Rally Monte Carlo 2015

 

Ogier clinches Monte win, teammates take second and third place.

 

What a way to start the season! Sébastien Ogier and his co-driver Julien Ingrassia clinched the win at Rally Monte Carlo, the opening event in a long WRC season. And the two other Volkswagen pairings, Jari-Matti Latvala/Miikka Anttila and Andreas Mikkelsen/Ola Fløene, rounded off the perfect team result by finishing in second and third place respectively. Only five manufacturers have achieved the feat of scoring a three-way win in the history of this long-standing event.

 

In the 2015 Rally Monte Carlo, the WRC teams had to contend with dry asphalt that offered a lot of grip (for Monte standards), black ice, snow and slush – all alternating from one kilometre to the next. Choosing the right tyres therefore proved to be tricky.

 

The ‘Seb vs. Seb’ duel kept the fans guessing for the first two days of Rally Monte Carlo, with Sébastien Ogier in a Polo R WRC and Sébastien Loeb in a Citroën engaging in a thrilling battle for the lead. At the halfway point of the rally, Ogier had earned himself an eight-second lead, while Loeb, who was making a return appearance in the WRC, fell some way back in the rankings. The prestigious duel therefore came to an early end.

 

This three-way win also demonstrates that the new Polo R WRC has what it takes to be a winner, with the second-generation rally racer proving its mettle on its very first outing. The new World Rally Car from Wolfsburg was driven by Ogier/Ingrassia and Latvala/Anttila in the Monte, while Mikkelsen/Fløene will continue to use its successful predecessor until Rally Portugal. By finishing in first and second place, the new Polo R WRC, which has been beefed up to deliver 318 hp, even outperformed the first appearances of the 2013 and 2014 Polo R WRC vehicles.

Sébastien Ogier: “What a fantastic start to the new season! I’m simply delighted. Winning Rally Monte Carlo is something special for any driver, but for me it’s extra special because this area is where I come from. My friends, family and fans have given me so much support and confidence here. The atmosphere was truly magical. And I’m glad I can give something back with my sheer delight.”

 

Jari-Matti Latvala: “We couldn’t have asked for a better start to the season. From the start, we aimed to make it into the top four, and we did even better than that. I'm absolutely delighted! It’s a huge relief for me, because my previous attempts at Rally Monte Carlo weren’t exactly successful.”

 

Andreas Mikkelsen: “This is obviously an outstanding start to the new season for the whole team. It’s not every day that you achieve a three-way win in the Monte. I’m proud to have played my part in this. And I’m also delighted that I’ve got my season off to such a good start. Before we set off, I had my sights set on making it into the top five. So third place is better than I expected. We will be celebrating this podium result in style tonight – that’s for sure!”

 

Jost Capito, Volkswagen Motorsport Director: “This is a great result for Volkswagen. But above all, it’s a great result for our drivers. No rally is more demanding than the Monte. The human factor has a much greater influence on the outcome here than it does in the other rallies. I’m especially proud to see Sébastien Ogier, Jari-Matti Latvala and Andreas Mikkelsen finish in first, second and third place respectively, giving Volkswagen the perfect start to the season.”


Volkswagen Motorsport made a perfect start to the new season. The video.


Rally Monte Carlo 2015: final results

Position Driver / Co-driver Total Time Diff 1st  
1 S. Ogier / J. Ingrassia 3:36:40.2    
2 J. Latvala / M. Anttila 3:37:38.2 +58.0  
3 A. Mikkelsen / O. Fløene 3:38:52.5 +2:12.3  
4 M. Østberg / J. Andersson 3:39:23.8 +2:43.6  
5 T. Neuville / N. Gilsoul 3:39:52.3 +3:12.1  
6 D. Sordo / M. Martí 3:39:53.1 +3:12.9  
7 E. Evans / D. Barritt 3:42:03.9 +5:23.7  
8 S. Loeb / D. Elena 3:45:14.9 +8:34.7  
9 M. Prokop / J. Tománek 3:46:35.0 +9:54.8  
10 K. Meeke / P. Nagle 3:47:35.8 +10:55.6  

The rally in detail

Looking for something specific? You will find a detailed rally review here. Experience the coverage of the 2015 Rally Monte Carlo a second time around: every single day and every single special stage.

 

Click through each day’s picture gallery and watch video clips of each stage. The whole thing is rounded off with all of the pre-event reports and interviews. Happy reading!

Sunday, 25.01.2015


CURRENT PICTURES (24)
LAST UPDATE: 19:38 (CET)


Volkswagen Motorsport made a perfect start to the new season with a one-two-three at the Rally Monte Carlo. The video.


Classification after 15 of 15 stages

Position Driver / Co-driver Total Time Diff 1st  
1 S. Ogier / J. Ingrassia 3:36:40.2    
2 J. Latvala / M. Anttila 3:37:38.2 +58.0  
3 A. Mikkelsen / O. Fløene 3:38:52.5 +2:12.3  
4 M. Østberg / J. Andersson 3:39:23.8 +2:43.6  
5 T. Neuville / N. Gilsoul 3:39:52.3 +3:12.1  
6 D. Sordo / M. Martí 3:39:53.1 +3:12.9  
7 E. Evans / D. Barritt 3:42:03.9 +5:23.7  
8 S. Loeb / D. Elena 3:45:14.9 +8:34.7  
9 M. Prokop / J. Tománek 3:46:35.0 +9:54.8  
10 K. Meeke / P. Nagle 3:47:35.8 +10:55.6  

18:10 (CET)

“What a fantastic start to the new season!”
Statements from the Volkswagen team.


Sébastien Ogier, Volkswagen Polo R WRC #1
“What a fantastic start to the new season! I'm over the moon. Getting a win at the Rally Monte Carlo is special for any driver, but words can't describe what a win here means to me – this is my home. Friends, family and fans give me so much support and self-confidence here. The atmosphere was magical. I'm grateful that I can give something back with my joy. This 83rd staging of the Monte is one of the most difficult rallies I can remember, as far as the conditions are concerned. Selecting the tyres was particularly difficult at the start. Then there was the exciting battle with Sébastien Loeb, who was producing spectacular times on Thursday. Big thanks go to our team and my ice spies. It goes without saying that I am also delighted with the great overall result for Volkswagen; as long as I'm at the top, Jari-Matti and Andreas are my favourite people to share the podium with.”

 

Jari-Matti Latvala, Volkswagen Polo R WRC #2
“We couldn't have wished for a better start. Our aim right from the word go was to finish in the top four, and we did better than that. I'm delighted. It's a weight off my mind since my previous starts at the Rally Monte Carlo hadn't exactly been successful. The conditions weren't easy and you had to compromise on speed to avoid making mistakes. After we had built up a good lead early on, it was all about getting the overall result, and no longer about setting the fastest times. The one-two-three is the best reward for the whole team, who put so much effort and passion into developing the new Polo.”

