start the WRC season with a one-two is, in itself, a fantastic achievement. To do that at the Rally Monte Carlo makes it all the more special. At no other rally is the perfect interaction between drivers, co-drivers, engineers, mechanics, and ice spies, right down to the logisticians, catering and physio team, so vital. It is absolutely fantastic how all the cogs fit together in our team. I think the most frequently asked question by far at Volkswagen Motorsport is 'can I help you?' That shows our team spirit. Sebastien Ogier and Andreas Mikkelsen could trust the team implicitly - and performed fantastically themselves. This one-two is deserved, and we are proud of it."

And then there was ...
... a tie. Both Volkswagen and Hyundai kicked off the WRC season with 25 points each in the Manufacturers' Championship. Sebastien Ogier's victory was solely responsible for Volkswagen's tally, while Hyundai added together the points scored by third-placed Thierry Neuville and Dani Sordo, who finished fifth in the Manufacturers' classification.

Unstoppable Ogier seals hat-trick in Monte Carlo

Posted: February 7, 2016 12:35 PM

Sebastien Ogier achieved a childhood ambition by winning Rallye Monte-Carlo for a third consecutive season on Sunday.

The Frenchman joined an exclusive club of drivers to have won the legendary event, the opening round of the 2016 FIA World Rally Championship, three times in a row. Only Sandro Munari, Walter Rohrl, Tommi Makinen and S?bastien Loeb have done likewise.

Ogier, who was born in the rally base of Gap, was greeted by his parents at the finish of the final speed test in the mountains above Monaco to celebrate a 1min 54.5sec victory in his Volkswagen Polo R.

Team-mate Andreas Mikkelsen finished second with Thierry Neuville overcoming transmission troubles to secure a debut podium for Hyundai's new-specification i20, a further 1min 23.4sec back.

"This rally is the most important of the season for me and it's so emotional to win here for a third time," said Ogier. "I've been dreaming of this since I was a kid. To win such a difficult rally three times in a row is fantastic, and a real team effort from everyone."

Mikkelsen made it a 1-2 for Volkswagen

Ogier and Kris Meeke swapped the lead on several occasions during the first two days on mountain roads in the French Alps that ranged from clear asphalt to snow and ice. Ogier edged clear in yesterday's third leg and the outcome was decided when Meeke damaged his gearbox after hitting a rock and retired.

Ogier eased through the final leg, which included the famous Col de Turini, one of the highlights of the WRC season, and ensured maximum points from the first of the 14 rounds by also winning the final live TV Power Stage.

Norwegian Mikkelsen survived a high-speed spin on Friday to start the final leg 12.5sec ahead of Neuville. But a broken propshaft bearing troubled the Belgian all day and he limped through the final stage with only two-wheel drive.

Mads Ostberg finished fourth in a Ford Fiesta RS on his return to the M-Sport squad, ahead of Stephane Lefebvre, for whom fifth was a career-best result. Dani Sordo overcame handling and suspension problems to complete the top six in another i20.

Ott Tanak finished seventh, despite rolling on Friday, with WRC 2 winner Elfyn Evans, Esapekka Lappi and Armin Kremer completing the top 10.

Broken suspension sidelined Jari-Matti Latvala and Bryan Bouffier while Robert Kubica and Eric Camilli both retired after accidents.

The championship heads to Karlstad next month for Rally Sweden (11 -14 February), the only pure winter round of the championship.

Results

Posted: February 7, 2016 12:29 PM

1 Ogier / Ingrassia (VW Polo-R WRC) 3h49.53.1
| 2 Mikkelsen / Jaeger (VW Polo-R WRC) +1:54.5
| 3 Neuville / Gilsoul (Hyundai i20 WRC) +3:17.9
| 4 Ostberg / Floene (Ford Fiesta RS WRC) +4:47.7
| 5 Lefebvre / Moreau (DS 3 WRC) +7:35.6
| 6 Sordo / Marti (Hyundai i20 WRC) +10:35.5
| 7 Tanak / Molder (Ford Fiesta RS WRC) +11:39.9
| 8 Evans / Parry (Ford Fiesta R5) +18:30.8
| 9 Lappi / Ferm (Skoda Fabia R5) +20:41.0
| 10 Kremer / Winklhofer (Skoda Fabia R5) +20:43.9

Abu Dhabi Total World Rally Team - The season kicks off with the legendary Rallye Monte-Carlo!

