Sebastien Ogier's thrilling comeback stopped in its tracks In rallying, perhaps more than in any other form of motor sport, being the fastest driver doesn't always suffice to win, as Sebastien Ogier found out the hard way on this week's...
Sebastien Ogier's thrilling comeback stopped in its tracks
In rallying, perhaps more than in any other form of motor sport, being the fastest driver doesn't always suffice to win, as Sebastien Ogier found out the hard way on this week's Rallye Monte-Carlo. After claiming just one stage win en route to his sensational victory on the same event this time last year, the Frenchman ended up as the driver with the highest number of fastest times (seven) to his name this time round, yet he was deprived of a second consecutive success as a result of two separate incidents that weren't of his making.
The start of competitive action on Wednesday saw Ogier drop more than two minutes after an off caused by snow thrown onto the stage by spectators. "Reports from the stage said that grip was good from start to finish, so I opted for BFGoodrich's dry weather tyre. Unfortunately, I came across a patch of snow that wasn't there when my ice-note crew went through. It took me totally by surprise, and there was no way I was going to survive the incident unscathed..."
The setback dropped the Frenchman to eight position overall, but it also marked the beginning of an exciting comeback: by the time competitors lined up for the last loop of two stages on Friday night, the 207 S2000 driver had fought his way back up to second spot after recovering some two-thirds of the initial deficit lost to the early pace-setter, Finland's Mikko Hirvonen.
"When I headed out from the service park in Monaco for the last two stages of the rally, I had every intention of pulling out all the stops to try to win, but a red light suddenly lit up on my dashboard."
That warning indicated that his alternator was no longer charging, a problem later traced to a failure of the shaft of the pulley that keeps the belt taut. It was the first time in the 207 S2000's three-year career that such a defect had been encountered and, despite the fact that it was only a minor problem, it was sufficient to bring Ogier's run to a halt.
"It was hugely disappointing, but I'm still proud to have succeeded in demonstrating that the Peugeot 207 S2000 is still the most competitive car in its category."
In the end, the best-placed 207 S2000 at the finish was that of Stephane Sarrazin who completed the distance in fourth place after he, too, had suffered his fair share of trouble...
"I'm not looking for excuses, but my run took successive blows when I picked up a puncture on Wednesday before going off on Thursday morning. It wasn't a great result for me, personally, but I'm glad that I kept it going to bring Peugeot its first Manufacturers' points of the 2010 IRC season."
Following the final night retirement of Franz Wittmann, who clouted a wall three stages from home, the second-best Peugeot in the final overall standings was that of Portugal's Bruno Magalhaes who took seventh place.
"It was my first attempt at the Rallye Monte-Carlo. I had never driven on either ice or snow before, and I had no idea of how my studded snow tyres would perform, so it's great to have come through it all to finish in the points. This result has got my 2010 IRC programme off to a flying start!"
The IRC calendar continues in March with two rounds in South America, in Brazil and Argentina. The list of 207 S2000s that will contest these events includes the car of outgoing IRC champ Kris Meeke whose run on the Rallye Monte-Carlo came to a premature halt after an off.
"It was entirely my fault. I was just too late onto the brakes on one particular portion of ice. That said, I had enough time in the car to confirm that my Peugeot is still a very, very competitive machine. That's why I don't want to make a big fuss about my off. I still have another 11 rounds to profit from the 207 S2000's speed and try to defend my title."
Although their results on the opening encounter of this year's IRC failed to match their expectations, the Peugeot drivers remain upbeat about their chances and about the competitiveness of their car. Peugeot Sport Olivier Quesnel, who attended the event, made no attempt to conceal his disappointment:
"Even though his chances of winning were slim, we decided o ask Sebastien Ogier to keep up the pressure all the way to the end. It's just a shame he didn't make it that far. Like last year, he was impressively quick, very solid, and did justice to his reputation as one of France's brightest hopes for the future. I would also like to pay tribute to the two fastest times posted by Stephane Sarrazin on the final night. They did his morale a great deal of good after his difficult start to the event."
The second round of the 2010 IRC is Brazil's Rallye de Curitiba which takes place on March 4-6.