 

Andreas Mikkelsen, Volkswagen Polo R WRC #9
“That was obviously an outstanding start to the new season for the whole team. You don't celebrate a one-two-three at the Monte every day. I'm proud to have played a part. But I'm also delighted that my own season has started so well. Before we set off I would have taken any spot in the top five. Third place exceeds all my expectations. We'll celebrate this podium result properly, that much is certain. The conditions at this 'Monte' were extremely difficult and it was the first time that I have started here when there has been snow, ice and slippery asphalt. Right from the start my focus was on finishing safely – and it paid off. I learned so much and ended up with a lot. Quite simply, it was a dream start.”

 

Jost Capito, Volkswagen Motorsport-Direktor

“What a fantastic result for Volkswagen, but particularly for our drivers. No rally is more demanding than the 'Monte'. The human factor makes much more of a difference here than at any of the other rallies. I'm particularly proud of Sébastien Ogier, Jari-Matti Latvala and Andreas Mikkelsen for giving Volkswagen the perfect start to the season by finishing first, second and third. There was no shortage of rivals, or difficult conditions that needed a cool head. I'm just as proud of the whole team, who worked together perfectly to send the Polo R WRC back onto the special stages in perfect condition every day, as I am of the drivers and co-drivers.”


17:50 (CET)

The perfect debut for the new Polo R WRC.

 

For the first time since 2003, a manufacturer has taken all three of the top spots at the most demanding rally of the year.

 

Volkswagen Motorsport director Jost Capito was convinced that his team would need a few hours to fully comprehend the significance of this success. “Winning the Rally Monte Carlo is something special in itself,” said Capito after the presentation ceremony in front of the palace. “But to get all three podium spots is incredible. The new Polo R WRC really couldn't have had a better debut.”

 

It's exactly twelve years since a manufacturer last achieved this feat. Back then the winner was a certain Sébastien Loeb, who was Sébastien Ogier's (Polo R WRC #1) rival for two days in a gripping duel this time around. Which, despite his compatriot taking more than a year's break from the WRC, didn't really come as a surprise to winner Ogier. “Sébastien is Sébastien. I knew that he would be at the front right from the start.”

 

Ogier was at least just as disappointed as the thousands of spectators that the battle came to an early end when Loeb fell down the field after a slip-up. “After that I had to manage my lead without any direct rivals. That was difficult particularly because without any split times I didn't know exactly how to regulate my speed.”

 

The fact that Jari-Matti Latvala (Polo R WRC #2) never posed a threat was part of his strategy. “It was never about the win for me here. My only aim was to finish in the top four,” repeated the Finn. “I got second place without taking any major risks. For example, we always went for the safe option when selecting tyres.” Co-driver Miikka Anttila even saw a minor disadvantage in their best Monte result to date. “We will be second on the track at the beginning of the next WRC rally in Sweden. You can never win starting from that position.”

 

Andreas Mikkelsen was also quite surprised by third place; he started in the Polo R WRC with 2014 specs. “Of all the top drivers I have the least experience of the Rally Monte Carlo, which is why winning was never my aim. The reason we finished so far up the field is due to the fact that we didn't make a single mistake.”

 

That is exactly what Volkswagen Motorsport director Jost Capito also believes to be the key to this success. “Nobody in the whole team made a mistake this weekend, from the mechanics, to the engineers, to the ice spies.” The three Polo R WRCs didn't get even so much as a scratch during the 14 special stages that were driven. Not many teams could say the same after what was probably the most demanding rally of the year.


13:30 (CET)

It was 30 May 2010, almost five years ago, when the names Sébastien Ogier and Julien Ingrassia made their first entry in the list of winners in the World Rally Championship: the Frenchmen finished ahead of Sébastien Loeb and Dani Sordo at the Rally Portugal. Another triumph was to follow in Japan, before the duo emerged victorious on five occasions in 2011.


However, Ogier/Ingrassia only really started to dominate after their move to the Volkswagen Motorsport team: the French pair has won an incredible 18 times in the Polo R WRC since the start of the 2013 season. That makes the outstanding success at the 2015 Rally Monte Carlo the 25th WRC win of their career – congratulations on reaching this fantastic milestone!


Ogier’s latest victory sees him move ahead of Tommi Mäkinen (24 wins) in the list of all-time winners, and level with Colin McRae. Carlos Sainz (26) and Marcus Grönholm (30) are the next two rally legends on the 31-year-old’s radar. There would then be just one man to catch: record world champion Sébastien Loeb, with an awe-inspiring 78 rally wins.


12:55 (CET)

The team triumph is complete!

Sébastien Ogier and Julien Ingrassia win the Rally Monte Carlo, followed by their team-mates in second and third – bonus point for Latvala/Anttila.

Hats off to Seb and Julien! The two Frenchmen in the Polo R WRC have carried on where they left off last year. Overall victory at the 2015 Rally Monte Carlo is a perfect start to the new season for the world championship winning duo and for Volkswagen Motorsport, as team-mates Jari-Matti Latvala and Andreas Mikkelsen finished second and third to complete an all-Volkswagen podium at this year’s ‘Monte’.

The Volkswagen one-two-three is also testimony to the fantastic job done by the developers and Technical Director Willy Rampf: the new Polo R WRC is a stunner and – like its predecessor – a winner from the word go.

Jari-Matti Latvala/Miikka Anttila finished third fastest on the closing Power Stage to pick up a bonus point towards the Drivers’ and Co-Drivers’ Championships. Ogier and Ingrassia were fourth, ahead of Andreas Mikkelsen and Ola Fløene in fifth.
Sébastien Loeb also narrowly missed out on winning the Power Stage, losing out to Kris Meeke (Citroën), who snatched the three extra points with a time of 6:30.5 minutes.

 


11:45 (CET)

Hitting the heights en route to victory.

Just ten kilometres stand between Volkswagen Motorsport and the first victory of the year. Volkswagen drivers Sébastien Ogier, Jari-Matti Latvala and Andreas Mikkelsen were fifth, seventh and eighth fastest on the penultimate stage of the ‘Monte’ – the spectacular ‘La Bollène Vésubie’.

 

“The conditions on the route were good. Better than expected. I am happy with the result,” said a happy Ogier at the finish. The Frenchman is on the verge of claiming his second WRC victory at the Monte – and Volkswagen is within touching distance of a one-two-three, with Jari-Matti Latvala and Andreas Mikkelsen running second and third with one stage to go.

 

The fastest time on the 36.66-kilometre stage, which included the legendary climb up the 1,607-metre Col de Turini, went to Sébastien Loeb (Citroën), who clearly wanted to show that he still has what it takes to be successful at the highest level.


10:20 (CET)

Super start to Sunday.

The final day of the Rally Monte Carlo is here and only a few kilometres stand between Volkswagen duo Sébastien Ogier / Julien Ingrassia and their first victory of the year! With a reassuring lead in the bag, the two Frenchmen didn't need to take any unnecessary risks on the first special stage of the day on Sunday. Neither did the other two Volkswagen driver teams.

