'Antraigues' and 'Saint Bonnet le Froid' return as the Monte finds its roots Elena, the Manufacturers' title with Ford and 16 wins from 16 in 2006, BFGoodrich kicks off its second season of world class rallying with the 2007 Monte Carlo Rally, a...
'Antraigues' and 'Saint Bonnet le Froid' return as the Monte finds its roots
Elena, the Manufacturers' title with Ford and 16 wins from 16 in 2006, BFGoodrich kicks off its second season of world class rallying with the 2007 Monte Carlo Rally, a legend. This year, the WRC's longest-standing fixture has delved into its past to produce a route that revisits France's Vercors and Ardèche regions. None of the current top drivers has previously sampled the classic Antraigues, Burzet, Saint Bonnet le Froid and Saint Jean en Royans stages.
It's been ten years since the Monte Carlo Rally last took in the Ardèche region and Vercors mountains. That year, 1997, saw the arrival of the first World Rally Cars, while Italy's Piero Liatti took his Subaru Impreza WRC to victory in particularly taxing conditions. "We came across everything the Monte could throw at us, including ice and snow on St Bonnet le Froid" recalls Liatti's co-driver of the day, Fabrizia Pons. "We were forever wondering how the conditions would evolve? Despite the win, it was one of the worst moments of my career: When the marshal at the final Time Control congratulated me, I replied that it would be the last time he would see me on the Monte Carlo!"
Ten years later, the event marks a return to the Vercors region and the once mandatory visit to St Jean en Royans, as well as to the Ardèche, home to classics like Antraigues, St Bonnet le Froid and Burzet. Yet so much has changed in the interim. The leading World Rally Cars are now the Focus WRC and the C4 WRC, while today's stars are Sébastien Loeb, Marcus Grönholm and Petter Solberg who have progressively sent former heroes Tommi Mäkinen, Didier Auriol, Colin McRae and Carlos Sainz into retirement, or into the desert. And although they are still round and black, tyres have also radically evolved.
Back in 1997, the factory drivers worked through some 250 tyres during the event, while individual quotas for 2007 are restricted to just 80 asphalt and 40 snow tyres. Ten years ago, factory drivers could choose between three different snow tyres, five dry asphalt tyres, two intermediates and one type of rain tyre. This time round, priority drivers will have the choice of one type of dry asphalt tyre, a single intermediate and one snow tyre. Despite this radically slimmer range, however, performance continues to be the overriding objective. Today's WRC tyres may be more versatile than their predecessors, but they are as competitive and durable as ever, if not more so.
Priority drivers had to nominate their snow (40) and asphalt (80) tyres on January 12 and 15 respectively. Of that total package of 120 tyres, drivers may use a maximum of 50 for the event (including shakedown). For the Monte Carlo Rally, three tread types are authorised: 'dry asphalt', 'wet asphalt' and 'snow'.
DANIEL ELENA'S LOCAL KNOWLEDGE!
The only front-runner to have prior knowledge of the Ardèche stages is Daniel Elena! Sébastien Loeb's current right-hand man actually contested the 1997 event as a driver in a Peugeot 106. He was dominating Class N1 when he retired.
BFGoodrich's partner teams did their Monte tyre testing in December and early January. Their numbers included Subaru. "The Subaru drivers were very pleased with our tyres," says Patrick Letort, BFGoodrich Chief Technician. "Our tests covered both gravel and asphalt. Solberg and Atkinson especially liked the excellent lateral grip and progressive performance of our asphalt range in conditions of low grip."
REMOTE SERVICE ZONE
An additional service park is scheduled after Friday's 46km stage. Drivers will be able to change tyres and refuel.
THE MONTE CARLO RALLY SEEN BY...
MARCUS GRÖNHOLM (FORD/BFGOODRICH)
"The conditions are so unpredictable that you can't drive flat. Tyres play a decisive role. Stage conditions can evolve so quickly and can be radically different to those in the service park."
MIKKO HIRVONEN (FORD/BFGOODRICH)
"Like all the drivers, I don't know any of the stages. We will need to take extremely precise pacenotes, especially for the first two stages. Tyre choices will again be crucial. When the thermometer dips to around the 0°C mark, it is difficult to know where ice has formed."
CHRIS ATKINSON (SUBARU/BFGOODRICH)
"Tyre choices will play a decisive role this season because everyone will be with BFGoodrich. These tyres are new to us but we have already learnt a great deal about them during the testing we have done so far and we worked very closely with the BFGoodrich technicians. We worked through the full range to get a thorough understanding of how they work. I feel very confident for the season ahead."
MATTHIEU BONARDEL, BFGoodrich Rallies Manager
"So much is new on this year's Monte Carlo Rally. To begin with, of course, there's the return to the Ardèche stages, the surface of which can be pretty punishing for the tyres in places. On top of that, Antraigues (46km) could well turn out to be one of the longest stages of the year and it promises to be extremely demanding in terms of durability. There are new cars too, and BFGoodrich will not be working with just one, but two of them: the Subaru and the new C4 WRC. Meanwhile, some of our tyres have also evolved since the 2006 event and, finally, Sunday's superspecial on the harbour side in Monaco will be run on snow tyres!"