MONTE CARLO SUCCESS FOR SEBASTIEN OGIER AND PEUGEOT/BFGOODRICH The BFGoodrich Drivers Team's Sebastien Ogier came through the 2009 Rallye Monte-Carlo's challenging mix of ice and snow to claim victory at the wheel of his Peugeot 207 S2000. The...
MONTE CARLO SUCCESS FOR SEBASTIEN OGIER AND PEUGEOT/BFGOODRICH
The BFGoodrich Drivers Team's Sebastien Ogier came through the 2009 Rallye Monte-Carlo's challenging mix of ice and snow to claim victory at the wheel of his Peugeot 207 S2000. The 25- year old completed the three-day event ahead of Belgium's Freddy Lox and fellow Frenchman Stephane Sarrazin to top an all -BFGoodrich and all-Peugeot podium.
The BFGoodrich Drivers Team kicked off its 2009 season in style this week thanks to Sebastien Ogier and his co-driver Julien Ingrassia who scored a resounding win on the 77th Rallye Monte-Carlo, arguably the world's most famous rally. The 2008 Junior World Champions steered their BFGoodrich-equipped Peugeot 207 S2000 to a confident victory on an event that featured most of the ingredients that have forged the uncompromising winter classic's reputation over the years.
The 2009 route took competitors through the mountains of southern France, from the Riviera hinterland, to the Ardèche, Drôme and Vercors regions which all delivered a cocktail of predominantly snowy, icy, wet and - occasionally - dry roads, and the treacherous conditions made tyre choices extremely complex from start to finish.
Indeed, the slippery stages caught out many of the pre-start favourites, including the defending European Champion Luca Rossetti (Abarth/BFGoodrich) and three-time Monte winner Didier Auriol (Peugeot/BFGoodrich) who both crashed out on the very first stage. The 2008 IRC Champion Nicolas Vouilloz (Peugeot/BFGoodrich) joined them on the retirements list the following day, while Briton Kris Meeke (Peugeot/BFGoodrich) and Skoda Fabia S2000/BFGoodrich driver Juho Hanninen were both eliminated on the morning of the final leg.
Despite having no previous experience of either the Rallye Monte-Carlo or the Peugeot 207 S2000, Sebastien Ogier didn't make a single mistake. The combination of his sure-footed approach and his ability to take onboard the information provided by his ice-note crews and the advice of his BFGoodrich technician enabled the Frenchman to conclude the opening day in fourth place, before emerging from Thursday's action on top of the provisional standings.
The long third and final day kicked off in Ogier's home region, near Gap, where the snowy conditions dictated studded BFGoodrich g-Force Winter tyres. It is here, practically in his own backyard, that the BFGoodrich Drivers Team runner posted his first fastest time of the event to consolidate his cushion prior to the celebrated 'Nuit du Turini' night-time loop which featured two attempts at the classic Col du Turini stage.
Running on BFGoodrich g-Force Winter snow tyres, the Frenchman rounded of his polished performance by shrugging off the pressure and perfectly controlling from in front to claim the first major win of his nascent career. In doing so, he also secured the BFGoodrich Drivers Team's best ever result, as well as Peugeot's first Rallye Monte -Carlo triumph since Ari Vatanen's exploit in 1985.
Thanks to the 2008 IRC runner-up Freddy Loix (2nd) and the quick, if inconsistent Stephane Sarrazin (3rd), the French carmaker ended up pocketing a one-two-three finish, followed home by Skoda/BFGoodrich which marked its return to top class rallying with fourth place for Jan Kopecky. Indeed, the new Skoda
Fabia S2000 showed real potential in the hands of both the Czech driver and the early leader Juho Hanninen.
Following its tough time on the 2008 Intercontinental Rally Challenge's curtain-raiser, the works Abarth/BFGoodrich squad (Basso, Rossetti, Alen) will be doubtlessly be hoping to reap revenge when the series moves on to Brazil for Round 2 on March 5-7.
Quotes from Monte Carlo
Sebastien Ogier (1st, Peugeot/BFGoodrich): "Fantastic! I want to say a big thank you to BFGoodrich and to all those who votes enabled him to line up for the start of this legendary event in such a competitive car. We tried to drive as cleanly as possible and we didn't make a single mistake as far as tyre choices were concerned. I think the cautious approach was the best strategy to win this year's Rallye Monte -Carlo which took place in really difficult conditions. All my rivals tried to push a little harder at one point or another, and many of them ended up making mistakes."
Freddy Loix (2nd, Peugeot/BFGoodrich): "Congratulations to Sebastien who was the most consistent driver on the stages this week. After we dropped two minutes on Friday morning, the main thing for us was to score as many points as we could in order to get our IRC title bid off to the best start possible."
Stephane Sarrazin (3rd, Peugeot/BFGoodrich): I succeeded in posting more fastest times than anybody else. But although I managed to score five stage wins, I also took lots of risks and I dropped too much time on the morning of Leg 2. That said, this has been a fantastic rally."
Giandomenico Basso (5th, Abarth/BFGoodrich): "It's been a very frustrating event for us. We succeeded in posting a fastest time on the final night but I never really had a good feeling with my car from the start."
Jan Kopecky (4th, Skoda/BFGoodrich): With the exception of one or two minor mechanical problems this week, the Fabia is a good car. We will now work on making it even more competitive, but this rally was a very encouraging start."
Jacques Morelli (BFGoodrich's IRC Programme Manager) : "The conditions were very difficult throughout and tyre choices were obviously difficult to call for certain groups of stages which featured a mix of snow and ice, as well as wet and dry asphalt. BFGoodrich's stage -observers did a remarkable job to ensure that the BFGoodrich crews had as much information as possible when it came to choosing their tyres. The Rallye Monte-Carlo is widely considered to be the sport's toughest event, but BFGoodrich has now won it three times from three starts since 2006."