Sebastien Loeb (Citroen) claimed his third consecutive Monte Carlo Rally success. The Frenchman set eight fastest times on his way to victory by 2min 58.3sec. The three-way fight for second between Gardemeister, Petter Solberg (Subaru) and...
Sebastien Loeb (Citroen) claimed his third consecutive Monte Carlo Rally success. The Frenchman set eight fastest times on his way to victory by 2min 58.3sec. The three-way fight for second between Gardemeister, Petter Solberg (Subaru) and Marcus Grönholm (Peugeot) ended just a couple of bends after the famous Col de Turini this morning. Both Solberg and Gronholm crashed at the same place on snow thrown onto the road by spectators. Both ripped wheels from their cars and while Grönholm was able to limp through the stage, albeit losing five minutes, the Norwegian had to retire. Ironically he had looked the likely winner of the battle, having just moved ahead of Gardemeister and closing fast on Grönholm. The carnage promoted Panizzi to third, despite clutch difficulties that prompted the Frenchman to believe he might not see the finish. Markko Märtin (Peugeot) kept clear of trouble to finish fourth on his debut for the French team. Ninth place was good enough for Alex Bengue (Skoda) to claim the final manufacturers' point on his works debut.
For the third year in a row, Sébastien Loeb, his Monaco-born co-driver Daniel Elena and the Citroën Xsara have triumphed in rallying's oldest and most prestigious fixture. In addition to leading from start to finish and claiming the highest number of stage wins, they put in a faultless run to add panache to their incontestable success, the eleventh of their career together.
Sébastien Loeb / Daniel Elena: "I was perhaps happier after the 2002 event because it was all so new. I made a name for myself that year by dominating the others until a time penalty dropped me to 2nd place. Ever since, this rally has been good to me. Each time I take the start I am as motivated as ever and I'm certainly not tired of winning. There's something special about this event: it's the most famous rally of them all and it's where my co-driver Daniel comes from. And I couldn't have got my 2005 campaign off to a better start."
Francois Duval / Stephane Prevot: Retired on leg two (accident)
Petter Solberg made an excellent start in Monte Carlo this morning by taking two stage wins and moving up the leaderboard into third position. Unfortunately a small mistake on a snow-covered corner cost him dearly and he retired from the event after losing a wheel. On his WRC debut with the Subaru Team, Stéphane Sarrazin continued to impress on the stages and time sheets. Re-starting today's Leg in 24th position, he recovered ten places in just six stages.
Petter Solberg / Phil Mills: "I'm extremely disappointed. It seems like this sort of luck is with me every time in Monte Carlo. No mistakes all rally, we're catching up places, everything's perfect and then this. What's so frustrating is that I was so close to getting a good result and wasn't pushing over the limit. You'd never try anything at that point, it's always slippery, I just made a mistake, braked too late and got caught out - it's as simple as that."
Stephane Sazzazin/Patrick Pivato: "I'm still unhappy about yesterday's crash, but overall I feel I have improved a lot this weekend and have learned a good deal. The Monte Carlo is a difficult rally for every driver and I finished it only because of the re-start regulation. I'm grateful for that because it helped me to understand more about the car and get experience of the range of tyres and how they work in these conditions. Using slick tyres on dry tarmac, then ice and snow is something that takes a lot of getting used to. I know much more about the team now and am excited about getting to Sweden, my last time on the test was good, I like the snow and I'm keen to get out there and learn more."
Ford claimed an early lead in the FIA World Rally Championship after Toni Gardemeister and Jakke Honkanen finished second on their debut for the BP-Ford team in the Monte Carlo Rally today. A career-best result for Gardemeister and eighth place for team-mates Roman Kresta and Jan Tomanek, both behind the wheel of Focus RS World Rally Cars, thrust Ford into a share of top spot after the first of the 16-round series.
Toni Gardemeister/Jakke Honkanen: "I'm so, so happy. It is a great result for us and to achieve it so early in the season makes it even better. We had a good fight with Petter and Marcus but when I heard that they had problems, then I knew it would be OK. I saw Petter's car off the road and we lost some time at his accident. They had pushed it back onto the road and I had to stop briefly and stalled the engine. For both cars to score points on the first rally is a great start for the team. My confidence with the Focus has increased with every kilometre and this result has been achieved without making a single mistake."