In glorious sunshine and on a largely dry surface, the 10.16-kilometre section between Col St. Jean and St. Laurent was a gentle start to the final day of the Rally Monte Carlo. Experiencing no problems, Séb was the fifth-fastest to cross the finish line; team-mates Andreas Mikkelsen and Jari-Matti Latvala finished seventh and ninth.

Latvala now trails leader Ogier by 47.4 seconds. Yesterday the Finn said that he wasn't going to go on the attack anymore. He wants to concentrate on the Power Stage instead, to pick up bonus points.

Before he tries to do that, the legendary special stage “La Bollène Vésubie – Sospel” is up next, which, with the fascinating Col de Turini mountain pass, is one of the highlights.


Sunday: the special stages of the fourth day.

06:00 (CET)

Saturday, 24.01.2015


The Volkswagen drivers let nothing stand in their way as they safely defended their lead on day three of the rally. Saturday. The video.


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LAST UPDATE: 21:47 (CET)


Classification after 12 of 15 stages

Position Driver / Co-driver Total Time Diff 1st  
1 S. Ogier / J. Ingrassia 3:00:39.9    
2 J. Latvala / M. Anttila 3:01:22.7 +42.8  
3 A. Mikkelsen / O. Fløene 3:02:29.7 +1:49.8  
4 M. Østberg / J. Andersson 3:03:22.7 +2:42.8  
5 D. Sordo / M. Martí 3:03:56.0 +3:16.1  
6 T. Neuville / N. Gilsoul 3:04:00.7 +3:20.8  
7 E. Evans / D. Barritt 3:05:31.6 +4:51.7  
8 M. Prokop / J. Tománek 3:08:57.4 +8:17.5  
9 S. Loeb / D. Elena 3:09:42.1 +9:02.2  
10 K. Meeke / P. Nagle 3:10:45.9 +10:06.0  

20:00 (CET)

Everything under control.

The second leg finished without the end of day service. The one-two-three lead for Volkswagen was unshakeable.

Without taking any major risks, the three Volkswagen drivers took their one-two-three lead to Monte Carlo. “We were cautious with the tyre selection and on the stage,” said Sébastien Ogier (Polo R WRC #1) on his arrival at the principality's harbour. “It was on a section of about five kilometres covered in snow and ice in particular on special stage 12 that I slowed down.”

So much so that team-mate Jari-Matti Latvala (Polo R WRC #2) was surprised to have made up 20 seconds on the leader on one stage. “I don't really know what Séb did,” wondered the Finn, who went for the same tyre combination – two supersoft slicks, two winter tyres – as Ogier. “I stopped myself from really going for it.” Only about 42 seconds separated the two of them at the end of the day. “I'm not going to attack Séb tomorrow though,” said Latvala looking ahead to Sunday. “There's no point, from a driving perspective it's impossible to make up that deficit now.”

Another three special stages are scheduled for Sunday, covering almost 52 kilometres in total, including the legendary high mountain pass, the Col de Turini at an altitude of 1600 metres. “Something unexpected almost always happens on this stage,” said Andreas Mikkelsen (Polo R WRC #9), who trails Ogier by almost two minutes and is still third, 53 seconds ahead of pursuer Mads Østberg (Citroën). “There's not that much snow on the ground at the moment, and the track is only a little bit icy. But we need to wait for the latest information from the ice spies and the weather crew in the early hours of tomorrow morning.”

As an exception there was no evening service; the cars went straight to parc fermé. This gave all of the teams more time to relocate their equipment from Gap to Monte Carlo, covering a distance of almost 400 kilometres on the motorway. There will be a 45 minute service on Sunday morning instead, before the final loop gets underway.


17:40 (CET)

Just steady on and don’t go for broke! Starting the day with a healthy lead, Sébastien Ogier successfully defended his position and could even afford to take his foot off the gas a little on the critical “Sisteron” stage. To sum it up in figures: after three days of rallying and 283.57 of a total 335.55 kilometres against the clock, the Frenchman’s average speed was 94.18 km/h. This may appear a rather leisurely pace – in Finland, the fastest event on the WRC calendar, winner Jari-Matti Latvala set an average speed of 122.05 km/h in 2014 – but, given the difficult conditions in the wintery Maritime Alps, that is understandable.


16:40 (CET)

 The race to the summit:
 Lead intact, but Latvala closes the gap slightly.

Prudence is the better part of valour – a motto that Sébastien Ogier appears to have taken to heart as he headed out onto the twelfth special stage, and the final section of the day, on Saturday evening (Sisteron – Thoard). And he was right to do so: the 37-kilometre stage, one of the highlights of the Monte, is a real test. Perilous hairpins alternate with quick sections, before it gets rather wintery on the way to the summit of the “Col de Fontbelle” (1,304 m). The gravel crews had reported an icy section about 25 kilometres into the stage. As such, the overall leader played it safe on SS 12, and was quite happy to settle for the eighth fastest time. Team-mate Jari-Matti Latvala was a little heavier on the accelerator, finishing fourth fastest and eating another 20 seconds into Ogier’s lead. Andreas Mikkelsen was seventh.

The fastest time was set by Britain’s Kris Meeke (Citroën), closely followed by Robert Kubica.
At the end of day three of the rally, the overall standings are still dominated by a Volkswagen one-two-three. Ogier now leads Latvala by 42.8 seconds, with Mikkelsen a further minute back in third place.


14:30 (CET)

Volkswagen trio in full control.
 
Having seen the norming’s Prunières – Embrun stage cancelled for safety reasons, the WRC drivers returned to the 19.93-kilometre stage as planned in the afternoon. The Volkswagen drivers were far more aggressive after the midday service than they had been in the morning – but without taking any unnecessary risks.
 
The fastest man in a Polo R WRC was last year’s runner-up in the World Championship, Jari-Matti Latvala, who clocked the third fastest time on SS 11 – just behind Citroën driver Sébastien Loeb and Robert Kubica (Ford). World champion Sébastien Ogier was fifth fastest, just two seconds slower than his Finnish team-mate, while Andreas Mikkelsen was seventh.
 
There has been no change at the top of the overall standings: Ogier still leads Latvala by over a minute, with Mikkelsen third a further 50 seconds back. The best of the rest is Mads Østberg (Citroën), who trails the third-placed Norwegian by almost 40 seconds.


13:10 (CET)

Seb in safety mode.


Volkswagen trio play it safe and secure the overall one-two-three.

Almost two minutes slower than the stage-winning time and 40 seconds off the time of his closest rival – at any other rally, Sébastien Ogier (Polo R WRC #1) would be fuming. However, the Rally Monte Carlo is a different beast altogether – particularly when the special stage is approaching 52 kilometres in length. “I drove very cautiously, possibly a little too cautiously. As we no longer get the split times sent through to the car, I did not know what kind of times the other drivers were setting. If I had known, I might have reacted,” said a remarkably relaxed leader upon his arrival at the midday service.


