Heading in to the final day of the opening round of the 2015 FIA World Rally Championship there was a little under two minutes covering the top three drivers – The Volkswagen Motorsport trio lead by Sébastien Ogier.
With three stages to run it was going to be a quick-fire day in comparison to previous days (the total distance for the day was just a few hundred metres longer than SS10), the weather was proving to be a lot kinder than previous days too, with a temperature of 8 Celsius.
For SS13 it would be Lorenzo Bertelli leading the cars away from the start with the line-up based on a reverse of Saturday’s classification as he crossed the finish line he set a benchmark time of 6:52.3s.
It wouldn’t be long before the times started falling with Sébastien Chardonnet recording a 6:40.9s, Ott Tanak survived an early scary moment to complete the stage with a time of 6:42.8s.
“A big moment early on, there was a very late call on the pacenote. I had a bit of work to do to straighten it out.” – Ott Tanak
Yurii Protasov would be the next driver through with a 6:57.2, the Ukrainian would reveal that he was experiencing gearbox issues in his Citroen DS3 WR , these problems would only get worse throughout the day.
It wouldn’t be long before the front-runners made their mark on the stage and it was Kris Meeke with a time of 6:33.7s that would take the initiative and top the time sheets.
Team-mate Sébastien Loeb would try hard but could only manage a time good enough for second, 1.1 seconds off the pace. Dani Sordo took third fastest time for the Hyundai Motorsport team, just 0.7 seconds behind Loeb.
Rally leader Ogier would complete the stage with 6:37.7s and secure fifth on stage to consolidate his lead ahead of team-mate Latvala.
Heading in to SS14 Robert Kubica was fighting his way back up the standings following a promising day of stages on Saturday. Unfortunately for the Pole it wouldn’t last too long; The ex-F1 driver finished the stage in sixth place, moving up to fifteenth in the overall standings, it was looking good for the closing stage, that was until he lost his brakes an collided with a wall, ripping the two right wheels from the Ford Fiesta RS WRC; This would be the end of Rallye Monte-Carlo for Kubica.
Loeb would give a master class on the stage, finishing 8.8 seconds faster than team-mate Mads Ostberg and the Hyundai Motorsport pairing of Neuville and Sordo, rally leader Ogier would finish fifth.
Second-placed Latvala finished the stage seventh but admitted that he had some trouble. “Not good. The brakes on this car are not working well. The pads are so glazed, they have no bite. With one stage to go I hope they will be okay.”
For the final stage of the rally it was back to Col St Jean – St Laurent for the live televised power stage and Ogier had all but won the rally heading in to stage with 58.8 second advantage, followed by team-mates Latvala and Mikkelsen, there was however, the matter of the extra points from the power stage up for grabs.
Bertelli would once again lead the competitors away from the stage, finishing with a time of 6:46.o – a time that would place him thirteenth on stage, unfortunately earlier damage had been done and his final overall position would be classified sixty-eighth. “I’m happy to get to the finish.” said the Prada heir. “I have a new codriver, a new team. Looking for more improvement on rallies I know better this year.”
Chardonnet, Tanak, Protasov and Solberg set their times, then it was Meeke’s turn… the clock was ticking and as the Northern Irish driver crossed the line he set the bar at 6:30.5s. “It’s a little drier, still tricky, I had a good stage. We
showed good times against Seb, but I want to get results this year.” he said.
Loeb would follow, but despite his best efforts he would finish 0.2 seconds slower than his team-mate. “It was great. Okay, disappointed because of the mistake, but I had some pleasure. I enjoyed the rally, a great atmosphere and great to be here.”
“No plans for now.” – Sébastien Loeb on the possibility of further WRC outings
Elfyn Evans finished SS15 in tenth place, securing seventh place overall, “I’m happy to reach the finish,” he said. “There’s a bit of a feeling of what could have been. In some places there has been a massive step forward from last year but other other times I’ve not made great choices.”
Next on the cards were the Hyundai paring of Sordo and Neuville, going in to the stage just 0.2 seconds separated the duo. It would be the Belgian driver that would record the first time, finishing at 6:35.0s, next across the line was Sordo… 6:36.0s; This time it would be Neuville who finished ahead, setting up which could be an interesting battle throughout the year. “It feels great. I enjoyed the conditions today and the battle with Dani. This rally is really difficult but it’s an honour to drive it.” said Neuville.
Unfortunately for Citroen Ostberg would be their highest scoring driver, finishing fourth overall, prior to the rally the French manufacturer had hedged their bets on Loeb and Meeke, nominating them for scoring championship points.
The next car to cross the line would be the Volkswagen of Mikkelsen who would secure third place overall. “A great rally for us, hopefully Jari-Matti and Ogier will get here too and make this a 123.” he said.
Latvala took third in the stage and second overall, he was thankful to his recce crews. “I’m delighted!” he said. “This is much more than I expected, before the rally I was thinking fourth or fifth! I must thank my ice crew for their information.”
