Loeb completes Monte clean sweep with power stage victory
Rallye Monte Carlo provided thrilling start to the new World Rally Championship season and with five days of running and no superally restarts available it reminded us how rallies used to be.
Sebastien Loeb and Daniel Elena in Citroën DS3 WRC took victories both in rally and on last power stage, collecting maximum points and taking no prisoners. Loeb was exhillerated at the end of the rally, and if eight-time world championship is usually calm and collected, Monte win brought out another kind of Loeb: “Very good, we took full points. I am so happy. Incredible. It’s Monte Carlo, it’s my rally!”
With just over five kilometers in length power stage offered very little room for possible attacks and changes in classification, made even harder by poor tyre choice for Petter Solberg and Chris Patterson. Norwegian driver barely managed to keep up with the leading top 10 in SS 18 and with 13,5 seconds deficit to Loeb he ended his rally on third place behind Dani Sordo and Carlos Del Barrio.
Mini duo finished Monte by setting 4th fastest time in power stage and missed the extra points, but their second place in overall classification was safe and means Mini returned to place of his former glory by claiming a spot on the podium. Rallying community hopes Mini or rather BMW will consider this achievement in shaping up Mini World Rally Team’s future.
Mikko Hirvonen brought his Citroën DS3 WRC to the finish and collected valuable points along the way. Only 1,2 seconds separated him from top spot in power stage standings, but Finn was understandably happy with his performance considering this was his first proper outing in new car and for a new team.
With fifth overall and third on power stage, Russian Evgeny Novikov completes very successful attempt in Monte Carlo. Russian was threading his way through Monte’s tricky stages with good combination of speed and caution and if this rally is indication of things to come, Novikov might throw few surprises this year.
Sixth spot overall went to French veteran and former Monte winner Francois Delecour. Closing on his 50th birthday Delecour showed no sign of fatigue and expressed his desire to do more WRC events this year. Pierre Campana in second Mini ended Monte in seventh spot ahead of Ott Tanak in eight and Martin Prokop ninth. Armindo Araujo completes the top ten.
In SWRC category victory went to one remaining driver, Craig Breen, although Volkswagen’s Kevin Abbring ended up fastest in S2000 car, but he is not nominated to score points. Michal Kosciuszko took first and only available spot in PWRC category and similar to Breen will leave Monte Carlo with mixed feelings after scoring victory in decimated category. If this year does not bring more teams in both supporting classes, FIA might be pressed to reconsider the rules for next season.