Monte Carlo: Final report

70th Rally of Monte Carlo Round 1 of the 2002 FIA World Rally Championship 17 - 20 January 2002 Rallye Monte Carlo: Loeb wins! Sunday, 20 January 2002 Citroen driver Sebastien Loeb and navigator Daniel Elena sprayed the victory champagne on...

70th Rally of Monte Carlo
Round 1 of the 2002 FIA World Rally Championship
17 - 20 January 2002

Rallye Monte Carlo: Loeb wins!
Sunday, 20 January 2002

Citroen driver Sebastien Loeb and navigator Daniel Elena sprayed the victory champagne on the opening round of the 2002 FIA World Rally Championship, the Rallye Monte Carlo. But their celebrations could be short-lived, since they will depend on the result of Citroen's appeal against a two-minute penalty for changing tyres in the wrong service area. Depending on the result of the FIA Court of Appeal, victory - and the resulting ten points in the drivers' world championship - could yet be handed to Subaru driver Tommi Mäkinen, who finished second on the timesheets.

Loeb's penalty - incurred at yesterday's final 12-minute service - overshadowed today's action, which took place in clear but cold conditions. Mäkinen backed off by early afternoon, believing that the penalty will stand and that he will thus be promoted to first place. Behind the leading pair, Carlos Sainz finished third for Ford, while his team-mate Colin McRae inched ahead of Peugeot driver Marcus Grönholm to claim fourth.

Technical: The Xsara WRC of Sebastien Loeb has run without major technical problems today.

Sporting: Sebastien Loeb started today's final four stages with a lead of nearly half a minute over Tommi Mäkinen, but he also knew that he had been penalised two minutes after his Citroen service crew broke the regulations by mistakenly changing tyres in yesterday evening's short service. The matter is now under appeal, but Loeb maintained his pace anyway to stay ahead of Mäkinen and - for the time being at least - claim his first ever win at World Rally Championship level.

Quotes: Sebastien Loeb said: "It's an incredible feeling. I don't really know what to say. It was very difficult against Tommi - I had to push very hard all the time. But in my mind I have won this rally. I don't care what happens with the penalty now - in the eyes of the drivers and the spectators the fight is won on the stages, and we won that fight."

Citroen Sport Team Principal Guy Frequelin said: "We made a mistake - I accept responsibility for that. But in my view it was a minor mistake. I am happy for Citroen, for Sebastien and for Daniel."

Technical: The Impreza WRC2002s of Tommi Mäkinen and Petter Solberg have run without problems today, although Solberg in particular struggled to get any heat into his tyres on this morning's second stage.

Sporting: Tommi Mäkinen pinched a few seconds from Sebastien Loeb on this morning's first stage but then backed off, believing that the Frenchman's two-minute penalty will be applied and that he will duly be promoted to first overall. His team-mate Petter Solberg didn't relax until the final corner, though - the young Norwegian was fastest on three of today's four stages as he consolidated his sixth position and by the finish, he was less than half a minute adrift of 2000 world champion Marcus Grönholm.

Quotes: Tommi Mäkinen said: "At the moment it's not a good feeling. We were all prepared this morning to make it difficult for Sebastien - we knew the conditions would be perfect for us and our Pirelli tyres. But then we heard that we didn't need to push any more so we backed off. At the end of the rally they told us that there were no time penalties. It's a big disappointment at the moment. The whole thing is out of my hands - we have to wait and see what's going on."

Petter Solberg said: "I must say I've been quite pleased with my driving here. This morning's first stage was good but the second was really hard - I struggled to get any heat into my tyres. I've also noticed lots of places where I've had too much ice marked in my pacenotes and been too cautious as a result. I know I can come back next year and win this rally."

Subaru World Rally Team Sporting Director George Donaldson said: "I have every confidence in the stewards and the FIA. I believe that the original decision that was posted on the official noticeboard was a sound one, and the FIA Court of Appeal has a very good record of supporting sound decisions."

Technical: The Focus RS WRC02s of Carlos Sainz, Colin McRae and Markko Martin have been reliable today.

Sporting: Carlos Sainz charged on all four of today's stages, for two reasons. The Spaniard was hoping to build a cushion over fourth placed Marcus Grönholm - a goal that he achieved. But he was also aiming to close to within two minutes of leader Sebastien Loeb, in case Citroen's appeal against the Frenchman's two-minute penalty is unsuccessful. He came close, but by the finish the Spaniard was 2m 01.6s behind his young rival. Colin McRae was another to push hard today, as he tried to pass 2000 world champion Marcus Grönholm and recover to fourth after his engine problems yesterday evening. The Scot managed to pass the Finn with a stage to spare, and he consolidated his position on the last test to score three points on a rally he openly dislikes. Markko Martin, meanwhile, lost time this morning when he picked too soft a tyre compound. The Estonian still complied with his team's instructions to finish, though - he claimed 12th.