Posted: January 20, 2016 7:21 AM

The Abu Dhabi Total WRT has entered two cars at the Rallye Monte-Carlo (21-24 January), the opening round of the 2016 World Rally Championship. Kris Meeke/Paul Nagle and Stephane Lefebvre/Gabin Moreau will have to meet the combined challenge of Monte's demanding course and the typically wintry conditions that are expected at the event.

As usual, the new season - the final one for the generation of World Rally Cars that first appeared in 2011 - kicks off with the world's most famous rally. Taking over from Citro?n Racing - which is actively preparing for its return as a works team in 2017 - the Abu Dhabi Total World Rally Team will be competing at a number of European rounds of the WRC, starting with the Rallye Monte- Carlo.

Prepared by PH Sport and featuring the same technical spec as at the end of 2015, the two WRCs have been entrusted to crews of differing experience and ambitions. At 36 years old, Northern Irishman Kris Meeke is competing in what is already his eighth Monte-Carlo. After scoring a podium-finish here in 2014 alongside co-driver Paul Nagle, he has proven his ability to keep out of trouble on the tricky course in the south of France. Already very familiar with the car and the Michelin tyres that will be available, he may have greater freedom here and be able to adopt a bolder strategy!

In comparison, 23 year-old Stephane Lefebvre's experience is more limited. That said, the young Frenchman has nonetheless secured two category wins in his two appearances here! Last year, he pulled off a real coup in winning the WRC2 class after a flawless performance in his DS 3 R5. Now competing alongside co-driver Gabin Moreau, Stephane will be contesting only his sixth WRC rally, but he is determined to grab the opportunity to showcase his skills!

The Abu Dhabi Total WRT will undertake preparations this weekend, with two days of pre-event testing organised near to Gap. Recce gets underway next Monday before the crews get back into their race cars for the shakedown on Wednesday afternoon. The ceremonial start of the 84th Rallye Monte-Carlo will be held on Thursday at 6.15pm in Monaco's Place du Casino. Friday and Saturday's legs will be held on roads around Gap, before the short final day on Sunday, which includes runs on the famous Col de Turini.

QUOTE, UNQUOTE

Kris Meeke (#7):
"2016 is not just a new season, it's the start of a new chapter in my career. I am extremely pleased to be competing at the Rallye Monte-Carlo with the Abu Dhabi Total WRT. Obviously, we are not in the same situation as the other WRC drivers. I don't feel like I'm under a great deal of pressure, mainly because we're not aiming for a particular result at the end of the season. At the Monte-Carlo, and at the other rallies, I'll be looking to do my very best and get as much experience as possible. Although there are a few new stages, the course seems to be pretty similar to 2015. The major imponderable is the weather. If the cold conditions persist, we should have a lot of snow and ice on the stages. Instinctively, it's a rally that I love because it sums up all the excitement of the start of a new season. But when you get to the service park and you have to make a tyre choice that will inevitably involve a compromise of some kind, the love can sometimes turn to hate! If we manage to have an error-free race and make the right calls, I think we shouldn't be too far away from the podium."

Stephane Lefebvre (#8):
"Monte-Carlo is a rally where I have done fairly well in the past, since I won my class in 2011 and then secured the WRC2 category win last year. This year, I would dearly love to get a good result and prove that I can be counted on. I like the course here, but I will be giving it all the respect such a legendary rally deserves. The Monte-Carlo is not a sprint like some of the other World Championship rallies. We saw last year how quickly gaps can be established and then disappear! You must never get too carried away and just build your strategy over the course of the stages. I'll be counting on the experience of the team's members to help me with that. I'll also be getting advice from my gravel crew, Alexandre Bengue. I don't have any specific goal as regards the result, because we don't know to what extent the works teams have improved during the off-season. I would be pleased if I manage to keep improving something like I did at the end of last year on tarmac, whilst trying to stay in touch with Kris. I have the good fortune to have a team-mate who is very quick on these roads, so he'll be my marker!"

M-SPORT SET FOR SPECTACULAR SEASON START

Posted: January 20, 2016 7:18 AM

M-Sport World Rally Team's Mads Ostberg and eric Camilli will get their 2016 FIA World Rally Championship campaign off to a spectacular start as they pilot their Ecoboost-powered Ford Fiesta RS WRCs on next week's Rallye Monte-Carlo.

