Welcome to the first round of the 2001 season, the fifth year that World Rally Cars have been introduced in the FIA World Rally Championship. CHARACTER OF THE EVENT However much the format changes, the Monte-Carlo Rally retains its ...
Welcome to the first round of the 2001 season, the fifth year that World Rally Cars have been introduced in the FIA World Rally Championship.
CHARACTER OF THE EVENT
However much the format changes, the Monte-Carlo Rally retains its unique character. It is an asphalt event held on mountain roads in wintry conditions, in which advance information about the weather and correct predictions of the conditions at the time the cars will pass are essential for success.
NEW THIS YEAR
Entries limited to 60, mostly for logistic reasons (91 starters in 2000, 84 in 1999) though the entry list still carries a wide spread of competitors with experience ranging from full time professionals to once a year amateurs. Every evening the rally will return to Monte Carlo itself: no night halts in other towns. This is the first rally under the new standard time schedule, in which reconnaissance is held Monday through to Wednesday morning, Shakedown Wednesday afternoon and the start either Thursday afternoon (as on this event) or Friday morning.
FIA WORLD RALLY CHAMPIONSHIP NEWS
Basic championship rules this year are unchanged. Main variations are that both the Teams' Cup and the new Super 1600 series are run on six specific events for each series but Monte Carlo counts for neither. There is also a new FIA regulation that the range of asphalt tyres from which a crew can choose is limited to two basic types, as they are already on gravel events. In case of wintry conditions, as at Monte Carlo, a further two winter tyres are available for choice as well.
NEWS FROM THE TEAMS
PEUGEOT TOTAL (2000 FIA World Rally Manufacturers' Champion)
Didier Auriol and Gilles Panizzi. Also entered: Marcus Gronholm (2000 FIA World Rally Drivers Champion). Sponsor change for this year - Total replaces Esso. The cars will be in a new colour scheme which will still be predominantly grey. One extra new sponsor, the energy drink Dark Dog. Team drivers Auriol, Gronholm and Harri Rovanpera (absent from Monte Carlo) spent all the week preceding Monte Carlo testing in Sweden. First outing for the new HF Grifone Peugeot team, with Toni Gardemeister making a guest appearance.
FORD MOTOR COMPANY LIMITED
Colin McRae and Carlos Sainz. Also entered: Francois Delecour. Three of last year's cars have been brought up to RS WRC01 standard: main improvements are to the moving parts in the engines. "The biggest unknown factor for us", explained Focus WRCar project chief Gunther Steiner "is to see how the Pirellis work. Everything seemed good in testing - we cannot wait to get to Monte Carlo!"
SUBARU WORLD RALLY TEAM
Richard Burns and Markko Martin. Also entered: Petter Solberg "The new four-door Impreza WRC2001 looks externally like a rebodied 2000 car but apart from the engine, powertrain and suspension most of the car has also been improved," said Prodrive's Sporting Director David Lapworth. This will be the first outing for junior drivers Markko Martin and Petter Solberg as joint number two team members. This is a hark back to 1993 when Prodrive successfully ran tyros Richard Burns and Alister McRae in the British championship! ATTENTION: the competition numbers of the drivers at Monte Carlo have recently been changed, Martin is now running at 6 and Solberg at 18.
MARLBORO MITSUBISHI RALLIART
Tommi Makinen and Freddy Loix. Taking advantage of special vehicle regulations confirmed by the FIA World Council in December, the Lancer Evolution's rear bodywork has been modified in a way which allows more wheel travel to the suspension. This makes the Lancer (the only world championship car without McPherson rear suspension) less nervous and gives more progressive handling. The car now also uses a lighter flywheel which provides better response and more efficient gearshifting. Weather conditions in Monte Carlo testing were almost entirely dry. New car for Makinen, Makinen's Corsica car for Loix.
HYUNDAI CASTROL WORLD RALLY TEAM
Alister McRae and Piero Liatti. Two former 2000 cars. Main technical change is the introduction of active front differentials, fitted to both cars: rear differentials remain mechanical. The new front units improve corner turn-in and mid- corner driveability in addition to providing greater adjustability. Some engine mapping, but most variations waiting for introduction of an uprated version. This is the team's first Monte-Carlo Rally.
Armin Schwarz and Bruno Thiry. The insurance company Allianz will be team sponsor alongside Castrol. Two new cars to be run at Monte Carlo, featuring engine mapping changes which have led to improvements in both power and torque curves. Pre-Swedish Rally testing to be carried out before the Monte Carlo recce - in Austria.
AUTOMOBILES CITROEN (not contesting this event)
Once again their regular team drivers Philippe Bugalski and Jesus Puras will be present, entered privately, for the purpose of gaining on-event experience for the future. They drive Saxo Kit Cars.
OTHER TOP RUNNERS IN MONTE CARLO:
Strong presence in Group N despite many drivers not yet finalising their season's plans. Watch out this year for Gabriel Pozzo's new teammate Marcos Ligato, who replaces Claudio Menzi in the Cordoba Rally Team from Argentina. Ligato's codriver for Monte-Carlo is Galindo, not Daniel Stillo. There are also several top level 1600cc Citroen Saxo and Fiat Punto Kit Cars in 2000 specification.
The order for starting the first leg of the Monte Carlo Rally is expected to be the order the drivers finished the 2000 FIA World Rally Championship for Drivers. Marcus Gronholm carrying number one, although not nominated for Peugeot for scoring manufacturers' points, should therefore lead Richard Burns, Carlos Sainz, Colin McRae and the others. The competition numbers however are based on the order in which the teams were classified in the FIA series for Makes. For the Saturday and Sunday, it will be the usual system of running in classification order prevailing at that time. ~ Thursday 18th January is the day of the official start, but the first special stages will not be held until the following day.
Monte Carlo still enjoys its 'marathon' image, in relation to the total length of the event. In the context of world rallying, only the Safari and the Catalunya events are longer. Safari excepted, all rallies have a total special stage distance of around 400km.
Give a welcome to Markko Martin, the youngest ever regular world championship driver. At the start of the rally he will be 25 years 2 months. Colin McRae's first regular world championship drive was at Monte Carlo in 1994 when he was 25 years 5 months old, Richard Burns began his championship career with many occasional works drives but his first regular appearance was in 1998 at the age of 27. These are relatively new records, because before 1994 few teams made regular entries on championship events. Richard Burns, incidentally, celebrates his 30th birthday on the day of the Shakedown for this event.
Rallying is an older sport than most people realise. The Rallye Monte Carlo was first run in 1911, 90 years ago. No, they haven't seen ghosts! The Winter Challenge, run by the Classic Rally Association, passes through Rallye Monte-Carlo territory during the reconnaissance period, pausing at Castellane on the night of Wednesday 17th. Plenty of historic rally cars, looking just like they used to do! The organisers' own classic Monte Carlo Rally will be held at the end of January.