Saturday | 18 Jan 2014

Monte Carlo day three update #4

The drama on the 2014 Rallye Monte-Carlo went down to the wire. Here is a review of the headline-making events and incidents that shaped the final day:

Sebastien Ogier
Sebastien Ogier

SS15: Ogier is master of Monte!

A second fastest time on the closing ‘Power Stage’ ensured that Sebastien Ogier won his first-ever Rallye Monte-Carlo as a World Rally Championship driver. He was 0.4s slower than team-mate Jari-Matti Latvala. That meant he only claimed two extra championship points, but he wasn’t too upset. “It’s been a tough weekend and I’m happy to finish. I wasn’t in the mood to take risks for three extra points,” he said. Kris Meeke claimed the final ‘Power Stage’ point.

Mikko Hirvonen’s worst nightmare came true on the last test. His car continued to lose battery power on the road section to the stage and that meant he started late. He then grappled to keep his car moving on the 16-kilometre test, but all of his efforts were in vain. He was forced to stop and hand Elfyn Evans the sixth place that he’d worked hard to earn only two stages earlier.

During a rally where it was almost impossible to predict who would win, Yurii Protasov crossed the finish line as the WRC2 winner. Lorenzo Bertelli was second in his Ford Fiesta R5, albeit more than seven minutes behind his rival, and Robert Barrable was third in his Tunnocks World Rally Team machine. He was a further minute and-a-half behind Bertelli.

SS14: Traffic jam chaos

If anyone had hopes of attacking in SS14 they were dashed when privateer Jaroslav Melicharek lost traction in the heavy snow, got stuck and blocked the road on the way up to the Col de Turini.

Nobody running behind was able to get past and that caused a nasty and rather unhelpful traffic jam. Rally organisers had no alternative than to neutralise the stage and hand everyone a notional time to ensure nobody running behind gained an unfair advantage.

Mikko Hirvonen faced an anxious journey to the final stage at Sospel after he discovered that his Ford Focus RS WRC had developed a suspected alternator failure on SS14. “It’s going to be a question of survival for us,” said the man who lay in sixth place as he made his way to the Power Stage.

SS13: Hirvonen makes progress

Mikko Hirvonen breathed a huge sigh of relief as his fifth-fastest time was enough to finally edge him past his less experienced team-mate Elfyn Evans. The Finn took the place by two seconds.

Evans couldn’t challenge because of a lack of confidence. He said: “I struggled to carry any speed. It’s no surprise that Mikko has come past.”

Sebastien Ogier was fastest again, beating Kris Meeke by 3.5s. The VW ace was revelling in the heavy rain, but admitted he also had one eye on the second run through the stage, which will be used as the Power Stage. “We changed a couple of notes just in case we push for some more points on the power stage,” he joked.

Even more drama in the WRC category as the head of the leaderboard in WRC2 changed once again. Lorenzo Bertelli overtook Robert Barrable to re-take second place. The Irishman had lost time with a windscreen that wouldn’t demist properly. “I couldn’t see the corners or the lines after one kilometer. It was horrible,” he said.

SS12: Ogier dominates in the wet

Sebastien Ogier set the fastest time on the opening stage across the iconic Col de Turini. But he left it late.

He trailed VW team-mate Jari-Matti Latvala by 4.1s after the final split, but pulled out an advantage of 0.3s at the finish line. It was the mark of a world champion. Only 0.5s covered Ogier, Latvala and Bryan Bouffier in the top-three places.

All of the front-running drivers took studded winter tyres on the opening stage to cope with the snow that their weather crews had reported. But, the snow wasn’t as extensive as many feared and made the driving conditions challenging.

Bryan Bouffier said: “When we went through the snow, it was not easy because there was mainly slush. There was maybe only about 500 metres of hard snow.”

Citroen’s Kris Meeke was beaming after driving across the Col De Turini in a works DS3 for the first time. “I really enjoyed it in there,” he said. “This is just awesome. As young boy I grew up dreaming of days like this.”

The battle for second place in WRC2 failed to materialise. Robert Barrable was expecting Lorenzo Bertelli to challenge him hard, but the Italian’s Ford Fiesta R5 lost the drive to its rear wheels at the start of the stage and he dropped 40s to his Tunnocks World Rally Team rival. That increased Barrable’s advantage in second place to a minute.