Ogier has no need to panic. Robert Kubica (Ford) did shine with an outstanding fastest time, but the ex-Formula One driver is well out of the running when it comes to the overall victory. And the time lost to team-mate Jari-Matti Latvala (Polo R WRC #2) is also no great cause for concern for Ogier, whose lead still stands at over a minute. “Despite this, I will still up the tempo a little this afternoon,” said the Frenchman.


Latvala might well have been even quicker had he not had a moment roughly two kilometres into the stage. “The car skidded on loose stones. I wanted to give it some more gas to get back on track, but that would have made it very questionable as to whether we would make it over a bridge. As such, I opted for the escape route – into a field,” said the Finn, who lost about 20 seconds in the process.


Andreas Mikkelsen (Polo R WRC #9) now has a little more breathing space behind him. His closest rival for third place, Ott Tänak (Ford), lost a lot of ground when he slid into a ditch. As such, the leading trio of Volkswagen drivers actually tightened their grip at the top of the standings after the longest stage of the entire rally. “I also played it safe,” revealed Mikkelsen. Like his team-mates, the Norwegian went into the morning loop, which was reduced to just one stage, on four supersoft tyres and now holds a 40-second lead over Mads Østberg (Citroën).


“It is a real shame that SS 9 was cancelled,” said Ogier who, like all the competitors, drove the route of the planned stage at normal speed in order to get to SS 10. “There was an incredible number of spectators there, for whom we would have liked to have put on a great show. I hope the stage can get underway as scheduled this afternoon.”


Classification after 10 of 15 stages

Position Driver / Co-driver Total Time Diff 1st  
1 S. Ogier / J. Ingrassia 2:24:38.8    
2 J. Latvala / M. Anttila 2:25:43.7 +1:04.9  
3 A. Mikkelsen / O. Fløene 2:26:28.2 +1:49.4  
4 M. Østberg / J. Andersson 2:27:06.9 +2:28.1  
5 E. Evans / D. Barritt 2:27:14.7 +2:35.9  
6 D. Sordo / M. Martí 2:28:01.1 +3:22.3  
7 T. Neuville / N. Gilsoul 2:28:17.3 +3:38.5  
8 M. Prokop / J. Tománek 2:31:01.3 +6:22.5  
9 H. Solberg / I. Minor 2:33:09.8 +8:31.0  
10 S. Lefebvre / S. Prévot (WRC 2) 2:33:28.4 +8:49.6  

11:50 (CET)

Taking no risks on the marathon stage.

Having seen stage nine cancelled for safety reasons, Saturday’s action kicked off with the 51.70-kilometre ‘Lardier et Valença – Faye’ stage. Icy sections and extremely tricky conditions were the defining features of the longest stage of the Rally Monte Carlo. This played right into the hands of Volkswagen driver Sébastien Ogier (Polo R WRC #1), whose healthy lead meant he was able to steer clear of any risks.

 

The world champion clocked the ninth fastest time to defend his overall lead ahead of team-mate Jari-Matti Latvala (Polo R WRC #2), although the Finn, who was sixth fastest on SS 10, made up about 40 seconds on Ogier. The fastest Volkswagen driver was Andreas Mikkelsen (Polo R WRC #9). The Norwegian went five seconds quicker than Latvala, ending the stage in fourth and tightening his grip on third place overall.

 

Victory on the tenth special stage went to Ford’s Robert Kubica, ahead of Kris Meeke and Sébastien Loeb (both Citroën). Ogier still leads Latvala by over a minute in the overall standings. A further 45 seconds back in third place, Mikkelsen rounds off what, at the moment, is looking like the perfect result for Volkswagen Motorsport.


09:45 (CET)

Sneak preview.


Not as secretive as they may sound: ice spies play a key role at the Rally Monte Carlo.

When Sébastien Ogier (Polo R WRC #1) was able to put rival Sébastien Loeb (Citroën) under pressure thanks to a perfect tyre selection on Friday, he wasted no time in thanking his ice spies. In doing so, he turned the spotlight on a group of professionals who play a vital role in determining whether a car is successful or not at the Rally Monte Carlo.

 

In principle, every team has its own trusted ice spies. Known by the French as “Ouvreur” and officially as “route note cars” in English, these crews are permitted to drive the special stages shortly before the official start of each stage. They note any changes in the condition of the route since practice in a copy of their respective charge’s pace notes. The notes are then handed over at a precisely defined location, as the rules actually forbid any external assistance. If time does not permit this, the information is often passed on to the co-driver by telephone these days.

 

This position of great responsibility is often awarded to experienced drivers who are still actively involved in rallying. The man doing the ‘spying’ for Ogier for many years is former French national champion Nicolas Vouilloz. Team-mate Jari-Matti Latvala (Polo R WRC #2) puts his faith in former Ford and Suzuki works driver Toni Gardemeister. And experienced Norwegian Bernt Kollevold is in action for Andreas Mikkelsen (Polo R WRC #9).

 

Together with the readings from the weather crews, the information relayed back from the ice spies also serves as a basis for the tyre selection. For this reason, and depending on the itinerary, the notes must arrive at the service location roughly two hours before the start of a special stage.

 

A lot can happen in two hours in the Alps. Take Friday afternoon, for example, when it started to snow after the ice spies had already finished checking out stages six to eight. All three Volkswagen drivers were fortunate: their relatively conservative strategy meant that the shift in the weather did not actually throw them out of their stride.


09:30 (CET)

Stage nine cancelled for safety reasons.


This year’s Rally Monte Carlo will once again not be the full 15 special stages long. Like last year, when numerous WRC cars became stuck in the snow on SS 14, at least one special stage will not take place in 2015. The 19.93-kilometre stage ‘Prunières – Embrun 1’, which was due to kick of the action on Saturday, was not cancelled as a result of the weather, but because the sheer number of fans lining the final few kilometres was putting the safety of the spectators and drivers at risk.


Saturday: the special stages of the third day.

06:00 (CET)

Friday, 23.01.2015


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LAST UPDATE: 20:58 (CET)


One-two-three for Volkswagen after flawless displays from its trio of drivers. Friday. The video.


Classification after 8 of 15 stages

Position Driver / Co-driver Total Time Diff 1st  
1 S. Ogier / J. Ingrassia 1:52:07.4    
2 J. Latvala / M. Anttila 1:53:52.8 +1:45.4  
3 A. Mikkelsen / O. Fløene 1:54:42.2 +2:34.8  
4 O. Tänak / R. Mõlder 1:54:51.8 +2:44.4  
5 M. Østberg / J. Andersson 1:55:10.3 +3:02.9  
6 E. Evans / D. Barritt 1:55:22.6 +3:15.2  
7 T. Neuville / N. Gilsoul 1:55:37.3 +3:29.9  
8 D. Sordo / M. Martí 1:56:10.4 +4:03.0  
9 M. Prokop / J. Tománek 1:57:07.0 +4:59.6  
10 H. Solberg / I. Minor 1:58:46.3 +6:38.9  

19:20 (CET)

Ice spies ensure the right combination.