In what is one of the most challenging, prestigious but unpredictable events of the year, the cars are prepared to Tarmac specification, but this is so much more than an asphalt rally.

The weather can be extremely changeable and it is not unheard of for the crews to experience ice, snow and dry asphalt in the same stage. Due to its unpredictability, compromise is key and the team will often opt for unusual combinations of Michelin's studded and dry weather tyres to make the best of the conditions.

As one of the most daunting events on the calendar, this is a true test of any driver's ability - challenging every aspect of what it takes to become one of sport's most formidable competitors.

Experience can often be a key ingredient to success, but Ostberg took to the Monegasque event with great ease. Contesting the rally for the first time in 2013, he secured a highly respectable sixth place and has finished just shy of the podium on his last two encounters.
This year will see the Norwegian join forces with a new co-driver in the form of fellow countryman Ola FlOene. The pairing have sat together before - FlOene joining a younger Ostberg for some of his first rallies in 2004 - but next week's event will be the first true test of their partnership.

The pairing has spent a lot of time perfecting their notes over the winter break and FlOene's experience speaks for itself. Securing a podium finish at the event last year, he and Ostberg could well be fighting for the same result next week.

In the sister M-Sport Fiesta RS WRC, Camilli will be making his competitive debut at rallying's highest level. There is no more daunting start to a career than at Rallye Monte-Carlo, but hailing from Nice, the Frenchman should have the home crowd's support on his side.

Partnered by experienced co-driver Nicolas Klinger, the duo have completed two comprehensive test sessions with the M-Sport team. Growing accustomed to the Fiesta RS WRC and experimenting with a number of different set-ups, they'll be looking to get their season off to a solid start.

M-Sport will also run the new evolution Ford Fiesta R5 of Elfyn Evans. Having participated at Rallye Monte-Carlo for the past two years, the Welshman is accustomed to the challenges ahead and he and new co-driver Craig Parry will be looking to affirm the Blue Oval's position at the head of the WRC 2 standings.

Mads Ostberg said:
"Rallye Monte-Carlo is one of the classics. It's a fantastic rally with some great stages but the amount of challenges that we have to face over the course of the weekend is unbelievable!

"You can never learn this event - it's different every time you're there and I think that will be the same again this year. It's a rally that I enjoy, but when you're preparing you have no idea what challenges you are actually going to be faced with. Personally, I'll be hoping for lots of snow and a lot of difficult tyre choices!

"This will also be the first time - in a long time - that Ola and I will sit together in competition. It always takes a while to fine-tune a new partnership as everything has to be perfect, but honestly, I don't think it will cause us any problems.

"We've not done a rally together since 2004, but so far everything is working really well. It has been a lot of work for us as Ola has had to translate all of the pacenotes into proper Norwegian, but both of us are really happy with the way things are going and I'm confident that we will make a strong team.

"I feel as though I'm well prepared and we have had some really good tests over the last couple of months. I think that we will be able to fight for a good result - but it doesn't have to be too good as we also want a good road position ahead of a big push at Rally Sweden!"

Eric Camilli said:
"I am really looking forward to next week and to making my debut with the Ford Fiesta RS WRC. Of course we all know that it is a difficult rally with really tricky conditions, but the adrenaline is high and I can't wait to get started.

"Coming from Nice, this is a home rally for me but to be honest there really is no such thing as a home advantage in Monte-Carlo! You never know what conditions you are going to encounter and a lot can be decided by the tyres you opt to take for each loop.

"We have had a series of really good tests and we were able to work on a lot of different set-ups with the team. It was a really special feeling to bring these first tests to a successful close as an official M-Sport driver, but now it is time for the big test to begin!

"Our first target will be to finish the rally, but if we have a good feeling with the car then we will of course see what is possible. At the end of the day this is all totally new for us. We know that this is the best level of rallying in the world, but we don't yet know the extent of that level. We just have to drive to the best of our ability, see where we are and build from there."

Elfyn Evans said:
"I'm looking forward to getting back behind the wheel and discovering the extent of the [Ford] Fiesta R5 upgrades. The team have worked really hard on this evolution and I have to say that the initial feeling has been very positive.

