Delecour & McRae learn on tricky season-opener The Marlboro Mitsubishi Ralliart crews of FranÃ§ois Delecour/Daniel Grataloup and Alister McRae/David Senior finished the 70th Rallye Monte-Carlo in ninth and 14th positions respectively in their ...
Delecour & McRae learn on tricky season-opener
The Marlboro Mitsubishi Ralliart crews of François Delecour/Daniel Grataloup and Alister McRae/David Senior finished the 70th Rallye Monte-Carlo in ninth and 14th positions respectively in their debut competitive outings in the Lancer Evolution WRC. On the surface of it, Citroen's Sebastien Loeb has taken outright honours, although an appeal against a two minute penalty imposed this morning leaves some doubt over the Frenchman's maiden victory.
In the FIA World Rally Championship, the provisional standings see Sebastien Loeb heading the leaderboard with a maximum 10 points, with Tommi Makinen and Carlos Sainz finishing second and third respectively. Whoever the outright victor of the rally, Subaru takes the maximum 10 points in the Manufacturers' Championship with Tommi Makinen, being that Citroen is not eligible for points due to its limited 2002 programme. Ford and Peugeot were the only other manufacturers to score points and lie second and third respectively.
The final leg of the event was again based around the famous swimming pool complex on the Monaco Grand Prix circuit, from here the crews heading north for just four stages and 98 competitive kilometres. Just 26 of the original 55 crews re-started and while the skies were clear and thousands of spectators basked in bright sunshine, road conditions were still treacherous with stretches of dry tarmac interspersed with damp patches and sheet ice. Today's route also included two runs over the famous Turini stage, spectators camping out overnight and setting up impromptu barbecues to ensure they missed none of the high speed action.
François Delecour and Daniel Grataloup maintained position during the final day of competition, the French crew still learning the Lancer Evolution WRC and playing with settings to optimise the handling in different situations. "The second stage this morning was very bumpy and maybe our suspension set-up was a bit too hard", said François. "It was also really slippery with no margin for error. We were expecting to be higher up the leaderboard, but two cars at the finish with no problems is a good start. The car is very strong and the engine is very good, so we just need to work quickly to improve it for Corsica. We'll see about Sweden; Alister was very happy on the test but sometimes it's difficult to gauge a point of reference to other cars during testing. I'm disappointed our position is not better, but happy that I can see the potential".
Team-mates Alister McRae and David Senior simply drove for a finish today, the British pair losing significant time last night when they hit a wall and damaged the rear suspension. With only one previous outing under his belt, completing this year's Rallye Monte-Carlo and gaining experience of all the stages was Alister's main goal.
"It's good to get to the end of our first rally with the team, although a very tough first event and a difficult one to learn the car on. I was very disappointed to lose time yesterday but we now have some more parts on the way for testing and I'm sure we can make the car more competitive on asphalt by Corsica. I think we should be much closer to the pace when we get to Sweden".
Marlboro Mitsubishi Ralliart team manager Derek Dauncey added: "Basically we expected typical Monte Carlo conditions which is what we had when we tested and had set the car up for. However it was a very mild event with hardly any snow and so the set-up didn't really suit the rally conditions. We're carrying out more intensive testing prior to Corsica using some new parts that have been in production. We've got a lot of good informaiton from this event, the weight reduction has obviously helped us and we know from the data that the engine is performing very competitively".
Sebastien Loeb (Citroen), the sensation of the rally, led the crews across the finish ramp for the first time in his World Rally Championship career, however the results remain in doubt. Late last night a two minute penalty was imposed on the French driver for illegally changing tyres and, while Automobiles Citroen has lodged an appeal, the penalty was not taken into account and it's possible a final decision at the FIA's Court of Appeal could take up to 40 days. Provisionally Tommi Makinen (Subaru) then finishes second, a potentially historic four consecutive Rallye Monte-Carlo victories and the unprecedented 24th World Championship rally win hanging in the balance until the FIA's decision has been made. Carlos Sainz (Ford) takes the third podium position while team-mate Colin McRae powered into a last-minute fourth in the second Focus. Surprisingly Peugeot's highest finisher was Marcus Gronholm in fifth, while young Norwegian Petter Solberg (Subaru) clinched the last point with a great drive. In general it was a trouble-free run for most of the crews, the deficits too great to overhaul in most instances.
The FIA World Rally Championship now moves from Monte-Carlo to the snowy forests of Sweden for the only true winter event and one of the fastest rallies in the calendar, the Uddeholm Swedish Rally (31 January-3 February).
9 F.DELECOUR / D.GRATALOUP F MITSUBISHI LANCER 4.05.06.4 +6.21.6
14 A.McRAE / D.SENIOR GB MITSUBISHI LANCER 188.8.131.52 +12.13.5