Reigning Junior World Rally Champion Sebastien Ogier has won the 77th Monte Carlo Rally for the BFGoodrich Drivers‘ Team: the first time that the programme – which chooses a different local driver from the five rounds of the IRC on which it operates – has resulted in a rally winner.
Peugeot Belgium’s Freddy Loix – the runner-up on last year’s IRC series – got his 2009 campaign off to a solid start by finishing in a fault-free second on the Monte Carlo Rally, ahead of the Peugeot Total 207 S2000 entry driven by Le Mans star Stephane Sarrazin. Thanks to a magical atmosphere, challenging stages and typical weather, this year’s Monte Carlo Rally well and truly lived up to its reputation as the oldest and most prestigious event in the sport.
Despite having no experience of Super 2000 machinery prior to a short test before his very first Monte Carlo Rally, Ogier took the lead at the end of the second day following a puncture for former rally leader Juho Hanninen. The Finn gave Skoda’s new Fabia S2000 a spectacular IRC competition debut by claiming the lead on the opening morning, which he extended to more than a minute and a half before SS9: the final stage of day two. Hanninen then picked up a front puncture just five kilometres into the stage but chose to drive to the end, losing two minutes and dropping to third. He was confident that he could make the time back up, but crashed out on the very first corner of SS10: the first stage of Friday.
The same stage also claimed Irishman Kris Meeke, making his IRC debut along with Peugeot UK. Having set fastest time on SS3, the Irishman dropped around a minute on the second day with a puncture sustained after hitting a hole. On Friday morning though he lost control of his 207 S2000 after it slid onto a patch of slush. The car left the road in fifth gear and rolled five times, demolishing part of a bridge, but both Meeke and co-driver Paul Nagle emerged uninjured. A dramatic early retirement was that of Peugeot Belgium driver and reigning IRC champion Nicolas Vouilloz, who broke a steering arm on SS7 after a small impact.
As always, tyre choice was the key to the Monte Carlo Rally. With most stages containing a very wide variety of conditions it was normally a question of just finding the best compromise. One of the best examples was the final four stages through the Col de Turini this evening, which formed a dramatical climax to the 77th Monte Carlo Rally. Peugeot driver Stephane Sarrazin, who ran as high as second overall on the opening day, lost more than five minutes with an off on SS4: the opening stage of Thursday. Nonetheless, he steadily recovered throughout the remainder of the event to climb up the order.
The Frenchman gambled on his choice of tyres for the first loop of Col de Turini stages, selecting normal rain tyres instead of the snow tyres favoured by most people. This enabled him to claim third place by just one second from the other factory Skoda of Jan Kopecky, which performed strongly despite intermittent power steering problems. A storming run on the penultimate stage of the rally enabled him to claim fastest time by half a minute from Kopecky and seal his podium place. World rally star Toni Gardemeister – who has twice finished second in Monte Carlo – was set for second place until the alternator broke on his privateer Abarth Grande Punto with only three stages to go.
The factory Abarth team of Giandomenico Basso, Anton Alen and Luca Rossetti suffered mixed fortunes. Rossetti was out on the very first stage after sliding into a snowbank. The same fate awaited the 1994 World Rally Champion Didier Auriol, who put his privateer Peugeot off within metres of Rossetti.
The IRC 2WD Cup was comfortably won by Fiat Punto S1600 driver Manuel Villa. Full end of leg report and driver quotes to follow tomorrow.
IRC RESULTS AFTER SS14, MONTE CARLO RALLY (MONACO)*
1Ogier/Ingrassia (Peugeot 207 S2000) 4h40m45.7s
2 Loix/Smets (Peugeot 207 S2000) +1m43.6s
3 Sarrazin/Renucci (Peugeot 207 S2000) +2m21.6s
4 Kopecky/Stary (Skoda Fabia S2000) +3m17.3s
5 Basso/Dotta (Abarth Grande Punto S2000) +4m28.0s
6 Alen/Alanne (Abarth Grande Punto S2000) +10m49.7s
7 Romeyer/Fournel (Mitsubishi Lancer Evo 9) +20m30.0s
8 Burri/Gordon (Abarth Grande Punto S2000) +21m23.0s
9 Artru/Virieux (Mitsubishi Lancer Evo 9) +9m51.4s
10 Cavallini/Zanella (Peugeot 207 S2000) +28m44.2s
Two-wheel drive winner: Manuel Villa (Fiat Punto S1600)
*All results subject to final confirmation.
1 Ogier 10
2 Loix 8
3 Sarrazin 6
4 Kopecky 5
5 Basso 4
6 Alen 3
7 Romeyer 2
8 Burri 1
1 Peugeot 18
2 Abarth 7
3 Skoda 5
4 Mitsubishi 2