An understandably delighted Ogier crossed the line fourth fastest on the stage but overall winner. “Victory in Monte-Carlo means a lot especially for me, so close to my home town, and at the first rally rally of the season.” said Ogier. “It’s a huge challenge but the satisfaction is even more when you make it. Conditions were so tricky this year, but it has been the best atmosphere of a rally I have ever known.”
The FIA World Rally Championship heads north for the next round in Sweden in three weeks time.
|1||Sébastien Ogier||Volkswagen Motorsport||Volkswagen Polo R||3:36:40.2|
|2||Jari-Matti Latvala||Volkswagen Motorsport||Volkswagen Polo R||3:37:38.2||+58.0|
|3||Andreas Mikkelsen||Volkswagen Motorsport||Volkswagen Polo R||3:38:52.5||+1:14.3|
|4||Mads Ostberg||Citroen Total Abu Dhabi WRT||Citroen DS3||3:39:23.8||+31.3|
|5||Theirry Neuville||Hyundai Motorsport||Hyundai i20||3:39:52.3||+28.5|
|6||Dani Sordo||Hyundai Motorsport||Hyundai i20||3:39:53.1||+0.8|
|7||Elfyn Evans||M-Sport World Rally Team||Ford Fiesta RS WRC||3:42:03.9||+2:10.8|
|8||Sébastien Loeb||Citroen Total Abu Dhabi WRT||Citroen DS3||3:45:14.9||+3:11.0|
|9||Martin Prokop||Jipocar Czech National Team||Ford Fiesta RS WRC||3:46:35.0||+1:20.1|
|10||Kris Meeke||Citroen Total Abu Dhabi WRT||Citroen DS3||3:47:35.8||+1:00.8|
*Top 10 times
|1||Kris Meeke||Citroen Total Abu Dhabi WRT||Citroen DS3||6:33.7|
|2||Sébastien Loeb||Citroen Total Abu Dhabi WRT||Citroen DS3||6:34.8||+1.1|
|3||Dani Sordo||Hyundai Motorsport||Hyundai i20||6:35.5||+0.7|
|4||Theirry Neuville||Hyundai Motorsport||Hyundai i20||6:37.5||+2.0|
|5||Sébastien Ogier||Volkswagen Motorsport||Volkswagen Polo R||6:37.7||+0.2|
|6||Mads Ostberg||Citroen Total Abu Dhabi WRT||Citroen DS3||6:39.7||+2.0|
|7||Andreas Mikkelsen||Volkswagen Motorsport||Volkswagen Polo R||6:40.6||+0.9|
|8||Sébastien Chardonnet||Citroen DS3||6:40.9||+0.3|
|9||Jari-Matti Latvala||Volkswagen Motorsport||Volkswagen Polo R||6:42.3||+1.4|
|10||Robert Kubica||RK WRC||Ford Fiesta RS WRC||6:42.5||+0.2|
*Top 10 stage times
|1||Sébastien Loeb||Citroen Total Abu Dhabi WRT||Citroen DS3||22:27.3|
|2||Mads Ostberg||Citroen Total Abu Dhabi WRT||Citroen DS3||22:36.1||+8.8|
|3||Theirry Neuville||Hyundai Motorsport||Hyundai i20||22:39.1||+3.0|
|4||Dani Sordo||Hyundai Motorsport||Hyundai i20||22:45.6||+6.5|
|5||Sébastien Ogier||Volkswagen Motorsport||Volkswagen Polo R||22:49.4||+3.8|
|6||Robert Kubica||RK WRC||Ford Fiesta RS WRC||22:55.4||+6.0|
|7||Jari-Matti Latvala||Volkswagen Motorsport||Volkswagen Polo R||23:00.8||+5.4|
|8||Andreas Mikkelsen||Volkswagen Motorsport||Volkswagen Polo R||23:07.3||+6.5|
|9||Elfyn Evans||M-Sport World Rally Team||Ford Fiesta RS WRC||23:07.9||+0.6|
|10||Ott Tånak||M-Sport World Rally Team||Ford Fiesta RS WRC||23:10.7||+2.8|
*Top 10 stage times
|1||Kris Meeke||Citroen Total Abu Dhabi WRT||Citroen DS3||6:30.5|
|2||Sébastien Loeb||Citroen Total Abu Dhabi WRT||Citroen DS3||6:30.7||+0.2|
|3||Jari-Matti Latvala||Volkswagen Motorsport||Volkswagen Polo R||6:32.4||+1.7|
|4||Sébastien Ogier||Volkswagen Motorsport||Volkswagen Polo R||6:33.2||+0.8|
|5||Andreas Mikkelsen||Volkswagen Motorsport||Volkswagen Polo R||6:34.9||+1.7|
|6||Theirry Neuville||Hyundai Motorsport||Hyundai i20||6:35.0||+0.1|
|7||Sébastien Chardonnet||Citroen DS3||6:35.9||+0.9|
|8||Dani Sordo||Hyundai Motorsport||Hyundai i20||6:36.0||+0.1|
|9||Ott Tånak||M-Sport World Rally Team||Ford Fiesta RS WRC||6:37.8||+1.8|
|10||Elfyn Evans||M-Sport World Rally Team||Ford Fiesta RS WRC||6:38.8||+1.0|
*Top 10 stage times