Triumph for Loeb, CitroÃ«n and Michelin in Monte Carlo hen SÃ©bastien Loeb finished second with CitroÃ«n-Michelin in last October's Sanremo Rally - his first ever World Championship outing in a factory WRC car - the rally world was forced to sit...
Triumph for Loeb, Citroën and Michelin in Monte Carlo hen Sébastien Loeb finished second with Citroën-Michelin in last October's Sanremo Rally - his first ever World Championship outing in a factory WRC car - the rally world was forced to sit up and take notice.
This weekend, the Citroën driver has confirmed all the promise shown in Italy with an emphatic win on the 2002 Monte Carlo. For Michelin, this was its fifth consecutive triumph on the winter classic and its eighth in ten years. However, the results will only become official after the FIA decides whether the threat of a 2m penalty inflicted on Loeb after a servicing infringement on Saturday evening will be enforced or not.
It has very nearly been a fairy-tale weekend for Citroën-Michelin driver Sébastien Loeb. On only his second World Championship event in a top WRC car, the Alsace-based youngster succeeded in winning the celebrated Monte Carlo Rally after leading from the afternoon of Day 1 to the finish. And for obvious reasons, the podium champagne also had a very special flavour for Loeb's Monaco born-and-bred co-driver Daniel Elena. The crew can take added satisfaction from the fact that the man they beat today was none other than Tommi Mäkinen, winner of three consecutive Montes with Mitsubishi-Michelin in 1999, 2000 and 2001! To have successfully shrugged off the constant pressure from the four-times World Champion to triumph by the significant margin of over 45 seconds speaks volumes for Loeb's maturity and assurance as well as for the performance potential of his Citroën-Michelin package.
Yet while the crew's supremacy over the three-day competition in the French Alps cannot be contested, there remains a lingering doubt concerning the final classification of the season's championship's opener. It will be necessary to wait until the next meeting of the FIA World Council to know the answer to that one, since a possible 2-minute penalty hangs over the head of the Frenchman. His team changed wheels during the short service halt before parc fermé at the end of Day 2, an infringement according to the rulebook, but the French make is questioning the severity of the punishment. Should the decision go against him, Loeb will still take the silver medal since Carlos Sainz (Ford) finished the event in third position... but just over 2 minutes down on the Frenchman.
Meanwhile, the Spaniard's teammate Colin McRae finally came out on top in his fight for 4th place with Peugeot-Michelin's Marcus Grönholm (5th). Indeed, Peugeot will be delighted to see all three of its cars reach the finish after the team's premature disappearance from the leaderboard on this event in 2000 and 2001. In the end, the "Lions" finished with two cars in the points, with Gilles Panizzi overcoming a heavy time penalty for lateness out of first service on the opening leg after an emergency differential change following an hydraulic leak.
THE FACTS BEHIND MICHELIN'S 5th CONSECUTIVE MONTE VICTORY...
(*) Michelin tyres led the Monte Carlo Rally with the Citroën of Sébastien Loeb from Special Stage 4 until the finish. The margin between the Frenchman and his closest rival at the flag was 45.9 seconds. On such complex events as the Monte Carlo Rally, and indeed on many WRC events today, performance over a group of stages has become more significant than individual stage results. Tyres are selected as a function of the conditions over the full length of a group of stages and it is not rare for the driver who makes the most competitive choice not to set fastest individual times.
Loeb (Citroën-Michelin) was fastest over the 2nd (SS3/4), 3rd (SS5), 4th (SS6/7), 6th (SS9/10) and 7th (SS11/12) groups of stages. [The second stage of the first group was cancelled; Tommi Mäkinen's Subaru was fastest on the 5th group (although Loeb was fastest over the same stages shortly afterwards after a change of tyre choice and suspension modifications); Loeb could afford to relax on the 8th and final group of stages.] Michelin's unbeaten run of five Monte Carlo wins also includes the three victories of Tommi Mäkinen (Mitsubishi-Michelin) in 1999, 2000 and 2001, plus Carlos Sainz's victory in 1998.
(*) Pending result of appeal.