"This will be my third time at Rallye Monte-Carlo and the experience will definitely help. I know a lot more about the rally than I did this time two years ago, but you never really know what to expect and we'll be relying on a lot of information from the team.

"I'll also have a new co-driver for this event and it will inevitably take some time to perfect that partnership. We've spent a lot of time practicing pacenotes over the Christmas break so we're feeling well prepared, but there really is no substitute for competition.

"The stages in Monte-Carlo are really nice to drive and I really enjoy them; the challenge comes from the conditions. But regardless of how unpredictable the event can be, we're heading there with one goal in mind - and that is to win the WRC 2 category."

Team Principal, Malcolm Wilson OBE, said:
"Rallye Monte-Carlo always provides an exciting start to the season. It tests almost everything you need to be a world-class driver and I'm looking forward to seeing what our new team will be able to deliver.

"This is definitely Mads' strongest Tarmac event and he has proven that he has the ability to do well here. I am sure that he and Ola will get into their rhythm very quickly and I see no reason why they can't be challenging for the podium positions throughout the course of the weekend.

"It will be a tricky start for Eric, but hopefully the home support will see him settle into a good rhythm. Monte is always a daunting rally, and he is experiencing it on his world rally car debut. There is no expectation on his shoulders, but he could well spring a surprise or two next week.

"I'm also looking forward to seeing Elfyn behind the wheel of the new evolution Ford Fiesta R5. It was important for us to have an experienced driver behind the wheel and I fully expect him to be challenging for the top positions."

The "Monte" mix: Volkswagen kicks off its 2016 WRC campaign

Posted: January 20, 2016 7:11 AM

A classic to kick off the World Championship - Volkswagen opens its campaign in the 2016 FIA World Rally Championship (WRC) with a truly iconic rally from 21 to 24 January: the "Monte". Three Polo R WRCs line up at the Rally Monte Carlo, the first of the 14 rounds that make up the World Rally Championship this year. Sebastien Ogier/Julien Ingrassia (F/F), Jari-Matti Latvala/Miikka Anttila (FIN/FIN) and Andreas Mikkelsen/Anders J?ger (N/N) are the men to beat, having finished first, second and third in last year's world championship. As well as the new-look, stronger opposition, the Volkswagen crews face another tough opponent: the rally itself. With unpredictable weather frequently making a lottery of any tyre selection, the infamous "Monte" is the toughest possible way to start the new season. The route of the 2016 rally is 377.59 kilometres long, spread over 16 special stages - including the famous "Sisteron-Thoard" stage and the Col de Turini.

"The Rally Monte Carlo is often exactly what Monaco is renowned for: a gamble," said Volkswagen Motorsport Director Jost Capito. "The unsettled weather makes tyre selection a lottery. On the one hand, you need the driver and co-driver to cooperate perfectly. On the other, you also need the ice spies, weather crew and service team to work in harmony. In this regard, there is no greater challenge in the World Rally Championship. And that is precisely why we are so looking forward to it, as we are well prepared."

39 out of 80: the tyre lottery

Dry or wet? Snow or black ice? Puddles or frozen patches? These are the kind of questions that need answering before you can select your tyres at the Rally Monte Carlo. However, that is the thing about the "Monte": the weather and route conditions are far from easy to predict- particularly as it is not rare to encounter all of the above on one special stage. While the sunny side of a mountain may be dry, you could easily be confronted by black ice one turn later on the shaded side.

The advantage lies with those who can rely on a good crew in their route note cars. The ice spies drive the route before the start of the special stage and pass the information acquired on to the co-driver, who adapts his pace notes accordingly. When it comes to tyres, the WRC drivers have a maximum 20 soft and 24 super-soft asphalt tyres at their disposal, as well as 12 winter tyres without studs and 24 with. A maximum 39 of these 80 tyres may be used during the rally. And each must be used at the right time: as well as the four wheels on the car, a maximum two spare tyres may be carried in the boot.

