Juho Hanninen has completed the opening day of the centenary edition of Rallye Monte-Carlo,
round one of the 2011 Intercontinental Rally Challenge, with a lead of 44.5 seconds.
Driving a Skoda Motorsport Fabia Super 2000, the 29-year-old Finn was fastest on two of
Wednesdays four special stages, which were shown live on Eurosport, to head Freddy Loix at the
overnight halt in Valence following a faultless drive.
The stages in the Ardeche and Haute Loire regions of France were held in largely dry and bright
conditions as the traditional ice and snow, that have been a feature of the event in recent years,
Hanninen, the defending IRC champion, has been consistently upping his pace on asphalt since
finishing second on this event last season. He underlined that improvement with a staggering time
on stage two, which was 15.1s faster than any other driver could manage. Hanninen and co-driver
Mikko Markkula also gained the upper hand with a series of inspired tyre choices for the dry, albeit
Le Mans 24 Hours racer Stephane Sarrazin had set the pace on the opening stage from Le
Moulinon to Antraigues in his Peugeot France 207 Super 2000. However, his switch from a
medium compound tyre to the softer version for the Burzet-St Martial stage did not suit the dry
stage surface and he dropped back with a handling imbalance, before losing further ground on
stage three, St Bonnet Le Froid, when his cars intercom system failed and he couldnt hear codriver
Jacques-Julien Renuccis instructions for seven kilometres.
Sarrazins delay enabled Loix to move into second. The Belgian Skoda driver would complete day
one with the fastest time on the second St Bonnet Le Froid stage. Loix, who holds the record of
IRC wins with a tally of six, admitted to making a slightly hesitant start but was otherwise satisfied
with his performance.
Former world rally champion Petter Solberg is third in another Peugeot after moving ahead of
Sarrazin on stage four. The Norwegian said he was lucky to avoid a puncture when he slid wide on
a right-hand bend on stage one and nudged a wall. He also suggested his lack of dry-weather
running in his 207 was masking his true speed.
Guy Wilks, who was running first on the road, is fifth overnight after an encouraging, error-free start
to his career with Peugeot UK. Jan Kopecky, runner-up in the IRC for the past two seasons, is
sixth in the second factory Skoda, despite admitting to a lack of confidence behind wheel of his
Fabia. The Czech had trailed French champion Bryan Bouffier heading into stage four but moved
in front when Bouffiers Peugeot developed a rear differential glitch, which left Bouffier with the
feeling that his car was in front-wheel drive mode only.
Francois Delecour is eighth in his privateer 207. The French legend, who won Rallye Monte-Carlo
back in 1994, wasnt satisfied with the handling of his car and is set to start Thursdays stages with
a revised set-up. We tested in fog, rain and mud but we had none of those things today, said
Delecour. But we are doing a very good job in a private car.
Bruno Magalhaes, who bemoaned a few incorrect tyre choices and fading
brakes in the morning, was in the top 10 when he crashed his Peugeot
Sport Portugal 207 into retirement on a sixth-gear corner on stage four. His
misfortune elevated Jean-Sebastien Vigion to ninth and M-Sport Ford
Fiesta driver Julien Maurin to 10th. Under the revised point-scoring system
for 2011, Maurin is now in contention for the final IRC drivers
While the weather remained unseasonably mild, several drivers hit trouble on the demanding
mountainous asphalt roads. First to fall was Andreas Mikkelsen, who was making his debut for
Skoda UK Motorsport. The Norwegian drivers challenge ended after four corners when he slid into
a low wall on a right-hand bend, punctured his cars left-rear tyre and damaged the suspension to
the extent he was unable to continue.
Nicolas Vouilloz, tacking his first rally for 12 months, suffered a front-right puncture on stage one,
as did Henning Solberg, who retired his M-Sport Fiesta as a result. Thierry Neuville crashed his
Team Peugeot Belgium-Luxembourg 207 on the first stage, which also claimed Australias Chris
Atkinson, who retired his PROTON Satria Neo with an electrical failure 700 metres into the test.
Atkinsons PROTON team-mate P-G Andersson went no further than stage two when he broke a
wheel off his car hitting a rock seven kilometres into the stage.
Toni Gardemeister lost more than three minutes with a puncture on stage three and is 13th
overnight in his Peugeot, one place ahead of ex-Grand Prix driver Alex Caffi, who is making his
Rallye Monte-Carlo debut in a Skoda.
Swiss Florian Gonon is the leading IRC Production Cup contender in his Subaru Impreza, one
place ahead of Ralliart Mitsubishi Lancer driver Patrick Artru. Pierre Campana heads the IRC 2WD
Cup battle ahead of fellow Clio driver Andrea Crugnola after defending champion Harry Hunt lost
several minutes when he went off the road on stage one.
Wednesdays closing stage, St Bonnet Le Froid, was halted after Michel Boetti and Emmanuelle
Nas de Tourris crashed their Peugeot 207. Boetti suffered a broken leg and was flown by
helicopter to hospital in Lyon to undergo treatment. Nas de Tourris was uninjured. The stage was
stopped after the first 29 cars had completed the run and the drivers behind received the time they
recorded on the first pass through the repeated stage.
