Thursday | 26 Jan 2017

Rallye Monte-Carlo: Debrief part 2

We continue our look back at Rallye Monte-Carlo, with another selection of highlights from the season's opening round.

Driver of the rally
An unusually tough one to call because so many individuals impressed at the Monte.

On the shortlist are, obviously, rally winner Sébastien Ogier - especially considering his lack of preparation. Ott Tänak also drove superbly and did well to keep his cool through Sunday's dramas. Elfyn Evans was unbeatable through many of Saturday's stages, while Craig Breen did wonders in a car that was 60bhp down on its rivals.

Our Monte pick however is Thierry Neuville [above]. In front for the majority of the event, he paid a heavy price for a small mistake on Saturday before scooping up a maximum five points on the Power Stage. Great job.

Stage of the weekend
It has to be the Power Stage. Super-sized for 2017, there are now more bonus points up for grabs - and five big reasons to keep fighting until the end. That alone was enough to get our attention on Sunday - but the Monte Power Stage turned out to be a real nail biter.

There were just a few seconds in the fight for fourth between Sordo and Breen, while Tänak's ailing Fiesta sounded like it was about to expire. And then it began to snow. Stage conditions deteriorated minute-by-minute, leading to some of the longest and wildest drifts we've seen in the WRC. Tanak's sideways arrival at the final corner was the biggest 'whoaa!' moment of the rally. 

Surprise of the rally
It's Saturday morning, the first stage is underway, and the man in ninth position, Elfyn Evans, has a rocket strapped to his car. That's what it looked like from the split times.

On stage nine, nobody was quicker to the 6.8km split. World champ Ogier, driving the same car, was a full three seconds slower. On stage 10 Evans was even quicker. The splits showed a sea of red 'plus' times for all but one competitor at every point. Only Thierry Neuville sneaked one solitary green sector - between 5.7km and 10.8km. Perhaps Evans sneezed?

Set-up changes and the right kind of stage conditions transformed the Welshman's early lacklustre form. On Friday night, who would have thought Evans would claim three stage wins the next day?

Quote of the rally
WRC poet in residence Craig Breen surpassed himself in Monte Carlo. Eyeing the skies after SS14 for any sign of the snow that would help his cause, he said: “I'm praying for snow. The mother of all snow. I hope it snows out of the high heavens, like it's never snowed before..."


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