Roman Kresta/Jan Tomanek: "Today has been very good. I had a much better feeling with the car. I was so sorry for my mistake last night but at least I was able to come back and score points for Ford. It's a really positive weekend for the whole team. Today was a new day and a new race. Yesterday was a small mistake for me but a big mistake for the result. I've driven better today. I didn't push, I just drove smoothly and that's the best way to drive the Focus."
The two Peugeot 307 WRCs of Markko Martin and Marcus Gronholm have finally finished fourth and fifth on the Monte Carlo Rally - but the team was unlucky to miss out on their best result in the Principality after a dramatic end to the event.
Marcus Gronhölm / Timo Rautiainen: "I came over the Col de Turini, which was damp but without snow or ice. I had a good feeling with the car and I was able to attack on the descent towards Le Moulinet. On the first tight right-hand corner, I found myself on a sheet of snow - which had been put there by spectators. I couldn't avoid hitting a rock on the outside of the bend and damaging my car's front right suspension. I managed to get to the end of the stage and to service in Monaco on time - despite only having three wheels! Thankfully the team fixed my car and I was able to finish, but it should have been on the podium."
Markko Martin/Michael Park: "I've learnt a lot about the car on this event, and there are some things which I am going to change which will help me in the future. It's been quite difficult to get used to the dimensions of the 307 WRC, as it has a slightly different feeling to cars I have driven in the past. However, my initial impressions are very positive and I am happy to get to the end of the rally with no problems. Monte Carlo is always a very unpredictable event, so I was pleased to steer clear of trouble!"
The Skoda Motorsport World Rally Team began its 2005 World Rally Championship programme with ninth place for Alex Bengue at the Monte Carlo Rally, a result that brought one Manufacturers' Championship point. This was Alex's second Monte Carlo Rally and the first in a WRC car but he showed great pace, especially on the second day when he scored two stage victories. By the finish of the event he had added a third fastest stage time and seven more top 10 results.
Armin Schwarz/Klaus Wicha: (Retired - accident) "I am still in quite a lot of discomfort, as you can imagine, but thankfully the injury isn't as bad as it could have been. I will have to wear a cast on my arm for a few more days but then I will discuss with my doctors what the next step will be."
Alex Bengue/Caroline Escudero: "The roads today were much more dirty and slippery than yesterday so I could not attack as hard as before. Also spectators had thrown snow onto the road on the Col du Turini and this made it very dangerous on the col and at the start of the downhill section. Overall I am very pleased with this result because we achieved what we set out to do on this rally. We had very good speed in the right conditions but I am sorry to have had the problem on yesterday's final stage. Without it I could possibly have finished fifth or even fourth on this rally."
The Mitsubishi Lancer WRC05 made a highly-successful debut in the 2005 FIA World Rally Championship and, in the hands of French Tarmac experts Gilles and Hervé Panizzi, claimed third position - the Lancer WRCs best-ever result and the team's first podium placing since the 2001 Safari Rally. Team newcomers Harri Rovanperä and Risto Pietiläinen also fulfilled the team's objective of reaching the finish of one of the toughest events in the championship and they too claimed points for themselves and Mitsubishi by finishing seventh in their first Tarmac rally in three years.
Harri Rovanpera/Risto Pietiläinen: "To have two cars at the finish, both in the points and Gilles and Hervé on the podium is fantastic. It has been a long time since I drove on Tarmac but it has gone quite well for us. I am now looking forward to Sweden with more confidence. We have a good set-up and hopefully there will be good winter conditions where we can fight."
Gilles Panizzi/Herve Panizzi: "For me, I said before that it was important for my team; they needed this success and now they and everyone else can see that Mitsubishi is back. Today we have arrived! This result is very important for everyone's confidence and I feel good that the mechanics and engineers have something to be very proud about. I have driven good cars here in the past, but I have never achieved such a result. To finish third, at home, and more importantly on the most famous event in the championship is incredible. Monte- Carlo is Monte-Carlo; I feel fantastic!"
Round two of the FIA World Rally Championship starts in three weeks' time when teams head north for Rally Sweden. Beginning on Friday 11 February, following a ceremonial start in the host town of Karlstad the previous evening, Rally Sweden is the only winter rally of the series and presents crews with a spectacular but bitterly cold environment - in previous years the temperature during the rally has dropped to -30°C. Over three days, drivers will contest 359.87 competitive kilometres based around the service park in the town of Hagfors, 80km north of Karlstad's Rally HQ. The first stage will start at 0900hrs on Friday 11 February and the last at 1259hrs on Sunday 13 February.