Thursday | 29 Jan 2015

Monte-Carlo driver report: Part 2

Part two of our look back at how the top drivers coped at the season-opening Rallye Monte-Carlo.

Sebastien Loeb
Loeb’s return, and the duel with his arch rival Sebastien Ogier, were the big talking points pre-event. But when Loeb emerged from the opening stage in the lead, 30.9sec quicker than Ogier, the Service Park went bananas. Their duel over the next six stages was electrifying. It was like he had never been away. But although it was a great fight, sadly it wasn’t a long one. A rock strike on Stage 8 forced him out for the day, and from then on all he could do was punch in a couple of stage wins for fun. Will we see him again this year? We certainly hope so.

Mads Ostberg
Ostberg featured rarely in the top five stage times, but his error-free consistency across all four days earned him a very useful fourth place come Sunday afternoon. That’s the same position he finished in last year and sets him up nicely ahead of his *almost* home round in Sweden. The Norwegian later admitted he had hoped to do a little better, but being beaten only by the VW trio of Ogier, Latvala and Mikkelsen is a victory of sorts.

Jari-Matti Latvala
Pre-rally, title hopeful Latvala was clear about his Monte objectives. It isn’t one of his favourite rallies, so he decided not to risk a useful points haul by trying to win it. Having never finished higher than fifth before, he would count fourth or above as a success. So he was delighted with second. Despite conditions that caught out many, Latvala kept his nose clean and made up places when his rivals faltered. After Loeb slipped back on SS8 Latvala had reached his dream position and switched to defensive mode - except for a final stage push that netted a Power Stage point.

Ott Tanak
The Estonian made a mighty impressive start to his re-booted career at M-Sport. Second only to Sebastien Loeb on the opening stage, by SS8 he was the best non-VW runner in the rally and appeared to be comfortable at the pace. Unfortunately that good start was undone by a patch of gravel on SS10 that sent his Fiesta skidding off the road down a bank. It took spectators 18 minutes to push it back on. From then on, his rally was all about building experience, but with a sweetener of two manufacturers’ championship points for 18th overall.

Martin Prokop
On the face of it, ninth place isn’t a bad result on a rally as tough as the Monte, but in truth this was a rally the Czech privateer will want to forget. He finished almost 10 minutes off first place, and behind some Rally2 restarters. By his own admission he just wasn’t quick enough. But it wasn’t down to a lack of effort. Unfortunately his attempts to push harder just led to more hairy moments. Post rally he conceded that if he had been playing ice-hockey he would probably have been substituted and sent to get changed.

Dani Sordo
Last year’s Monte was a disaster for Hyundai, which lost both its cars - including Sordo’s - on the opening day. In 2014 it was Neuville’s i20 WRC that went out first, just 6km into the opening stage. On this year’s opener Sordo must have feared it was his turn, as he fluffed a corner and put his car off the road. Luckily for Sordo, his diminutive co-driver Marc Marti had eaten a good dinner and was somehow able to push the car back on. The incident cost Sordo a minute, and without that he might have been third. In the end he was sixth, and not best pleased to have been topped from fifth by his team-mate Neuville on the final stage. 

Yuriy Protasov
Sixteenth place in a DS 3 World Rally Car doesn’t compare well to the 10th he secured on last year’s Monte in an R5 Fiesta, but this was his event debut in the new car and he completed the event without having to resort to Rally2. Any hopes of a decent result went out the window on SS4 when he had to stop and change a tyre, and he lost another few minutes stopping in SS6. Bagged his best stage result, 12th, on Stage 12.

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