Zero points - the appeal and motivation of a new season

When Sebastien Ogier/Julien Ingrassia, Jari-Matti Latvala/Miikka Anttila and Andreas Mikkelsen/Anders J?ger open the route at the Rally Monte Carlo - an honour bestowed on them for finishing first, second and third in last year's World Championship - it will be just 70 days since they last started a special stage. And yet this short breaks marks the start of a new season. Everyone starts with zero points to their name and the same opportunity to claim victories, points and World Championship titles. The rivals at Hyundai line up with a new car at the "Monte", while M-Sport-Ford has a new driver and co-driver line-up. Volkswagen has also made detailed improvements to the car that has won the last three World Championships, the Polo R WRC. The entry list for the Rally Monte Carlo speaks for itself: three Volkswagens, two Citro?ns, three Hyundais and six Fords - 15 World Rally Cars and a further 75 vehicles in other classes have registered for the classic rally in 2016.

In the world champion's backyard: the Rally Monte Carlo, Gap and the classics

The service park for the 2016 Rally Monte Carlo first sets up camp in Gap, in the French Maritime Alps, before the WRC caravan moves to the harbour in Monaco for its finale. The season-opener is 100 per cent a home race for three-time world champion Sebastien Ogier. He was born in Gap. Last year's route led straight through his home village, not far out of the city.

Following the Ceremonial Start at the casino in Monaco, the drivers will take on two special stages in the dark on their way to Gap on Thursday. Not only will visibility play a major role, but the ice spies must also be on the ball: freezing wet patches and possible snow in places are the first challenges of the season on the "Entrevaux-Val-de-Chalvagne-Rouaine" and "Barles-Seyne" stages. Friday features three stages to the north of Gap, each of which must be tackled twice. Saturday is not only the day of the classic stages - particularly the infamous "Sisteron-Thoard" stage - but also the longest day of the rally. Roughly half of the kilometres against the clock will be driven on this day. Sunday features two attempts at the "Col de l'Orme-St. Laurent", which also forms the closing Power Stage. Slotted in between is a new version of the Col de Turini - the "La Boll?ne-Vesubie-Peira-Cava" stage.

Logistical challenge: from Gap to Monaco - the service park moves house

The teams must overcome another challenge at the Rally Monte Carlo: after the midday service in Gap, the entire rally circus must move 310 kilometres to the harbour in Monaco. This involves reassembling the service area. The next service is scheduled for shortly after 07:00 on Sunday morning.

Quotes ahead of the Rally Monte Carlo

Sebastien Ogier, Volkswagen Polo R WRC #1
"I cannot imagine a better rally, with which to start the new season. I have won the 'Monte' for the past two years, and would obviously like to win it again this year. For me, it is the most important rally of the year. The key factor is tyre selection. We drivers are very dependent on our ice spies. It is all about interpreting the weather conditions correctly and understanding the unique weather in the Alps."

Jari-Matti Latvala, Volkswagen Polo R WRC #2
"The Rally Monte Carlo is something very special every year. The conditions in the mountains can pretty much change from one minute to the next. The roads on the sunny side of a mountain are completely different to the shaded side, where they are often icy. The better the communication with the ice spies, the more likely you are to get a good result at the 'Monte'. The presentation alone - to be stood in front of the Royal Palace and hopefully receive a trophy - is the ultimate motivation for me at every 'Monte'."

Andreas Mikkelsen, Volkswagen Polo R WRC #9
"I will admit that the Rally Monte Carlo is not one of my favourite rallies. I finished third here last year, and that would be an outstanding result again in 2016. I will be driving alongside my new co-driver Anders J?ger from now on. It will certainly take a while for us to get up to 100 per cent. I have an extremely positive feeling after all the tests with Anders. I am sure we will find our rhythm after a few special stages."

Three questions for ? Michelin technician Hugues Pierron

From a tyre manufacturer's point of view, what makes the "Monte" such a special rally?
Hugues Pierron: "The 'Monte' is incredibly complex. You have to select the best tyres for up to three completely different special stages. You can never select the perfect tyres for all three stages. That is simply impossible. What you are looking for is the perfect compromise. That is why we have our people who, for example, are able to tell us accurately that it is snowing at kilometre one, that the route is drying out from kilometre six, and that there are patches of black ice from kilometre 20 to the finish. We are then able to make the tyre selection together with the driver."

What is the role of the Michelin technician during a rally?
Hugues Pierron: "I am available as a consultant during a rally. I am in contact with the drivers, co-drivers and their engineers. For example, if a driver opts for soft tyres I am able to tell him: 'Remember back at the tests in December, you destroyed the tyres when the route was too dry'. I am also responsible for the correct tyre pressure."