Sébastien Ogier's considerable lead is also down to his background team.


Despite the relief, there was a hint of regret. “I would have liked to continue the battle with Sébastien Loeb,” said Sébastien Ogier (Polo R WRC #1) over dinner at the service park. But after the Citroën driver made a mistake that cost him six minutes, Ogier now has a clear lead at the Rally Monte Carlo after eight of 15 special stages. He has a lead of almost two minutes over team-mate Jari-Matti Latvala (Polo R WRC #2); Andreas Mikkelsen (Polo R WRC #9) completes the Volkswagen top three.


“The perfect information from our ice spies and the weather crew was key,” said Ogier full of praise for his assistants. “We had the perfect tyres.” While the World Champion opted for the crossover mix of winter tyres with studs/supersoft slicks for the afternoon loop, rival Loeb went for a riskier strategy and took winter tyres without studs and slicks. In his own words, the wrong decision – Ogier had ousted his compatriot from the top spot of the overall standings even before Loeb's slip-up on the final stage of the day.


Ogier particularly enjoyed the special stage “Les Costes – St. Julien en Champsaur”, which came very close to where he was born. “I know the route very well and was able to pay more attention to the spectators than usual. It was a fantastic feeling to see so many familiar faces.”


For Jari-Matti Latvala, second place in the interim standings came as a complete surprise. “My strategy has focused on safety right from the start,” summed up the Finn. “We always opted for the less risky tyre combination. Finishing second at the end of the day is better than expected.”


Things also went better than hoped for Andreas Mikkelsen. “When you think that I have comparatively little experience of the Rally Monte Carlo, things have gone perfectly so far,” said the Norwegian, who is in for a rough ride in the second half of the rally. Four rivals trail Mikkelsen with a deficit of less than a minute, Ott Tänak (Ford) trails by just 9.6 seconds. “Naturally I want to defend third place, but I'm not going to take any crazy risks.”


Despite having a comfortable lead, the rally is far from over for Sébastien Ogier. “There are two long stages on Saturday, where anything can happen,” he said looking ahead to the 51.70-kilometre special stage 10, and special stage 12 from Sisteron to Thoard, which at 36.85 kilometres isn't all that much shorter. “On the Sisteron special stage in particular there will be some sections with ice and snow. I can't afford to lose concentration.”


17:20 (CET)

Day one of the Rally Monte Carlo did not go entirely to plan for the Volkswagen drivers: second (Sébastien Ogier), third (Jari-Matti Latvala) and seventh (Andreas Mikkelsen) places left them with room for improvement after Thursday evening’s opening two stages. However, just six stages later, the world looks just about perfect again for the drivers at the wheel of the Polo R WRC.

 

The Volkswagen trio produced impressive displays and had all climbed to the top of the standings by the end of day two of the Monte. World champion Ogier now leads team-mate Latvala, who climbed into second place. And Mikkelsen is also on course for a spot on the podium. The Norwegian leapfrogged ahead of Ott Tänak and Elfyn Evans (both Ford). He also benefitted from costly mistakes from Sébastien Loeb and Kris Meeke (both Citroën).


16:50 (CET)

One-two-three for Volkswagen – disaster for Loeb.

The duel between the two big favourites appears to have come to a premature end: Sébastien Ogier completed Friday’s final stage (SS 8, Les Costes – St. Julien en Champsaur 2) a good six minutes faster than his closest rival Sébastien Loeb. The reason for this sudden discrepancy: Loeb crashed on stage eight, causing severe damage to his DS3 WRC, after which he just about managed to limp to the end of the 25-kilomete stage.

The obvious beneficiary of Loeb’s misfortune was Sébastien Ogier, who now leads team-mate Jari-Matti Latvala by 1:45 minutes, with Andreas Mikkelsen a further 49 seconds back in third place. The Norwegian climbed one place late on in the day, as Kris Meeke failed to finish the final stage. As such, Volkswagen Motorsport ends day two of the rally in first, second and third.


16:00 (CET)

All change at the top! Ogier takes the lead.

All of a sudden we have a new Seb at the top of the overall standings at the Rally Monte Carlo: Sébastien Ogier finished a whole 16 seconds quicker than the previous leader, Sébastien Loeb, on the seventh special stage (Aspres-lès-Corps – Chauffayer 2). This was sufficient to move the Volkswagen driver into the lead, eight seconds clear of Loeb. Great job, Seb!

 

Jari-Matti Latvala is third overall, while team-mate Andreas Mikkelsen finds himself in sixth place with just one stage remaining on day two of the rally.

 

Robert Kubica (Ford) was once again the fastest man on SS 7. However, although everything is still running like clockwork for the Pole, yesterday’s retirement means he is still more than ten minutes off the overall lead.


15:20 (CET)

No let-up in all-French battle for the lead.

 

Wow, what a spectacle: two rally stars trading blows! Sébastien Ogier and veteran Citroën driver Sébastien Loeb are embroiled in a mouth-watering battle for the overall lead at the Rally Monte Carlo. The first special stage of the afternoon (La Salle en Beaumont – Corps 2) went to Loeb, who was marginally quicker than Volkswagen drivers Jari-Matti Latvala and Sébastien Ogier. This sees Loeb extend his overall lead to 6.6 seconds.

 

However, Ogier remains second and well within striking distance should the former champion slip up. Latvala remains third overall, 1:14.2 minutes off the lead. Andreas Mikkelsen is running in sixth place..


Classification after 5 of 15 stages

Position Driver / Co-driver Total Time Diff 1st  
1 S. Loeb / D. Elena 1:11:41.4    
2 S. Ogier / J. Ingrassia 1:11:44.4 +3.0  
3 J. Latvala / M. Anttila 1:12:52.1 +1:10.7  
4 O. Tänak / R. Mõlder 1:13:16.4 +1:35.0  
5 E. Evans / D. Barritt 1:13:29.8 +1:48.4  
6 K. Meeke / P. Nagle 1:13:30.2 +1:48.8  
7 A. Mikkelsen / O. Fløene 1:13:32.8 +1:51.4  
8 M. Østberg / J. Andersson 1:13:42.5 +2:01.1  
9 T. Neuville / N. Gilsoul 1:14:09.9 +2:28.5  
10 D. Sordo / M. Martí 1:14:25.8 +2:44.4  

13:30 (CET)

Duel set to run the distance.

 

The battle between Sébastien Ogier and Sébastien Loeb is played out in completely different conditions for each driver.

 

Sébastien Ogier (Polo R WRC #1) did not really know whether to be delighted or frustrated. The reigning world champion trails his predecessor, Sébastien Loeb (Citroën), by just three seconds after the first five special stages. “That is just a coincidence, though,” said Ogier when he arrived for the midday break. “We are basically driving two different rallies.”

