Rallye Monte Carlo: A Review

February 3, 2014 7:21 pm

Rallye Monte Carlo Review

2014 FIA World Rally Championship: Round 1

The 2014 World Rally Championship got off to a thrilling start on the rain soaked and snowy asphalt of Monte Carlo. The jewel in the crown of the motor racing world, Monte Carlo first held a competitive rally in 1911 and has continued to be a highlight since. The rally is famous for its twists and turns along French mountain roads, high above the principality of Monaco. Racing against the clock, drivers took to the fifteen difficult stages of the WRC’s oldest rally, as changeable weather proved decisive over the three-day-long, 1396km route.

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Season Overview

World Rally Championship 2014 Teaser

Rallye Monte Carlo marks round one of the 2014 World Rally Championship, a thirteen-round global motor racing competition held on roads of snow, asphalt, mud and gravel. This year will see rallies held in Europe, Central and South America, and Australia as the competition travels around the world. The aim of each rally is to complete the stages in the quickest time possible. Each car has a crew of two – a driver, and a co-driver who reads pace-notes to tell the driver where to go.

The new season sees French driver Sebastien Ogier and his Volkswagen Motorsport team begin a title defence, following their inaugural WRC title winning season in 2013. Ogier and Volkswagen face some stiff competition this year however, as rivals aim to step up their game. M-Sport return with their Ford Fiesta, driven by Finnish star Mikko Hirvonen and Welshman Elfyn Evans. Also contesting this year’s championship in a Fiesta is former F1-winner Robert Kubica, the Polish driver aiming to impress on the World Rally stages. Popular Czech driver Martin Prokop brings his Ford Fiesta to the World Rally Championship as a leading privateer.

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Former title holders Citroen come into 2014 with their DS3, but without legendary champion Sebastien Loeb in their line-up for the first time since 2001. The French team bring to the table Briton Kris Meeke, plus Norwegian and Middle Eastern talents in Mads Ostberg and Khalid Al Qassimi respectively. Meanwhile, there is a new name in the World Rally Championship; as Hyundai aims to challenge the established teams with their i20. The South Korean manufacturer shows potential with their roster of drivers; 2013 runner-up Thierry Neuville leading the team along with Australian Chris Atkinson, Finn Juho Hanninen, and Spaniard Dani Sordo.

VW Motorsport’s Scandinavian drivers Jari-Matti Latvala and Andreas Mikkelsen have a lot of speed and motivation to challenge their champion team-mate Sebastien Ogier, as they use the Polo to build on the success of 2013.
2014 has been a long awaited year for the World Rally Championship, and all eyes were on Monte Carlo as the teams headed for the first round.

Rallye Monte Carlo: Day 1 (Stages 1 – 6)

Rallye Monte Carlo Day 1

The World Rally Championship season got under way with a grand ceremony, in the heart of Monte Carlo itself. Each team presented their cars and drivers in front of the famous Casino as Prince Albert of Monaco officially started the Rallye Monte Carlo. With bad weather closing in on the region, a challenge lay ahead.

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The changeable conditions of the iconic rally showed their hand from the outset, as unexpected snowy road conditions forced drivers in to a tyre-choice dilemma. M-Sport’s Robert Kubica proved a surprise contender, setting the fastest stage times through the morning run. His lead was upset by the snow however, and outsider Bryan Bouffier in a privateer Fiesta took over the lead with a cunning wheel strategy. Hyundai had a catastrophic start to their season as Thierry Neuville crashed out on Stage 1, whilst Dani Sordo dropped out of a top position with electric problems.

Champion Sebastien Ogier didn’t make the headlines on the first day, but he did impress on the run through his hometown of Gap, which formed part of the Monte Carlo route. The VW driver felt the pressure from his rivals, as Citroen’s Kris Meeke pushed his way up to 2nd overall. The afternoon’s stages were slushy, and drivers sought to compromise on tyre strategies rather than take any risks on the mountain roads. As one of many drivers to run this way, VW’s Jari-Matti Latvala closed the gap to the leaders. Closing the opening day, surprise leader Bouffier headed Meeke and Kubica, whilst Ogier and Citroen’s Mads Ostberg followed close behind.

