ONE DAY TO GO...
Following pre-event scrutineering ahead of the 2011 Rallye Monte Carlo in Valence today, it has been confirmed that 16 Peugeot 207 Super 2000s will line up for the start of the 79th edition of the world's most famous rally. The opening leg promises to be one of the most challenging of the week for competitors.
Predictions of possible snow for the end of the week...
Wednesday's programme features a menu of four stages, the first two of which Moulinon-Antraigues (36.87km) and Burzet-Saint Martial (41.06km) are the longest of the event. They will be followed by two attempts at the famous Saint Bonnet le Froid test (25.2km) which will round off what promises to be a spectacular day of action for spectators. The only ingredient that will probably be lacking tomorrow is snow, although competitors might be treated to some a little later in the week, and that could prove decisive in the final outcome over the last stages. That said, even when the conditions are globally dry, frost and ice are rarely totally absent from the Monte Carlo.
A long list of 207 S2000s to spearhead Peugeot's challenge
Scrutineering confirmed that the Peugeot 207 is the most popular car in its category this year, and no fewer than 16 crews have chosen to contest the event in the French S2000. Their ranks are led by several potential outright winners, including the 2003 World Rally Champion Petter Solberg, the defending French champion Bryan Bouffier and Stephane Sarrazin, who came third with a 207 S2000 in 2009. The list continues with the 1994 Monte winner Francois Delecour, the former European Rally Champion Giandomenico Basso, Toni Gardemeister, who has finished inside the top-three here on several occasions, plus the IRC specialists entered by Peugeot's subsidiaries: Guy Wilks (Peugeot UK), Bruno Magalhaes (Peugeot Portugal) and the young Thierry Neuville (Peugeot Belgium-Luxemburg).
Peugeot will be counting on this accumulation of talent to fend off what is expected to be stiff competition from its rivals. Its chief threats are likely to come from Australia's former WRC driver Chris Atkinson (who has twice won the Saint-Bonnet-le-Froid stage), Sweden's Pigi Andersson (a former Junior World Champion), Norway's Henning Solberg (the brother of Petter), and Andreas Mikkelsen, Finn Juho Hanninen (the 2010 IRC champion), the Czech Republic's Jan Kopecky (the 2010 IRC runner-up), plus Frenchman Nicolas Vouilloz and Belgium's Freddy Loix, who finished first and second in the 2008 IRC Challenge.
Twenty or so crews stand a realistic chance of winning this year's Rallye Monte-Carlo, which points to a particularly thrilling week. The finish is scheduled for the early hours of Saturday morning (January 22) on the harbour side in Monaco.