What feedback does Michelin receive from the drivers during and after a rally?
Hugues Pierron: "We usually need one to three kilometres to get the tyres up to the ideal temperature. Once the tyres have reached the right temperature, the drivers can see how they are working. The drivers get their feedback from the tyres, and I receive feedback from the drivers. The Volkswagen drivers describe to me exactly what could be better. That makes my job an awful lot easier. At the 'Monte', I must be able to react to a tyre selection at the very last second. Last year we had a situation like that with Sebastien Ogier. The forecast was not for it to snow on that particular day. All the meteorologists were agreed. Then, just as the special stage got underway, it started to snow. Everyone was asking me why I opted for these tyres. I was only acting on the information received from our weather people. It is a massive advantage if you know and can judge the weather at the 'Monte'."

DMACK Launches WRC Campaign With New Tyre Range

Posted: January 20, 2016 7:07 AM

DMACK will kick off its hotly-anticipated sixth season as an authorised tyre supplier to the FIA World Rally Championship (WRC) with a number of firsts at next week's traditional season-opener Rallye Monte Carlo.

The iconic and hugely challenging event will see DMACK launch its range of new performance products for WRC and compete with a WRC Team for the first time against the likes of Volkswagen and Hyundai for the WRC Manufacturer world title.

Estonians Ott Tanak and Raigo Molder will contest all 14 rounds for the recently-launched DMACK World Rally Team at the wheel of an M-Sport-run Ford Fiesta RS WRC - their second full season in a WRC car. Tanak raised eyebrows on last year's event when running as high as second before dropping time after sliding off the road.

The tough Monte event will see DMACK introduce its all-new asphalt tyre developed specifically to compete at the top of the sport, going head-to-head with tyre giants Michelin and Pirelli. The DMT-RC2 sports a completely new tread pattern, latest generation compounding and redesigned construction to significantly improve performance - all developed by new technical director Fiorenzo Brivio and the firm's technical partners.

New extra soft and soft compounds will be available to competitors along with revised versions of its DMT-ICE winter tyres in studded and non-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.

Crews will have the choice of four different tyres, using a maximum of 39 over the weekend, to tackle the extreme adventure.

Monte Carlo is the toughest way to begin the season. It's one of the most famous, well-known and respected rally events, providing 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.

Experience of the conditions, predicting the weather and making compromising decisions around tyre choice can make a winning difference. Drivers can expect to face snow, ice, dry and wet asphalt - often all in the same special stage.

The event is once again based in the town of Gap in the Hautes Alpes region of France, however it kicks off with a glitzy start outside the Casino in Monaco on Thursday evening before crews tackle two night-time stages on the way north to Gap.

Friday's action is held further north and sees two passes over a three-stage loop in the Hautes Alpes and Is?re regions. Then competitors return to Monaco on Saturday via the classic Sisteron test and the huge 51.55km runs through Lardier et Valen?a - Faye.

Sunday sees more familiar territory with three 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 where there is a real focus on tyre choice and performance. We've been working hard on asphalt development and have made some significant steps in performance. The progress has really motivated everyone in DMACK and we're all excited to get the new season underway."

Ott Tanak said:
"Monte Carlo is a special rally to start off the season and you always have to expect the unexpected. We have competed on the rally twice before and have good experience but have a new team and new tyres this year. If everything comes together for us and works well then I'm sure we can be competitive."

KUBICA RETURNS TO WRC ACTION WITH PIRELLI AS 2016 SEASON BEGINS

Posted: January 20, 2016 4:44 AM

Pirelli tyres will be used around the globe by competitors in the World Rally Championship during the 2016 season, beginning in the challenging conditions posed by the famous Rallye Monte-Carlo.

Among the drivers relying on Pirelli will be Robert Kubica, the grand prix winner continuing his relationship with the Italian company as he enters his fourth year competing in the WRC, and looking to build upon the four stages he won on last year?s event.

Tyres play a crucial part in Rallye Monte-Carlo, which runs from January 21-24, with weather conditions varying and difficult to predict. The asphalt roads can be wet or covered in snow or ice, and so large amounts of time can be gained or lost on tyre choice and performance.

