As the Monte Carlo Rally comes to a successful end, our man in Monaco talks to the runners and riders about their impressions of the past few days...
“It’s like the first day back at school!” grinned Petter Solberg, in his conspicuously new but slightly baggy Ford overalls. And that was very much the theme of the Monte Carlo Rally this year, complete with its new ‘Back to WRC’ poster, after a three-year absence from the top series.
“Monte Carlo is simply Monte Carlo,” commented Sebastien Loeb, in the Red Bull Citroen. “It was very important to have it back, because it’s the most well-known rally of the championship and fantastic for all the manufacturers and sponsors, from the point of view of image as well.”
Jari-Matti Latvala was a surprise early leader for Ford. And then at the end of the first day on SS4: “The road changed from dry to an icy section. Then on a fast right-hand corner, which tightened 90 degrees. I started to concentrate only on the ice and not on the notes.” The inevitable accident occurred. “Everything was in place to do well, and that’s what’s killing me inside,” concluded the Finn.
From there it was business as usual, with Sebastien Loeb taking and then extending a lead. “Maybe some people think it looks easy, but I promise it isn’t!” he said, after pulling more than a minute clear of Dani Sordo in the MINI. “I might be fighting for my ninth championship but the passion and the fight is still there like it’s my first. I wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t.”
Sordo and Solberg battled for second and third places throughout the rally, with a wrong tyre choice from Solberg on the second day ultimately deciding things in favour of the MINI. On treacherous ice, Solberg selected slick tyres rather than studded tyres, meaning that he had no grip and lost nearly a minute.
“This rally is a part of MINI’s history,” said Sordo at the finish, no doubt thinking of Paddy Hopkirk and the heroes of the 1960s. “So to be on the podium again and part of that history now is a really nice feeling.”
The winner of the Group N category, for showroom-specification cars, was Red Bull driver Michal Kosciuszko from Poland, in a Mitsubishi Lancer. “The Monte Carlo Rally is so famous because it’s so difficult,” he pointed out. “If it was easier, then it wouldn’t be such a legend!” You can’t fault the logic.
But the biggest hero of the event was the man who finished sixth: Francois Delecour, returning to a World Rally Car for the first time in 10 years. His co-driver, Dominique Savignoni, was retiring and Delecour gave him a send-off to remember by putting him in the driving seat for the final five-kilometre stage. “This is something I really wanted to do for my friend Dominique,” explained Delecour afterwards. “It's his last rally and I wanted it to be as special as possible for him. I have to say that as a driver he is quite good; certainly much better than I am on the pace notes!"
- Check out our Rally Monte Carlo event page
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- Monte Carlo Goes To The Movies
- Five things you never knew about Mikko Hirvonen
- 100 years of the Monte Carlo Rally
- Visit the official rally site