Rallye Monte Carlo: Day 2 (Stages 7 – 11)

Rallye Monte Carlo Day 2

The second day of the rally saw reigning champion Sebastien Ogier show his mettle as he steered his VW Polo into the morning lead on the lengthy 49km opening Stage 7. The battle for first place took on a new edge, as privateer Bouffier stayed close behind Ogier in the time sheets. The road conditions remained tricky, as the slippery asphalt caught drivers out. Both Ogier and Mads Ostberg slid off the road at the finish line to Stage 8, but were able to continue.

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One driver who was not so lucky was Robert Kubica, whose impressive run came to an abrupt end with a heavy crash on Stage 9, the Polish driver sliding off the road with front damage. Also unlucky was VW’s Latvala, who was forced to change a punctured tyre. Meanwhile at the head of the field, Bouffier slipped up and spun, handing a cushion to leader Ogier. The fight for the final podium place fell to Citroen, as Kris Meeke and Mads Ostberg dueled for 3rd place on the slippery road surface. VW suffered more bad luck as Andreas Mikkelsen spun off the road and lost time, a group of spectators helping to push his car out of a ditch. The final stage of the day took place in darkness and Latvala set the fastest time. However, nobody could challenge Ogier’s lead, as Bouffier held on to second and Meeke retained third.

Rallye Monte Carlo: Day 3 (Stages 12 – 15)

Rallye Monte Carlo Day 3

The final day of the rally began with a snow covered stretch over the famous Col De Turini, a section of road at the peak of a mountainous pass. The Col is popular with rally fans and large crowds greeted the drivers as they passed through. Sebastien Ogier maintained his overall lead, as the expected snow turned out to be mainly slush. Stage 13 saw a high speed asphalt run up through hairpin turns and long bends, as rain poured down onto the twisty roads. Once again Ogier went fastest, with Kris Meeke’s Citroen close behind.

The penultimate stage of the rally saw a repeat run through the Col De Turini, but very thick snow proved too challenging for the drivers. The road became blocked by the car of Jaroslav Melicharek who encountered 20cm of snow and the stage was yellow flagged, all times being neutralized. The decider of the rally would go down to the final stage.

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Stage 15 saw a sprint to the finish line on wet asphalt, as the drivers aimed to score bonus points. The final Powerstage of each event awards extra points to the top three finishers, and Rallye Monte Carlo’s Powerstage would double as the decider of the opening round. With heavy rain pouring down and visibility reduced to a minimum, the final run on the mountain roads turned into a nail biting contest between VW team mates Latvala and Ogier. Latvala set the benchmark, and Ogier crossed the line just 0.2 seconds slower.

Sebastien Ogier just missed out on the Powerstage win, but he did claim victory of the 2014 Rallye Monte Carlo. The French driver finished ahead of compatriot Bryan Bouffier, who showed the WRC regulars his true speed with a fine podium place. Third went to British driver Kris Meeke, who steered his Citroen to his first WRC podium. The result was a success story for all – Ogier and Volkswagen won their first WRC Rallye Monte Carlo, whilst Bouffier’s second place was hugely impressive for a privateer. Meeke’s third place marked the first Briton on a WRC podium in 11 years.

The next round of the WRC is in Sweden, and the snow covered forest tracks of Scandinavia will deliver a whole new challenge to the World Rally teams. Sebastien Ogier’s Monte Carlo victory is the perfect start to his title defence, and he and Volkswagen will be looking for further success.

For more information, visit the World Rally Championship website.

Rallye Monte Carlo Results

Sebastien Ogier (VW Polo R WRC) – VW Motorsport
Bryan Bouffier (Ford Fiesta RS WRC) – M-Sport Ltd
Kris Meeke (Citroen DS3 WRC) – Citroen Total Abu Dhabi WRT
Mads Ostberg (Citroen DS3 WRC) – Citroen Total Abu Dhabi WRT
Jari-Matti Latvala (VW Polo R WRC) – VW Motorsport
Elfyn Evans (Ford Fiesta RS WRC) – M-Sport Ltd
Andreas Mikkelsen (VW Polo R WRC) – VW Motorsport

DNF. Mikko Hirvonen (Ford Fiesta RS WRC) – M-Sport Ltd
DNF. Thierry Neuville (Hyundai i20 WRC) – Hyundai Motorsport
DNF. Dani Sordo (Hyundai i20 WRC) – Hyundai Motorsport
DNF. Robert Kubica (Ford Fiesta RS WRC) – RK M-Sport WRT
DNF. Martin Prokop (Ford Fiesta RS WRC) – Jipocar Czech National Team.

 

 

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