The 2016 edition will be run over 16 stages across four days, taking in 377.59 kilometres of competitive mileage. The event will commence at the Place du Casino in Monaco prior to two stages on Thursday evening before two loops of three stages on Friday.

Saturday will begin with two tests repeated including the rally's longest, the 51.55km Lardier et Valenca - Faye, before moving on to Sisteron - Thoard. The rally concludes on Sunday with a stage that features the iconic Col de Turini plus two runs of Col de L -Orme - St Laurent, the latter as the power stage finale.

Leading Pirelli drivers on Rallye Monte-Carlo
On Rallye Monte-Carlo, Robert Kubica will be joined by Italian privateers Lorenzo Bertelli and Felice Re in driving in World Rally Cars fitted with Pirelli tyres. Bertelli enters his second season in a Ford Fiesta RS WRC while Re steps up to a Citroen DS3 WRC after contesting Rallye Monte-Carlo in an R5 version of the car last year. Pirelli will also supply 10 crews in the WRC2 class, across four different car manufacturers, and there will be two Peugeot 208s in the WRC3 class, for Fabio Andolfi and Damiano de Tommaso, supported by Pirelli and ACI: the Italian motorsport governing body.

The tyres
Pirelli will provide two versions of its RK asphalt tyre on Rallye Monte-Carlo, the RKS soft compound and RKSS supersoft compound. Its Sottozero snow tyres will also be available for when the conditions get tougher, either with or without studs.

The rules
World Rally Car crews can use up to 39 tyres from their allocation for the event. For Rallye-Monte Carlo, tyre companies can provide a supersoft compound for cold and frosty conditions, while snow tyres with and without studs can also be made available.

Quotes

Terenzio Testoni, Pirelli rally activity manager:
"Because of the conditions on Rallye Monte-Carlo, tyre choices and the quality of tyres are critical to the outcome. The main difference this year compared to last year is that there isn't a hard compound available, as the result of a rule change that was only announced very recently. We have worked on developing the new soft to have a wider usage range, so this year it's a multi-purpose tyre and should work in both dry or mixed conditions with temperatures above five degrees, while the supersoft goes very well from -5 to +5 degrees centigrade. It seems as if the weather conditions will be mixed, including dry, damp and snow, so we will need to use all types of tyre."

Entry List

Posted: January 1, 2016 2:29 PM

Volkswagen completes tests ahead of opening round of the WRC at the Monte

Posted: December 23, 2015 7:46 AM

Prepared as in the previous two years: Volkswagen has been hard at work preparing for its outing at the Rally Monte Carlo with the world championship-winning Polo R WRC and its three driver/co-driver pairings. Sebastien Ogier/Julien Ingrassia (F/F), Jari-Matti Latvala/Miikka Anttila (FIN/FIN) and Andreas Mikkelsen/Anders Jaeger (N/N) completed roughly 1000 test kilometres in total over the course of the six-day test on the outskirts of Gap, in the French Maritime Alps. The tests focussed on set-up work and tyre tests with the Polo R WRC, which boasts the highest win ratio in the history of the World Rally Championship. The World Rally Car from Wolfsburg kicks off its fourth WRC season with the Rally Monte Carlo from 21 to 24 January. Since 2013, Volkswagen has won all nine possible World Championship titles, and has emerged triumphant at 34 of the 39 rallies. In 2014 and 2015, the three Volkswagen duos also monopolised the top three positions in the World Championship standings.

"The Rally Monte Carlo is truly legendary, for many different reasons," said Volkswagen Motorsport Director Jost Capito. "The ever-changing weather conditions, which fluctuate between ice, snow, rain and dry conditions, make the rally precisely what Monaco is renowned for: a gamble. Furthermore, it is the first rally on the WRC calendar, meaning all the drivers, co-drivers and manufacturers start with zero points. Everyone wants to make the best possible start to the new season and take as much momentum as possible into the coming rallies. As such, tests are of great importance, in order to prepare for the tough tasks ahead. For the third time in a row, we go into the season as the team to beat, and we will be up against stronger opponents than before: Hyundai has a new car, while M-Sport-Ford has strengthened its squad of drivers and co-drivers. As such, we go into the season with heightened senses ? and, thanks to the tests, with sufficient experience for the Monte."

