WRC

Monte Carlo: Final summary

Marcus Gronholm and Timo Rautiainen claimed a masterful victory on their debut in the new Ford Focus RS World Rally Car on the Rallye Monte Carlo today. The BP-Ford World Rally Team duo triumphed on the legendary Monaco-based event, the opening...

Marcus Gronholm and Timo Rautiainen claimed a masterful victory on their debut in the new Ford Focus RS World Rally Car on the Rallye Monte Carlo today. The BP-Ford World Rally Team duo triumphed on the legendary Monaco-based event, the opening round of the FIA World Rally Championship, after three-days of demanding competition in treacherous ice and snow in the French Alps. Behind Gronholm, Sebastien Loeb (Citroen) completed a tremendous recovery to finish second after crashing on the opening day. The Frenchman overhauled Toni Gardemeister (Peugeot) on the final stage over the Col de Turini to lead home the Finn by 21.3sec. Gardemeister pulled clear of Manfred Stohl (Peugeot) to claim a comfortable podium with team-mates Stephane Sarrazin and Chris Atkinson completing the top six. Gilles Panizzi (Skoda) fell back to 10th after hitting a wall shortly after the Col de Turini and breaking his car's rear right suspension. However, he and team-mate Andreas Aigner claimed the final manufacturer points in 10th and 13th respectively.

Kronos Total Citroen

With 10 stage victories from the 16 that were run, Sebastien Loeb and his Monegasque co-driver Daniel Elena were once again quickest on the roads around Monte Carlo - as they have been for the last five years. After a sensational start to the rally, which seemed set to propel the reigning World Champions to a fourth consecutive Monte Carlo victory, they were forced to fight tooth and nail for a second place that was spectacularly taken in the last metres of the final stage.

Sebastien Loeb/Daniel Elena: "Of course I'm very disappointed to have made the mistake on Friday that dropped us down to eighth overall - especially for the team..I can only blame myself. On the other hand, I can honestly say that from the inside of the car this rally turned into a thrilling chase ; the sort of battle that I really like. It showed us that our Xsara can more than stand up to the opposition, and that my new team is working really well. It's a very good sign for the future."

Xavier Pons/Carlos Del Barrio: "For the first time today, I was pleased with my driving on ice with 'slick' tyres. I've been amazed by Seb's achievement, and I know that I will be able to learn a lot from him. Finally, I'd like to congratulate Dani Sordo, my friend and old rival in the Spanish Championship, on an excellent World Rally Car debut."

Dani Sordo/Marc Marti: "To be at the end of the rally with a second-fastest time in our pockets (SS10), one championship point, and an intact car is fantastic. Step by step I think I've learnt a lot since Friday and I can't wait to get to Sweden now to learn some more."

OMV-Peugeot Norway

The OMV Peugeot Norway WRT has met success already at the first run of the FIA World Rally Championship. Manfred Stohl and Ilka Minor gave a sensational performance and finished in excellent fourth overall place. They only missed 19,2 seconds on the podium.

Manfred Stohl/Ilka Minor: "We really tried our all on the last special stages to reach the podium. Unfortunately the spectators shoved too much snow onto the road on SS 16. We lost too much time there due to the slicks. But fourth place is a sensational start into the WRC, nevertheless. We got a grip on the Peugeot sooner than we'd thought. Bozian Racing did an excellent job. Though there is always room for some minor adjustments during the next rallies. The last two special stages are definitely a story to tell to my grandchildren"

Henning Solberg/Cato Menkerud: "It's a pity. We desperately wanted to contribute to the manufacturer's ranking. It was an extremely difficult rally for us since it was not only the first start in Monte Carlo but also the first WRC-run on tarmac. But the Peugeot 307 WRC is excellent and I'm sure that our performance will improve in Sweden."

BP-Ford

Marcus Gronholm and Timo Rautiainen claimed a masterful victory on their debut in the new Ford Focus RS World Rally Car on the Rallye Monte Carlo today. The BP-Ford World Rally Team duo triumphed on the legendary Monaco-based event, the opening round of the FIA World Rally Championship, after three-days of demanding competition in treacherous ice and snow in the French Alps. Their success, on the first fully competitive appearance for the 2006-specification Focus RS, was their 19th world rally victory, but their first on asphalt. It was Ford's first Rallye Monte Carlo success since 1994. BP-Ford team-mates Mikko Hirvonen and Jarmo Lehtinen finished seventh in another Focus RS as Ford powered into the lead of the manufacturers' standings after the first of the 16 rounds.

Marcus Gronholm/Timo Rautiainen: "This is the best feeling. I had a good lead and didn't need to get involved in a massive fight. It is my first win on asphalt, although it wasn't pure asphalt because there was so much ice and snow. It is fantastic to score so well on the first rally and I'm really looking forward to driving on the snow in Sweden on the next round."