 

The two rivals were indeed faced with very contrasting road conditions, thanks to their different positions in the starting order. Take SS 3, for example. The majority of the 15.84-kilometre stretch between La Salle en Beaumont and Corps was iced over. “You had problems just standing up here,” said Ogier’s co-driver Julien Ingrassia, describing the perilous conditions. The two Frenchmen were third out onto the route on Friday morning. The unpleasant task of opening the route went to Sébastien Chardonnet (Citroën) and Robert Kubica (Ford), who both retired on Thursday and rejoined today under Rally2 regulations.

 

Despite this, Ogier and his team-mates Jari-Matti Latvala (Polo R WRC #2) und Andreas Mikkelsen (Polo R WRC #9), who started directly behind him, still found themselves faced with an extremely slippery racing line. Not so Sébastien Loeb, who started down in 14th place. By the time he hit the road, parts of the surface had been cleared and offered greater grip. Although he, like the three Volkswagen drivers, had opted for studded winter tyres on all four wheels, he completed the stage 15 seconds faster than Sébastien Ogier in second place.

 

SS 5 was a very different story. Here, the teams were faced with predominantly dry roads. In these conditions, an early start is almost always advantageous, as more and more mud – in this case, wet mud – is thrown onto the driving surface with every car that attempts to cut a corner. The second man out on the route, Robert Kubica, promptly set the fastest time. Ogier followed in second place, a whole 21.3 seconds faster than Loeb.

 

This leaves the two favourites for victory separated by just three seconds after five stages. “I am intrigued to see whether it stays that way this afternoon,” said Ogier.

 

Latvala goes into the afternoon loop ranked third. The Finn’s tyre selection for stages four and five was a so-called crossover: a studded winter tyre front right and rear left, and winter tyres without spikes on the opposite two corners. “You need the spikes for the icy sections, particularly when braking,” said Latvala, who only opted for four studded tyres on SS 3. “The thick fog was the biggest problem on that stage.”

 

Ogier considered himself slightly unfortunate. “I could have done with the fog on SS 5. I know that well from early on in my career. I would have had an advantage there.” In contrast, the fifth special stage was completely new to all the other top drivers. The fog also made Andreas Mikkelsen’s life interesting. “You really have to trust your pace notes 100 per cent.” The Norwegian was seventh overall at the midday service.


12:10 (CET)

There one minute…

…gone the next: the gap between the two Sébastiens had all but disintegrated by the time the drivers reached the midday service. Rally veteran Loeb saw his lead cut by 22 seconds on SS 5 (Les Costes – St. Julien en Champsaur 1). Ogier’s Polo R WRC now trails his rival in the Citröen by just three seconds. As such, the afternoon loop, which sees the drivers return for a second crack at the morning’s three stages, promises to be a thriller.

Robert Kubica (Ford) appears to have found the perfect set-up and clinched his second stage win of the day. Ogier crossed the finish line just 0.8 seconds behind the Pole, while third place on this stage went to team-mate Jari-Matti Latvala. Andreas Mikkelsen was sixth fastest.

With the cars now in the midday service, Loeb continues to lead the overall standings, followed by Ogier. Jari-Matti is lurking in third place, but already finds himself over a minute off the battle for the lead. Mikkelsen is currently seventh.


11:30 (CET)

Scaling mountains on four wheels.

The race through the French Maritime Alps continues: the fourth special stage (Aspres le Corps – Chauffayer), making its first appearance on the itinerary in this form since 1994, saw the drivers battle their way to an altitude of 1099 metres – and they are set to continue climbing! Fog and ice on the roads continued to make life difficult for them. World champion Sébastien Ogier attempted to look after his Michelin snow tyres, clocking the second fastest time behind Robert Kubica, who pulled off something of a shock to win the 26-kilometre stage.

Jari-Matti Latvala was happy to settle for third place, just behind Ogier. Andreas Mikkelsen had to take care of his studded tyres and consequently lost over half a minute, finishing tenth fastest.

Sébastien Loeb continues to lead the overall standings. However, the Citroën man dropped four seconds, cutting his lead over Ogier to 24.3 seconds.


10:50 (CET)

Two rally aces go toe to toe.

Mon Dieu, what a start to day two of the Rally Monte Carlo. The opening round of the World Rally Championship has carried on where it left off yesterday evening: the duel between rally stars Sébastien Ogier and his namesake Loeb (Citroën) has rally fans on the edge of their seats, as the two Frenchmen are taking no prisoners. Having both won one special stage yesterday, Volkswagen driver Sébastien Ogier took a slightly more cautious approach to Friday’s opening stage (La Salle En Beaumont - Corps 1) – and understandably so: black ice and fog made the 16-kilometre stage a risky affair. Loeb appeared to cope better with the tricky conditions, setting the fastest time for the stage.

Jari-Matti Latvala also steered clear of any major risks. The Finn came home twelfth, 42.7 seconds behind Loeb. “There is no need to risk everything this early on. There are better stages to come,” explained the man who finished runner-up in the 2014 World Rally Championship.

Team-mate Andreas Mikkelsen did a fine job of overcoming the perilous conditions and clocked the fourth fastest time. Loeb now holds a 28-second lead over Ogier in the overall standings. Latvala is fifth, just ahead of Mikkelsen in sixth.


Friday: the special stages of the second day.

06:00 (CET)

Thursday, 22.01.2015


Stars in the hot seat ahead of the Rally Monte Carlo. Thursday's action. The video.


CURRENT PICTURES (15)
LAST UPDATE: 23:40 (CET)


Classification after 2 of 15 stages

Position Driver / Co-driver Total Time Diff 1st  
1 S. Loeb / D. Elena 30:08.2    
2 S. Ogier / J. Ingrassia 30:21.5 +13.3  
3 J. Latvala / M. Anttila 30:44.3 +36.1  
4 O. Tänak / R. Mõlder 30:46.8 +38.6  
5 E. Evans / D. Barritt 30:55.6 +47.4  
6 K. Meeke / P. Nagle 31:08.0 +59.8  
7 A. Mikkelsen / O. Fløene 31:08.1 +59.9  
8 T. Neuville / N. Gilsoul 31:15.0 +1:06.8  
9 M. Østberg / J. Andersson 31:16.9 +1:08.7  
10 H. Solberg / I. Minor 31:25.8 +1:17.6  

23:59 (CET)

Off to a good start.


The first two stages were already extremely demanding for the drivers.


For Jari-Matti Latvala (Polo R WRC #2) it was “possibly the most difficult start to the Rally Monte Carlo that I've ever experienced”. The first two special stages, driven in the dark, were a real handful. Special stage 1 was mostly covered in snow or ice; special stage 2 was mainly dry, or at most wet, with hardly any patches of ice. Which tyres do you use for that combination?

 

The top drivers – including all of the Volkswagen drivers – were of the same opinion and put on four studded tyres. “Otherwise it wouldn't have been possible to complete the first special stage,” said Sébastien Ogier (Polo R WRC #1). “Even then it was like we were in slow motion at times.”

