A cumulative reach of seven million different viewers watched Eurosport’s coverage of the 77th Monte Carlo Rally, the opening round of the 2009 Intercontinental Rally Challenge.
Over the three days of competition, a total of seven stages were shown live, including uninterrupted coverage from the last four stages, which featured two passes of the legendary Col de Turini, which was a first in the history of rallying.
Geraldine Filiol, managing director of Eurosport Events, commented: "We are delighted that over seven million television viewers caught up with the live action on Eurosport, in addition to the many thousands of fans who joined the action on-site. These unprecedented figures reinforce the appeal of the IRC to a global television audience. I’d like to thank the Automobile Club de Monaco for a great partnership, enabling such a historic operation. We look forward to continuing our development and innovative approach over the rest of the season."
Frederic Henry-Biabaud, the competition director of tyre firm BFGoodrich, believes the company’s investment in the BFGoodrich Drivers‘ Team programme has been vindicated following Sebastien Ogier’s victory on the Monte Carlo Rally last week.
A panel of 16 French journalists selected Ogier from a short-list of five drivers, who had been whittled down from 75 applications received from French and Monegasque pilots.
This is the second season BFGoodrich has supported the scheme and Henry-Biabaud said he was very satisfied following Ogier’s win at the wheel of a Kronos Racing-prepared Peugeot 207.
"This result says so much for the magic of the BFGoodrich Drivers‘ Team operation," he said. "Sébastien Ogier ended up winning the most famous rally of them all. Opportunities rarely get more magical than that."
"Barely two weeks ago, Sebastien’s hopes of taking part in the Monte were little more than a dream. However, after receiving the majority of the votes cast by a panel of 16 French journalists in Paris earlier this month, he has gone on to win this extraordinary rally at his first attempt."
"Today’s win is a tremendous success for the BFGoodrich Drivers‘ Team programme which is really proving to be the human adventure we intended it to be when it was introduced. The scheme’s sixth outing since its launch at the beginning of 2008 has provided us with just the result we had been hoping for: outright victory."
The next event on the BFGoodrich Drivers‘ Team schedule will be the Belgium Ypres Westhoek Rally from June 19-20.
Juho Hanninen believes Skoda’s Fabia Super 2000 can only improve following its impressive debut on the Monte Carlo Rally last week.
The Czech manufacturer is embarking on a six-event programme of Intercontinental Rally Challenge events this season and came close to winning on its first appearance in the series on the challenging rally.
Finnish driver Hanninen had opened up a lead of more than 90 seconds on the opening day but was slowed by a puncture before he crashed out in his efforts to make up for lost time. His team-mate Jan Kopecky finished fourth after being slowed by a power-steering failure on the opening day.
"Everything was going my way until Friday morning," the 27-year-old said. "I was surprised how fast I was able to go but the technicians did an excellent job and the car was working perfectly. Our tyre choices were very good, too, mainly thanks to my safety crew, who gave me very good information.
"I am sorry to have been too fast when I had my accident. I simply pushed too hard, as I wanted to make up for the one minute I lost when I had my puncture. It’s a pity because the team has done a fantastic job here. However, a lot of hard work is still ahead of us but I believe that the car’s future results will be very good and that this event has shown its great potential."
Hanninen added the close competition in the IRC would make it hard for his Skoda team to establish itself its first season running the Fabia Super 2000.
Despite Kris Meeke’s Kronos Racing-run Peugeot being badly damaged in a crash that ended his Monte Carlo Rally prematurely on the final day, the Peugeot UK driver has said that his participation on the next round of the Intercontinental Rally Challenge, the Rally Internacional de Curitiba in Brazil, is not in any doubt.
"The decision has not been taken as to whether my car can be fixed but we’ve got some contingency plans in place to use another car if we need to," Meeke said. "But there won’t be a problem."
The Irishman described the crash that forced him to retire from the Monte Carlo Rally last week as the biggest accident of his career. Meeke was in fourth position on the final leg of the event when he left the road in his Peugeot UK-backed 207 after it skidded on melting snow. The car then struck a bridge support and rolled five times. Thanks to the advanced safety systems built into the car, the crew escaped without injury.
"I’m looking forward to Brazil now," he added. "What happened in Monte Carlo was just down to my inexperience of these conditions. Brazil is going to be a level playing field and I’m sure we can get back on track there."
For further details of the Rally Internacional de Curitiba, please visit the event’s official website:
Anton Alen is still the youngest driver to have won a round of the Intercontinental Rally Challenge, despite the emerging Sebastien Ogier taking victory on the Monte Carlo Rally last week.
Factory Abarth Grande Punto driver Alen was 24 years and 41 days when he won the inaugural Rally Russia in July 2007. Ogier, who claimed the Junior World Rally Championship title in 2008, had turned 25 the month prior to his stunning victory on the snowy event.
While Ogier celebrated his debut IRC win in Monte Carlo, Alen’s hopes of top-six finish were dashed on the liaison section heading to the finish in the Principality when his car’s clutch failed. He had completed the final stage in sixth position overall.
"It was extremely disappointing to end my first Monte Carlo Rally in that way," said Alen. "Hopefully we will have better success on the next rally in Brazil. It is a new experience for everybody and traditionally gravel is the surface I like best."
It wasn’t all bad news for Alen, however. His friend, the Ferrari Formula 1 driver Kimi Raikkonen, drove an Abarth Grande Punto S2000 to 13th place on the Arctic Lapland Rally, a former IRC Supporter Event, in Finland, his debut rally, last Saturday.

The Monte Carlo Rally, the opening round of the IRC last week, was a huge success that attracted seven million television viewers


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