Mikko Hirvonen/Jarmo Lehtinen: "The first stage this morning was great fun because there was a lot of snow and ice - but then I really hated the dry sections!" said Hirvonen. "I pushed hard in that stage because I had good confidence in those conditions, and not quite so hard in the other two. Once I moved into seventh, then I knew I could hold that position. It was a hard weekend and a good one, but it could have been better for me. Without problems and mistakes, I think fifth could have been possible, but considering all that and the weather, this is a really good result and a great start to the season."

Stobart VK M-Sport Ford

Cumbria's Matthew Wilson brought his Ford Focus RS WRC 04 to the finish of the Monte Carlo Rally on his first attempt this afternoon. The 18-year-old claimed a highly-credible 15th overall, despite never having tackled anything like the conditions he faced in the French Alps over the last three days.

Matthew Wilson/Michael Orr: "It's been such a long week for me. I was so nervous about this whole thing before the start. Once we got into it, it was okay. Once we got onto the ice and started to get through the stages, my confidence was coming. Now I feel much better. I'm actually quite glad the conditions were like they were. Obviously it would have been easier to come here and do a dry Monte, but we wouldn't have learned nearly as much. Now I just can't wait for Sweden!"

Pieter Tsjoen/ Eddy Chevalier: "Now I'm up to speed with this car, I can start to appreciate just how good it is. I'm really looking forward to the start of the Belgian Championship now, I think we'll be really competitive. I was really careful today, like I have been for all of the rally really. I wasn't going to risk everything and push like crazy when we could go off the road. I'm very happy with our finishing position."

555 Subaru

The Subaru World Rally Team had a successful end to the first rally of the season. Stephane Sarrazin finished the rally in fifth position, scoring valuable manufacturer points on the Subaru Impreza WRC2006s debut.

Petter Solberg/Phil Mills: Retired

Stephane Sarrazin/Stephane Prevot: "I'm very pleased that we've finished in the points on the first round of the championship and with a new car. It's good for me and for the team. Mechanically we've had no problems at all, but we were caught out by the weather on Friday and that cost us a lot of time. But it's a part of the game, this time we lost but next time we might win. It's been a very difficult rally, the grip is variable and driving in snow on slick tyres isn't easy, but I showed I can fight with the top drivers in these conditions and that's good for my confidence. In performance terms the car is a big step forward already and before Corsica and Catalunya I will test a lot so I should be very familiar with it by then."

Chris Atkinson/Glen MacNeall: "We're ecstatic really. When you look at it, coming to our first Monte Carlo, to finish in the top six and to have such a good result all weekend is fantastic. Glenn and I drove exactly according to our pre event plan, we learned a lot and we'll head to Sweden in a very positive frame of mind. Sweden was our first event with the team last year and we showed some good speed. The conditions suit me a bit better than the ones here and I'm looking forward to going back."

Red Bull-Skoda Team

A successful first run for Red Bull Skoda at the season opener in Monte Carlo: Having both cars finish, and both in a points-paying position for the manufacturers' championship, is very satisfactory to team managers Armin Schwarz and Raimund Baumschlager.

Gilles Panizzi/Herve Panizzi: "The modifications we made to the Skoda Fabia WRC yesterday evening really had a positive effect. This morning, we were able to set some very competitive times. Unfortunately we damaged the suspension and a brake disc in a small incident and lost a lot of time. After changing the rear axle, everything was back to normal in the afternoon. All in all we've got to be satisfied. We were able to prove the potential of the Skoda Fabia WRC not only in the beginning of the rally with a second place in the interim results, but today as well."

Andreas Aigner/Timo Gottschalk: "It was really fantastic. To drive the Skoda Fabia WRC through the narrow mountain stages around Monte Carlo was just breathtaking. We met our goal of finishing our first rally and we were able to gain a lot of experience on the way. To end up getting points for Red Bull Skoda in the manufacturers' championship is even more terrific."

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About this article
Series WRC
Drivers Stéphane Sarrazin , Gilles Panizzi , Marcus Gronholm , Petter Solberg , Sébastien Loeb , Hervé Panizzi , Timo Rautiainen , Manfred Stohl , Daniel Elena , Mikko Hirvonen , Marc Marti , Toni Gardemeister , Jarmo Lehtinen , Henning Solberg , Cato Menkerud , Ilka Minor , Xavier Pons , Matthew Wilson , Michael Orr , Chris Atkinson , Andreas Aigner , Timo Gottschalk , Raimund Baumschlager
Teams Citroën World Rally Team , M-Sport