Monte Carlo: Subaru leg three (final) report

First Place Manufacturers' Points For Subaru In Monte Carlo Following a day of excitement in the French mountains Tommi Makinen staked his claim in the record books. He drove to provisional second place in the 2002 Monte Carlo rally, with the ...

First Place Manufacturers' Points For Subaru In Monte Carlo

Following a day of excitement in the French mountains Tommi Makinen staked his claim in the record books. He drove to provisional second place in the 2002 Monte Carlo rally, with the opportunity of an upgrade to first. The result sets him up for an unprecedented record of four consecutive Monte Carlo wins, and the chance to become the most successful driver in the WRC with a record 24 victories.

After a Stewards' meeting at the end of the second day of the rally, the leading car of Sebastien Loeb was awarded a two minute penalty for an infringement of the regulations regarding the changing of tyres in the final service on Saturday evening. The drama unfolded when Citroen appealed and the Stewards suspended the penalty subject to a hearing, which must be held in the next 40 days.

Whatever the outcome of the appeal, the result is a win in the Manufacturers' Championship for Subaru, and with Petter Solberg gaining two points, the team lead the title hunt with a total of 12 points. Subject to the outcome of the appeal court, Subaru have their sights set on their 34th WRC victory.

Solberg and Mills had a clean run to the finish, scoring a further two fastest stage times on their way to sixth place. On an event that is still very new to him, the 27-year-old Norwegian won five of the 14 stages. As a team, the pairing of Makinen and Solberg proved the most dominant on the event and between them they took a Subaru Impreza WRC to victory on more than half of the stages.

Team Principal, David Lapworth:
"This is a fantastic victory for Subaru and an incredible result for Tommi on his debut with the team. Obviously Sebastien drove extremely well this weekend but it is apparent that his team broke the rules and the Stewards decided to impose a penalty. Tommi had promised one of his 'maximum attack' drives this morning and was confident of achieving a clear victory, but when we learned of Loeb's penalty he backed off with the intention of cruising to the win. We look forward to hearing the result of the appeal court as soon as possible."

Tommi Makinen:
"I am delighted with this victory for Subaru. It means a lot to me here in Monte Carlo. To get a great result with a new team in a new car was my target when I joined Subaru and for it to happen on the first event is a dream for Kaj and myself. I was 100 per cent prepared to go for it this morning and battle with Sebastien. As it turned out we did not have to push. The car and team have all worked so well together this weekend. I think if it feels like this for the rest of the year it will be a fantastic season."

Petter Solberg:
"It's an unbelievable feeling to set five fastest stage times in Monte Carlo. It's a great start. I can't forget what happened yesterday, but two points are important for the team and one point for me is a start to the year. If we can keep up the speed it will be a very good season."

Stage Reports

SS12 09:13 Sospel-Turini-La Bollene ((32.85km))
Weather conditions on the first two stages, which would be repeated in the afternoon, were dry and bright, but the temperature in the mountains was close to freezing and the roads were damp and icy in places. The 555 Subaru World Rally Team's dynamic duo of Solberg and Makinen were immediately on the pace. Solberg was quickest, with Makinen exactly one second behind in second . An electrical problem with Loeb's Citroen slowed him by around 10 seconds and allowed Tommi to close in once more. Ignoring the potential penalty for the Frenchman, Makinen was 18 seconds off the lead. The implications of Loeb's suspended penalty were also being felt further down the order. If Loeb dropped two minutes he would slip to second place - just 7.6 seconds ahead of Carlos Sainz. The Spaniard responded immediately to this opportunity and sensing a possible 6 points was third quickest on the stage. Fastest Time : Solberg (Subaru) 22:38.4

SS13 10:08 Loda-Luceram ((16.55km))
Loeb was quickest, Colin McRae second and Carlos Sainz third. Confident of Loeb's penalty, Tommi Makinen took things a little easier and was seventh. Elsewhere in the top 10, Richard Burns wasn't enjoying the best of debuts with Peugeot. He was relegated to eighth place by his teammate Gilles Panizzi, even though the Frenchman carried 2 min 10 sec's of penalty time from leg 1. Fastest Time : Loeb (Citroen) 12:03.9

SS14 12:33 Sospel-Turini-La Bollene ((32.85km))
Solberg once again crowned king of the mountains. Panizzi was second and Colin McRae third. McRae overtook Marcus Gronholm to take fourth place overall. On the final two repeated stages none of the front-runners were taking any risks. Loeb was fifth and Makinen sixth. Loeb's lead remained at 45 seconds over Makinen, but it looked like the final result would be decided by the amount of penalty time given to Loeb. Fastest Time : Solberg (Subaru) 22:02.2

SS15 14:40 Loda-Luceram ((16.55km))
No last-stage upsets for the leading competitors. Petter Solberg was fastest, Panizzi second and Colin McRae third. Fastest Time : Solberg (Subaru) 22:02.2

Background to Loeb's penalty
Event Stewards gave Citroen driver Sebastien Loeb two minutes of penalty time for changing tyres in an unauthorised area. His team had swapped the tyres at the final service, just before the Xsara WRC made the short trip to Monaco parc ferme. While Citroen accepted they had made a mistake, they lodged an appeal against the decision arguing that the penalty was too severe. Sebastien continued with his penalty suspended. The final judgement will be made by the FIA in Geneva, until then, the results of the 2002 Monte Carlo Rally remain provisional.

Next Event
Sweden. The only true winter rally in the series, sometimes run in temperatures as low as - 30 degrees Centigrade. The snowy conditions and studded tyres demand a unique style of driving which explains why it is the only major rally yet to be won by a non-Scandinavian driver. With Petter and Tommi on board for 2002, the 555 Subaru World Rally Team looks in a strong position for victory this year. The Rally starts from the town of Karlstad on Friday 1st February.


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About this article
Series WRC
Drivers Tommi Makinen , Colin McRae , Carlos Sainz , Richard Burns , Gilles Panizzi , Marcus Gronholm , Petter Solberg , Sébastien Loeb
Teams Citroën World Rally Team