Rallye Monte-Carlo (January 19-22, 2011)
PEUGEOT TARGETING VICTORY ON CENTENARY MONTE
Peugeot's long-standing passion for the Rallye Monte-Carlo has produced some of the event's most memorable moments, including the incredible fight-back of Ari Vatanen who overturned an eight-minute time-penalty incurred while leading the 1985 event to clinch the win in his Peugeot 205 Turbo 16. More recently, in 2009, the 207 S2000 celebrated the winter classic's inclusion in the IRC calendar by producing an emphatic one-twothree success in the hands of Sebastien Ogier, Freddy Loix and Stephane Sarrazin. Two years on, Peugeot is targeting further Monte success to mark the centenary of the world's longestsurviving rally.
Peugeot 207, the benchmark Super 2000 car
Since 2009, the main challengers on the Rallye Monte-Carlo have driven S2000 cars, a category introduced by the FIA (Federation Internationale de l'Automobile) in response to demand from privateer, independent and importer rally teams. Peugeot's answer to this new class was the 207 S2000 and, with no fewer than 95 cars built and sold to date, as well as three straight IRC titles to its name (2007, 2008 and 2009), it has stood out as the class's benchmark since its launch.
Last autumn saw Peugeot Sport introduce the latest 'Evolution 2011' version of the 207 S2000. The introduction of the Evolution 2011 version of the car marked a significant technological step forward in terms of engine power and flexibility. It also included a revised front suspension for enhanced directional precision, plus damper calibrations to match the different types of surface the car is likely to encounter. Peugeot Sport made it a point of honour to make the most recent improvements developed by its engineers available to its customers.
The organisers of the Rallye Monte-Carlo have limited the number of entries for its 79th edition and centenary event to 120 starters. Exactly 30 of these crews will be competing in S2000 cars, and 15 of them have entered a 207 S2000.
Subsidiary teams out in force
Peugeot France has entered no fewer than three 207 Super 2000s. These will be in the hands of Norway's 2003 World Rally Champion Petter Solberg, the 2010 French Champion Bryan Bouffier and the all-rounder Stephane Sarrazin who is as quick on a rally stage as he is round a circuit.
A number of other Peugeot subsidiaries decided some time back to invest in IRC programmes, and their ranks include Peugeot Belgium-Luxemburg, who claimed first and second places in the 2008 Drivers' standings, Peugeot United Kingdom, who secured the same title in 2009, and Peugeot Portugal.
Peugeot Belgium-Luxemburg is pinning its faith in young blood with an entry for the 22-year old Monte rookie, Thierry Neuville. In contrast, Peugeot UK will be counting on the experience of its new recruit Guy Wilks who is due to celebrate his 30th birthday on the day the rally finishes (January 22)! Last but not least, Peugeot Portugal has renewed its confidence in the multiple-Portuguese champion Bruno Magalhaes, winner of the IRC's visit to the Azores in 2010 and fifth in last year's IRC Drivers' standings.
A good number of other drivers, including some well-known names, have chosen a Peugeot to give them the best chance of winning in the Principality. They include the Italian Giandomenico Basso, Finland's Toni Gardemeister, who is always strong on the Monte, and Francois Delecour, winner of the 1994 event.
The return of classic Monte stages
To celebrate the centenary of its event, the Automobile Club de Monaco (ACM) has placed the emphasis on the notion of tradition, and this will be evident from the outset since the first taste of competitive action on Wednesday January 19 will be the return of the famous Moulinon-Antraigues stage in the form in which it was used in the 1970s. Following a short halt in Vals les Bains, where it will be possible to fit fresh tires, participants will head out for the long version of Burzet, including the plateau section near Lachamp-Raphael and the finish in Saint Martial. Continuing in the same vein, the opening day will conclude with two attempts at the classic loop round the village of Saint Bonnet le Froid.
The epicentre of Thursday's leg (January 20) will take crews across the Rhфne River for a day in the Vercors Mountains. For practical reasons, and to ensure it provides a selective challenge, the celebrated Saint Jean en Royans test has been divided into two parts which will be visited twice each. The morning of Friday January 21 will then see competitors begin the drive southeast to Monaco via an early ascension (9am) of the frequently snowy Col de Perty mountain pass which features on the Montauban sur l'Ouvиze-Eygalayes stage.
The same evening will see survivors tackle the Col de Turini, again in the form that made it famous, i.e. from Moulinet to Bollиne, including an uninterrupted 12km climb followed by a long, varied and daunting descent. This and the Col Saint Roch test, which will both be tackled twice, will be the menu of the notorious 'Last Night of the Monte' ahead of the official finish on the harbour side in Monaco in the early hours of Saturday January 22.