Thursdays action features two loops of stages run twice north-east of Valence and separated by a
service stop in the city. All four stages will again be shown live on Eurosport.
PRINCE ALBERT VISITS RALLYE MONTE-CARLO
His Supreme Highness Prince Albert II of Monaco played a starring role on the opening round of
the Intercontinental Rally Challenge when he took part in the traditional apple pie ceremony in the
town of Antraigues on Wednesday morning.
For more than 30 years the Jouanny familys La Remise Restaurant has presented an apple pie to
each driver as they pass through the town on a road section.
In recognition of the events centenary His Supreme Highness handed a pie to the 100th starter on
the rally, Monegasque Daniel Elena.
Earlier, he also took part in an inauguration ceremony in Vals les Bains, where a special stone was
unveiled to celebrate the 100th anniversary of Rallye Monte-Carlo, before Jean Ragnotti, the event
winner in 1981, drove him through the third stage of the event in a course car.
Meanwhile, Elena, the seven-time world champion co-driver is 77th overall
at the end of day one on a rare appearance behind the wheel.
Juho Hanninen (Finland), Skoda Fabia S2000, first overall: Its been a
perfect day with no problems and no mistakes. I am feeling confident with my car,
I found a good rhythm and could push as much as I wanted to. I dont think yet
about controlling this rally because we are a long way from the finish.
Freddy Loix (Belgium), Skoda Fabia S2000, second overall: Were happy to be close to the
front even though we were not the quickest starter. Its a big gap to Juho but there could be some
snow tomorrow so that could change things. We wont give up.
Petter Solberg (Norway), Peugeot 207 S2000, third overall: We did not try this car on the dry
before so to be third is a very good result. I was very lucky not to have a puncture when I hit the
wall and actually knocked my suspension a bit. We can push more.
TOP TEN IRC POSITIONS AFTER DAY ONE
1 Juho Hanninen (FIN)/Mikko Markkula (FIN) Skoda Fabia S2000 1h11m33.4s
2 Freddy Loix (BEL)/Frederic Miclotte (BEL) Skoda Fabia S2000 +44.5s
3 Petter Solberg (NOR)/Chris Patterson (GBR) Peugeot 207 S2000 +55.3s
4 Stephane Sarrazin (FRA)/Jacques-Julien Renucci (FRA) Peugeot 207 S2000 +55.5s
5 Guy Wilks (GBR)/Phil Pugh (GBR) Peugeot 207 S2000 +1m18.7s
6 Jan Kopecky (CZE)/Petr Stary (CZE) Skoda Fabia S2000 +1m26.3s
7 Bryan Bouffier (FRA)/Xavier Panseri (FRA) Peugeot 207 S2000 +1m36.2s
8 François Delecour (FRA)/Dominique Savignoni (FRA) Peugeot 207 S2000 +1m52.4s
9 Jean-Sebastien Vigion (FRA)/Eric Yvernault (FRA) Peugeot 207 S2000 +3m11.3s
10 Julien Maurin (FRA)/Olivier Urai (FRA) M-Sport Ford Fiesta S2000 +3m53.2s
IRC Production Cup: Florian Gonon (SUI)/Sandra Arlettaz (SUI) Subaru Impreza WRX
IRC 2WD Cup: Pierre Campana (FRA)/Sabrina de Castelli (FRA) Renault Clio R3
DAY TWO ITINERARY (THURSDAY 20 JANUARY)
Special stages: Four Special stage distance: 94.36kms Liaison distance: 214.46kms Total
distance: 308.82kms Service B: Valence (0:20hrs), 11:00hrs SS5: St Jean en Royans Font
DUrle* (23.05kms), 12:23hrs SS6: Cimetiere de Vassieux Col de Gaudissart* (24.13kms),
13:04hrs Service C: Valence (0:20hrs), 14:44hrs (regroup at 14:29hrs) SS7: St Jean en Royans
Font DUrle* (23.05kms), 16:07hrs SS8: Cimetiere de Vassieux Col de Gaudissart* (24.13kms),
16:48hrs Service D: Valence (0:45hrs), 18:13hrs * = Live on Eurosport
Eurosports coverage of Rallye Monte-Carlo on Thursday 20 January will be shown as follows (all
times are shown in CET):
12:15hrs-14:00hrs: LIVE SS5 St Jean en Royans-Font DUrle and LIVE SS6 Cimetiere de
Vassieux-Col de Gaudissart (Eurosport 2 & Eurosport Asia-Pacific)
16:00hrs-17:45hrs: LIVE SS7 St Jean en Royans-Font DUrle and LIVE SS8 Cimetiere de
Vassieux-Col de Gaudissart (Eurosport & Eurosport Asia-Pacific)
19:30hrs-20:00hrs: Highlights of Day Two (Eurosport & Eurosport Asia-Pacific)