Taste of things to come at the ever-unpredictable "Monte" ? Tests on the outskirts of Gap

Ice and snow on the one hand, freezing rain, black ice or even shiny, dry asphalt on the other ? conditions at the Rally Monte Carlo are always anything but predictable. Despite a lack of snow, the tests on and around the Col de Perty near the town of Laborel were worth their weight in gold, as the team looked to adapt to at least a few of the conditions to be expected in January. The three driver/co-driver duos trialled set-up variants for the Polo R WRC and tested various combinations of the Michelin tyres to be used next year. The tests took place about 70 kilometres outside Gap, where the Rally Monte Carlo will be held from 21 to 24 January.

Three pairs of test days for Ogier, Latvala, Mikkelsen and their co-drivers

Two test days for Sebastien Ogier, two for Jari-Matti Latvala and two for Andreas Mikkelsen ? the men who finished first, second and third in the 2014 and 2015 world championships. And at their side, their co-drivers for the 2016 season: Julien Ingrassia, who forms his usual partnership with Sebastien Ogier, Miikka Anttila as Jari-Matti Latvala's trusty navigator, and Anders Jaeger, who will make his competitive debut in the Polo R WRC alongside Andreas Mikkelsen at the Monte. This was Jaeger's second outing, following the tests for the Rally Sweden at the end of November.

Kris Meeke/Paul Nagle to compete at Rallye Monte-Carlo with Abu Dhabi Total World Rally Team

Posted: December 18, 2015 8:47 AM

By entering two DS 3 WRCs at Rallye Monte-Carlo (18-24 January 2016), the Abu Dhabi Total World Rally Team will provide Kris Meeke/Paul Nagle and Stephane Lefebvre/Gabin Moreau with the opportunity to develop their experience at the opening round of the 2016 World Rally Championship.

Incorporating a selection of WRC rallies based in Europe, the programme of the Abu Dhabi Total World Rally Team will serve as a transitional stage before Citroen Racing returns as a works team in 2017. Prepared by the PH Sport team, the DS 3 WRCs will be entrusted to various drivers, including Kris Meeke, Stephane Lefebvre, Craig Breen and Khalid Al Qassimi. Between one and three cars may be entered at each of the rounds chosen, depending on the event and the opportunities that arise.

"After a successful three-year partnership with Citroen, we are pleased to maintain our presence in the WRC," commented Khalid Al-Qassimi, Chairman of Abu Dhabi Racing. "It's a programme that has been approved by Citroen Racing and which benefits from the expertise of PH Sport. As lead driver, Kris Meeke will contest several rounds, whilst prioritising his development work with Citroen Racing. We will also be aiming to provide opportunities for talented young drivers from the PSA Peugeot Citroen group. Supported by the expertise of the team, they will be able to add to their experience and show what they can do."

To get the season underway, two DS 3 WRCs will be entered at Rallye Monte-Carlo. The first will be driven by Kris Meeke and Paul Nagle. This will be a seventh appearance here for the Northern Irishman, whose best result was a third place finish in 2014. In the second car, Stephane Lefebvre will make his competitive debut alongside new co-driver Gabin Moreau. Last year, the Frenchman made the perfect start to his season by winning the WRC2 class in a DS 3 R5.

Three cars will then be entered at Rally Sweden (11-14 February) for Kris Meeke/Paul Nagle, Khalid Al Qassimi/Chris Patterson and Craig Breen/Scott Martin. The Irishman will be making his debut outing in the DS 3 WRC, but he will have the advantage of competing at a rally he really enjoys. After two good performances in the Super 2000 category cars in 2011 and 2012, he secured a top-ten finish in 2014 on his first outing in a World Rally Car. Kris Meeke finished seventh overall in Sweden last year, whilst Khalid Al Qassimi's best result was tenth place in 2011.

"Being able to contest a certain number of rallies in 2016 was important when deciding about my future," reiterated Kris Meeke. "I would therefore like to thank Abu Dhabi, Total and all the partners who have made it possible for us compete in very good conditions at these events. This programme will enable me to keep my hand in as regards racing and continue to learn about the WRC events. From that point of view, it seemed essential to compete at Monte-Carlo. It is such an unpredictable rally, where experience counts more than anywhere else. I can't wait to get back into the car for pre-event testing to prepare for this first race."

Website / Details / Rally Guide

Posted: December 1, 2015 6:33 AM






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