Quotes: Colin McRae said: "Obviously it's good to get some points on the opening round of the championship, but I'm also a little disappointed. Third place was looking quite possible until our problems last night (McRae had an engine misfire on the day's last stage) and although the difference is only a point, it could decide a lot by the end of the season. Today we tried to get past Marcus (Grönholm) and we managed that with a stage to go."

Carlos Sainz said: "We're quite happy. At the beginning of the rally we were worried about the French cars because it looked like it was going to be dry and we remember how we suffered on the asphalt last year. But the cars have gone well, the tyres have worked well and we've scored some good points for the team. It's a good start."

Technical: The 206 WRCs of Marcus Grönholm, Richard Burns and Gilles Panizzi have run without major problems today.

Sporting: Marcus Grönholm started today's stages knowing that he'd have to fight off a charging Colin McRae if he wanted to hold onto his overnight fourth position. He started badly, ceding more than 15s to his rival in the first pair of stages. Grönholm opted for a safe tyre choice

Quotes: Marcus Grönholm said: "In the end, I was possibly a bit cautious on my tyre choice. I thought it would be slightly damper so I went for a softer compound, but the roads had dried out quite a lot and the car was moving around because of the tyres. I'm not so disappointed, though - Peugeot really wanted to finish this rally this year and even though we can see we have some work to do, we've at least scored a couple of points."

Richard Burns said: "It would have been nice to get a couple of points but it's not a disaster. A disaster would have been retiring on the first day and not learning anything. Instead, we've learnt a hell of a lot and the good thing is that all three of the drivers here have been able to point at what needs to be done."

Gilles Panizzi said: "I don't understand why but even though the car and tyre choice have been better today, I still haven't been able to do the fastest times. I haven't been able to do that all rally, in fact. I think we need to work on a few things on the car on asphalt."

Technical: The Lancer Evolution WRCs of Alister McRae and Francois Delecour have been reliable today, although the Frenchman was not entirely satisfied with his centre differential settings.

Sporting: Francois Delecour and Alister McRae both started today's stages with little to really gain apart from extra mileage and more knowledge of their Lancer WRC's settings. So they concentrated on that, experimenting again with dampers and differentials. Delecour remained unsure of whether his centre differential was locking enough, but he still kept his Lancer in a relatively lonely ninth position. McRae - still annoyed at himself after last night's accident - finished in 14th.

Quotes: Francois Delecour said: "It's been okay today but we do need to work on this car's handling on the bumpier roads. The engine is good and the car itself feels very strong, but we could do with going to Corsica quite soon to find some better settings for the bumps."

Alister McRae said: "It's been a difficult rally. Monte Carlo's not really a nice place to learn a new car, and I'm still disappointed to have gone off last night. But we've got a lot of directions to go in with the car now, and a lot of work to do. There's not a lot of time before Corsica but I'm hopeful we can do some more testing work on asphalt before then. And I think we'll be closer to the pace in Sweden anyway."

Technical: Kenneth Eriksson's and Toni Gardemeister's Octavias have not hit any significant mechanical problems today.

Sporting: Toni Gardemeister consolidated his overnight 10th place today, bringing his Octavia to the finish on his first drive for the Czech manufacturer. Kenneth Eriksson believed that his suspension was too hard for this morning's opening pair of stages but the Swede was generally satisfied to finish 13th after a long break from asphalt rallying.

Quotes: Toni Gardemeister said: "I'm quite pleased to finish in the top ten on my first drive for the team. We had a few problems - we lost some power when I flattened the exhaust yesterday - but generally it's gone well. We're still learning more about the car in the changing conditions but it's quite a promising start. I'm looking forward to Sweden now."

Kenneth Eriksson said: "I think our suspension was maybe a bit too stiff this morning. The car felt quite good on the dry roads but as soon as there was a bit of damp, it seemed to be very slippery. I actually felt that I was driving well but at the end of the stages, the times weren't so good. Perhaps that's down to just a general lack of traction. It hasn't been a bad event for us, although it would have been nice to get into the top ten. Our car has been pretty reliable, with only the little gearbox problem on the first day to worry us. And I'm quite out-of-practice rallying on asphalt, too - you have to have a good feeling for the surface if you're going to be quick and committed here in Monte Carlo."

Ford Puma driver Francois Duval has scored a comfortable victory in the opening round of the FIA World Junior Rally Championship. The Belgian and his navigator Jean-Marc Fortin grabbed the top spot yesterday evening when leader Gianluigi Galli crashed his Fiat, and the pair consolidated their advantage during today's tests to win the 1600cc, front-wheel drive category by more than four minutes.

Italian Nicola Caldani brought his Peugeot 206 home to claim second place points, ahead of Lebanese driver Roger Feghali.


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Series WRC
Teams Citroën World Rally Team