 

It was seven-times Monte winner Sébastien Loeb (Citroën), who also opted for four winter tyres reinforced with studs, who coped best with the conditions, in part thanks to his late starting position (14). Ott Tänak (Ford), who started twelfth, also benefitted from a track that had been cleared in places by the earlier cars and got the second-fastest time. “I could have driven faster, but didn't want to take too many risks,” said Ogier, who recorded the third-fastest time.

 

On special stage 2 the Volkswagen drivers fought back. “It's no fun driving on asphalt with studded tyres,” said Ogier. “It's mainly in fast bends and when braking that the car feels particularly unsettled.” Last year's winner got the best time in spite of this and almost halved his deficit to Loeb.

 

To steady the handling of his Polo R WRC slightly, Andreas Mikkelsen was the only one of the leading drivers to change to two winter tyres without studs on the rear axle for the liaison stage between special stage 1 and special stage 2. “It worked well,” enthused the Norwegian, who, in the 2014 edition of the Polo R WRC, drove the fifth-fastest time.

 

Jari-Matti Latvala was second-fastest ahead of Loeb, but experienced an extra adrenalin rush on special stage 2. “Suddenly a gush of wind swept through the cockpit. At first I thought it was Miika, that he hadn't shut his window.” But it wasn't Anttila's fault. In reality a mounting bolt on the tailgate had come loose, meaning that it moved slightly in the airstream. The repair job was a piece of cake for the Volkswagen mechanics in the 45 minutes service time available.


23:00 (CET)

The first day of the Rally Monte Carlo was full of ups and downs. The first two special stages of the 2015 season may have only covered a total distance of 40.99 kilometres, but they were a real challenge. More than 500 metres of altitude separated the highest and lowest points on both of the sections – all in all the differences in height on the first day of the Monte totalled 1064 metres.


Special Stage 1 started at an altitude of 596 metres above sea level. Not even 13.5 kilometres later, the drivers were at an altitude of 1102 metres, before heading downhill to the finish line (820 metres). On the second special stage, which started at 693 metres, they went even higher. The highest point of the day was at 1214 metres, before it was back down to 664 metres.


23:00 (CET)

Response of a World Champion.

What a performance from Sébastien Ogier. After the disadvantage of starting first meant that the Volkswagen driver had to make do with third place on the first special stage, the World Champion fought back on the second special stage. Ogier was in his own sphere as he drove the 19.68-kilometre Norante – Digne-les-Bains; after 13:57.1 minutes the defending champion in the Polo R WRC #1 crossed the finish line – his rivals couldn't keep up.

 

Only team-mate Jari-Matti Latvala (Polo R WRC #2) was within reach of the champion. With a deficit of 10.7 seconds, the Finn was the second fastest to reach the finish. Sébastien Loeb (Citroën) was 17.6 seconds slower than Ogier and finished third. The third Volkswagen driver, Andreas Mikkelsen (Polo R WRC #9), also put in a good performance. The Norwegian finished fifth, just behind Elfyn Evans (Ford).

 

In the overall standings, Volkswagen drivers Ogier and Latvala are ready to pounce in second and third place, narrowly behind Loeb. Mikkelsen is in seventh place after the first day of the 2015 edition of the Rally Monte Carlo.


21:10 (CET)

Slip sliding in the dark.


What a spectacular start to the 2015 WRC season! On the first special stage of the Rally Monte Carlo, the asphalt conditions switched constantly between wet, ice and snow – a massive challenge for the drivers. However, the Volkswagen drivers started strongly on Special Stage 1, the 21.31-kilometre Entrevaux – Rouaine.


World Champion Sébastien Ogier in the Polo R WRC #1 led for a long time with an outstanding time of 16:24.4 minutes. However, the conditions continued to improve for the drivers that started much later – nevertheless the Frenchman did enough to finish third. The first special stage win at Monte went to Sébastien Loeb (Citroën), Ott Tänak (Ford) was second.


Runner-up Jari-Matti Latvala (Polo R WRC #2) took 16:36.5 minutes to complete the first special stage and finished eighth. Team-mate Andreas Mikkelsen (#9), who is still driving last year's Polo, finished in 13th.


18:15 (CET)

“Put all your trust in the pacenotes.”

The three Volkswagen works drivers expect the Rally Monte Carlo to be particularly challenging.

He won't forget to call his father this time. Exactly one year ago, Sébastien Ogier (Polo R WRC #1) started the special stages around his home town of Gap with tyres that were far from ideal – for which he was later reprimanded by his father. “I'll ask his advice this time,” promised Ogier ahead of the start, which gets underway in front of the casino in Monte Carlo as of 18:30 local time. “And if not, I hope to get the same result as last year anyway.” Ogier won then – even without his father's help.

In general the drivers are expecting the Monte to be more difficult than last season. “Some of the new stages are very demanding,” said Ogier. “There are lots of sections where you have to put all your trust in your pacenotes.” Overall about two thirds of the special stages haven't been used in such a long time that even old hands such as Ogier and Jari-Matti Latvala (Polo R WRC #2) aren't able to use their past experiences.


“That's to my advantage,” said Andreas Mikkelsen (Polo R WRC #9). The Norwegian has made fewer Monte appearances than most of his rivals. “On many of the stages in the practice we were all starting from scratch. This means that my lack of experience isn't as much of a disadvantage as usual.”


New special stages are always particularly challenging for the teams. On top of that – and typical of the Rally Monte Carlo – is the element of uncertainty regarding the weather. “It has snowed on some of the stages since we drove them in the practice,” said Latvala. “This means that our notes aren't 100 percent accurate anymore.” This makes the work of the ice spies, who drive all the special stages once again before the start and pass on the changes to the track conditions to their protégés, even more important. After all, not everyone's father lives just around the corner.


Thursday: the special stages of the first day.

11:00 (CET)

Previews


Wednesday, 21.01.2015

When tarmac suddenly turns into gravel.

 

The shakedown turned into a mud bath. Sébastien Ogier was the fastest Volkswagen driver.

 

The weather showed just how changeable it can be at the opener of the Rally Monte Carlo. It was a sunny start to the day in Gap, before rain showers moved in at lunchtime. The result: The special stage, on the outskirts of the city, chosen for the shakedown turned into a mud track after the first few cars. “It was supposed to be a gravel stage,” complained World Champion Sébastien Ogier (Polo R WRC #1), among others. Last year's winner stuck to the mandatory three passes – one more than in 2014 – and got the third-fastest time.

 

Andreas Mikkelsen (Polo R WRC #9) was just a tenth of a second slower in fourth. The Norwegian allowed himself four passes of the 3.52-kilometre test special stage, and also tested the crossover variant tyre selection synonymous with the Rally Monte Carlo: two slicks and two snow tyres criss-crossed on the front and rear axle.

 

Jari-Matti Latvala (Polo R WRC #2) wasn't entirely happy with the warm-up. “My car was a bit too nervous for my liking on the extremely slippery track. That's why I tested different suspension set-ups.” Latvala drove the shakedown five times, but was unable to improve on a track that got worse as time went on. The Finn finished in eleventh place.

