Reigning world champion SÃ©bastien Loeb (Citroen) began the defence of his title in style with his fourth Rallye Monte Carlo success on the competition debut of the French's manufacturer's C4 car. His winning margin was 38.2sec over team-mate...
Reigning world champion Sébastien Loeb (Citroen) began the defence of his title in style with his fourth Rallye Monte Carlo success on the competition debut of the French's manufacturer's C4 car. His winning margin was 38.2sec over team-mate Dani Sordo and marked a successful return to the championship for the official factory team after a 12-month sabbatical. Behind Grönholm, fourth place for Chris Atkinson (Subaru) was a good result on his first asphalt rally in the team's 2006 car, beating Hirvonen by just 0.2s in the process! Team-mate Petter Solberg rounded off the top six. Tenth place for Manfred Stohl (Citroen) and 14th for Henning Solberg (Ford) were sufficient to take the final manufacturers' points for the OMV Kronos Citroen and Stobart M-Sport Ford teams respectively.
BP-Ford World Rally Team drivers Marcus Grönholm and Timo Rautiainen delivered a successful start to the FIA World Rally Championship season for the reigning manufacturers' champions by taking a podium finish on the Rallye Monte Carlo today. The Finns finished third in a Focus RS World Rally Car after four days of tough driving on the most famous rally in the calendar.
Team-mates Mikko Hirvonen and Jarmo Lehtinen finished fifth in a similar Focus RS to ensure a strong start to the season for the BP-Ford team, which lies second in the manufacturers' standings. They were edged out of fourth by just 0.2sec after a thrilling battle with Chris Atkinson was concluded on this morning's final speed test around the harbour of Monaco's Grand Prix circuit.
Marcus Grönholm/Timo Rautiainen: "It didn't seem like the Rallye Monte Carlo because the weather was so strange. It seemed more like a really difficult asphalt rally with the wrong tyres. There wasn't such a big difference between my pace and that of Seb compared with last year. It was a shame we had a gearbox problem on Friday but our time loss wasn't so great," he added.
Mikko Hirvonen/Jarmo Lehtinen: "I'm really disappointed to lose fourth but happy with the way the weekend went. I enjoyed a brilliant fight with Chris and just lost out. But full credit to him, he won fair and square. We struggled a little throughout the rally with our set-up and tyres. I really wanted fourth but this is a solid start to the championship and although I feel disappointed now, it's a good result and one I would have been happy with before the start."
This morning's superspecial on the harbour-front in Monaco put the final seal on an emphatic one-two result on the 2007 Monte Carlo Rally for the Citroën C4 WRC thanks to Sébastien Loeb/Daniel Elena and Dani Sordo/Marc Martí.
Sebastien Loeb/Daniel Elena: "Today's result is a great reward for everyone at Citroën Sport. It's really fantastic because there were so many unknowns before the start, what with the new C4, my arm, our rivals and the new stages. I also knew it wouldn't be easy against Dani Sordo who had a great run. It's nice to have won the Monte for a fourth time and we couldn't have dreamed of a better start to the season. To have finished 1st and 2nd will be a huge morale-booster for the team. We've risen successfully to the challenge on asphalt, now fresh challenges await us on snow and dirt."
Dani Sordo/Marc: "If someone had told me I would finish on the podium first time out with the Citroën C4 WRC, I probably wouldn't have believed them. Finishing 2nd on the Monte Carlo Rally is like a dream! I don't want to get carried away, though, and I will approach the next round - Sweden - as though it was the first outing of the year. Sébastien is a World Champion and I am not here to try to beat him, but to learn and progress."
In front of tens of thousands of fans and a live television audience, Chris Atkinson was the star of the Monaco Superspecial, setting the fastest time around the stage and also snatching fourth place in the overall standings by just two-tenths of a second.
Petter Solberg/Phil Mills: "It was good fun, really good fun, the stage was very impressive and I really hope the people here enjoyed watching it as much as we did driving! These stages are all about putting on a good show I hope we can do something similar on other rallies in the future."
Chris Atkinson/Glen MacNeall: "Getting fourth place back from Mikko on this stage is a massive result for us. To be fighting like this on asphalt is so encouraging for the team. It was fantastic to do it in front of so many people and in this setting. I was just trying to be quick and neat rather than spectacular. I think this is one of the best rallies we've ever had. It feels like we've reached a new level on asphalt and the team is coming along very well. Our next stop is Sweden and we'll be aiming for some more points there."
OMV Kronos Citroen
The OMV Kronos Citroen World Rally Team has finished the Monte Carlo Rally in tenth overall place. Not really what they had hoped for but considering the constant brake problems a better result was impossible. Manfred Stohl/Ilka Minor: "Throughout the rally we were just waiting for the brakes to malfunction," the OMV driver explained. "That is no way to drive fast. But we still were able to build up a feeling for the car. Now we'll have to pinpoint the problem and solve it before the next run in Sweden."
Stobart M-Sport Ford
The Stobart VK M-Sport Ford crew of Henning Solberg and Cato Menkerud have successfully scored the team's first manufacturer point in 2007. Rallye Monte Carlo proved to be a great learning curve for all three drivers, competing on their first tarmac rally in the Ford Focus RS WRC 06.
Jari-Matti Latvala/Miikka Anttila: "I'm so disappointed after yesterday. The rally had been going so well for me and it looked good for me to take a drivers point but I got caught out with some gravel and slid into a small stone wall. I was really happy with the car during the rally it took me a while to adjust my driving style but the last half of the event felt really god for me. I was delighted to set some fast times but very unhappy with how the event finished. Now I am really looking forward to Sweden and Norway!"
Henning Solberg/Cato Menkerud: "The super special stage today was fantastic, there was so many people watching and it was exciting to perform in front of them. Ok, I struggled with this event as it was my first dry tarmac rally and I need some more time to get used to the car and the surface. It was important that I finished all the stages and get the experience. Now I can't wait to start Sweden and Norway and my championship campaign will really start from then on."
Matthew Wilson/Michael Orr: "Today's stage was really fun, the track was very slippery and it was definitely more of a spectacle for the spectators as we were all using snow tyres. It was a good end to a difficult rally for me but I started off the event with the aim of finishing and that's exactly what I did. This rally had really good stages but the conditions were so difficult, sometimes the surface was dry with lots of grip and then we would it a slippery damp section. You had to be so careful."
In the challenging tests of the Rallye Monte Carlo, Jan Kopecký battled his way to a superb eighth place, thus gaining a point in the drivers' standings in the very first event of this year's World Rally Championship. Jan Kopecký's excellent performance is underlined by the fact that all his times in the Rallye Monte Carlo's stages were in the top ten.
Jan Kopecky/Filip Schovanek: 'I was really geared up for the start of the Rallye Monte Carlo. This event is a legend among world rallies and every start here is a red-letter day for me. Of course, I was wondering how well the drivers, teams and their cars were prepared for the new season. Because of the mild weather, this year's Rallye Monte Carlo was a classic asphalt meet, which suits my driving style because I was brought up on an asphalt surface.