 

Sébastien Loeb (Citroën), who is contesting his first WRC rally after a break of more than a year, got the best time in the shakedown. His team-mate Kris Meeke was second fastest.


15:05 (CET)

High five.

Five different tyre types are available. All the drivers have a choice of 82 tyres – but can only use a maximum of 34.

It used to be quite an undertaking – new tyres were fitted after every special stage of a rally, and during Rally Monte Carlo the drivers also had to choose from more than a dozen different tyre types. This involved the tyre suppliers having to haul thousands of tyres back and forth across the Alps. But this is now all a thing of the past, with the range of tyres having already been significantly reduced not least to reduce costs, and having been reduced further still for the 2015 season.

 

A World Rally Car driver in Rally Monte Carlo now has a choice of just 82 tyres. Volkswagen Motorsport’s partner Michelin supplies five types of tyre for each of the three Polo R WRC cars: eight asphalt tyres made of a hard rubber compound (H4), 16 soft tyres (S4), 24 of the new super soft variety (SS4) for use in the Monte, and 24 snow tyres with spikes and ten without. The spikes used in the season opener are tiny, however, in comparison to the long spikes needed for Rally Sweden – a mere two millimetres of steel may protrude from the tyres’ surface, and the number of spikes is limited to around 200.

 

There are also restrictions in terms of the number of tyres a driver is actually permitted to use from among their 82 tyres. Tyres may now only be changed in the service park, rather than after every stage. As such, a driver is able to use a maximum of 34 tyres including spares – which is not much over 15 special stages.


14:30 (CET)

Seb vs. Seb:

a duel of champions to kick off the season.

Two rallying superstars will go head to head once again in the season opener in Monte Carlo: Volkswagen driver Sébastien Ogier, who is seeking to score his third championship win in the Polo R WRC, and the nine-time WRC champion and Citroën old hand Sébastien Loeb. The fight between the two fast Frenchmen promises to deliver some thrilling action for the spectators, as neither of them is likely to be giving anything away to their respective rival.

 

Ogier, who won his first Monte last year, is obviously keen to repeat this success in his ‘home’ rally. And the two-time world champion isn’t perturbed by Loeb’s appearance as a guest entrant: “I think he’ll be just as strong as ever. He may not have driven in a rally for a year, but he has stayed active in motorsport. It will making the race exciting, but I don’t think it means any extra pressure for me,” explained Ogier.

 

Loeb, who hails from Alsace, can already look back on seven wins in this prestigious event. He didn’t compete in any rallies in 2014, but will be banking on his talent and his many years of experience: “It’s my ambition to do the best I can. I haven’t competed in a year, so I’m not going all out to win. But on the other hand, I always feel the need to give it my all when I’m on the starting line. So I’ll prepare well and we’ll see what happens.”

 

The top two favourites are therefore playing it cool. The same could be said for the current weather conditions in France’s Maritime Alps – but things are sure to hot up for the fans as these two top drivers battle it out for every tenth of a second in the ice and snow.


Friday, 16.01.2015

Baptism of fire in the icy cold.

The new Polo R WRC will have its competitive debut in the wintry Alps.

Volkswagen Motorsport got ready for the start of the 2015 season, the legendary Rally Monte Carlo, with a final test last week. The reigning world champion Sébastien Ogier (Polo R WRC #1) is champing at the bit to give the new Polo R WRC its first competitive outing. “A lot of the details have been improved in the new car. But our competitors have been busy over the winter too. So it won’t really be until the first special stage of Rally Monte Carlo that we know where we stand.”

 

A particular highlight for last year’s winner will be the comeback of the seven-time Monte winner Sébastien Loeb. “I’m looking forward to duelling with him.” The fact that some of the new special stages will take place near his home town, Gap, also appeals to Ogier. “I know some of the roads from when I was younger. And I’m curious to see what it’s like to drive them in a World Rally Car.”

 

While Ogier has clearly set his sights on winning the rally, his teammate Jari-Matti Latvala (Polo R WRC #2) isn’t aiming quite so high. “I’m fast on snow, and am now good on asphalt too. But a combination of the two isn’t really my thing,” said the Finn, referring to the anticipated difficult track conditions. “Anyway, winning Rally Monte Carlo isn’t quite as important to me as it is to a Frenchman. I’m thinking more in terms of the season as a whole.”

 

Andreas Mikkelsen (Polo R WRC #9) will be the only driver to line up in last year’s car. “But that’s no disadvantage in Rally Monte Carlo,” the Norwegian believes. “For a start, the 2014 Polo R WRC is a winning car. And secondly, in Rally Monte Carlo more than any other rally, what matters the most is choosing the right tyres and sometimes having a little bit of luck too.” Mikkelsen aims to improve on his seventh place in 2014.

 

Rally Monte Carlo traditionally poses a particular challenge for the Volkswagen Motorsport logistics experts too. The central service park will be set up in Gap at the beginning of the week, and the shakedown will take place nearby on Wednesday. There is then an official presentation of the 2015 World Rally Championship in Monte Carlo on Thursday, some 200 kilometres away via winding Alpine roads or 300 kilometres on the motorway, before the entrants set off from the start ramp in front of the casino that evening (from 18:30). They will tackle two special stages that take them back to Gap, with the stages on Friday and on Saturday morning being held nearby.

 

The entire rally armada including the service park will then up sticks and move back to Monte Carlo on Saturday afternoon. After a short circuit that takes the drivers through the Maritime Alps, the rally will finish in front of the Prince’s Palace on Sunday afternoon (from 13:49). There are only 15 special stages in this rally, but at a total distance of 355 kilometres they will be anything but easy.


Monday, 12.01.2015

Season opener on unknown territory.

 

Mon Dieu! This year’s “Monte” will be full of surprises for the WRC drivers. The organisers from the Automobile Club de Monaco have made a whole host of changes to the route of the 2015 rally, the first of the new season. More than 75 per cent of the route has changed since 2014. Rallying fans can rest assured, however, that the Col de Turini classics are still on the itinerary this year.

 

The first two Special Stages on the Thursday evening represent uncharted territory for the drivers and co-drivers (Entrevaux–Rouaine and Norante–Digne les Bains). Both Stages will be completed in the dark, which could prove particularly challenging in adverse winter weather.

 

Friday’s three Special Stages are also completely new. Each will be completed twice. This leg will take the WRC circus to the Hautes-Alpes and Isère regions north of the town of Gap (service park). All three Stages (La Salle en Beaumont–Corps 1, Aspres les Corps–Chauffayer 1, Les Costes–Saint Julien en Champsaur 1) are located close to one another. Together, they create a 67-kilometre run. The big question is who will cope best with the unfamiliar terrain.

 

Traditional Stages like Sisteron–Thoard and the legendary SS on Col de Turini (La Bollène Vesubie–Sospel) are on the itinerary for Saturday and Sunday.

 

The changes are not limited to the route. The rules for the Rally Monte Carlo have also been amended: this year, drivers will be permitted to re-enter the following day under the Rally 2 regulations if they have an accident and damage their car.