Peugeot 1-2-3 in Monte Carlo Rally
- 28th January 2009, 11:15am
The 2009 Rallye Monte-Carlo will doubtlessly be remembered for many years to come as one of the winter classic's most thrilling editions, if only because of the cocktail of wintry conditions and dramatic turnarounds that kept spectators on their toes from start to finish.
The end of the three-day event saw Peugeot write a new chapter in its motor sport record by monopolising all three steps of the final podium with the 207 Super 2000s of SÃ©bastien Ogier, Freddy Loix and StÃ©phane Sarrazin.
Before today, Peugeot's last Monte Carlo victory dated back to Ari Vatanen's success with the 205 Turbo 16 in 1985. Despite more recent bids with the 206 WRC and the 307 WRC, the French carmaker failed to resume its winning ways in the Principality until this week's triumph with the 207 Super 2000, which has emerged as the car to beat in the Intercontinental Rally Challenge (IRC).
By no stretch of the imagination could this year's Rallye Monte-Carlo be described as a stroll. Given the lineÂup of competitive drivers at the start, plus the constantly changing weather and the limited amount of grip available for much of the event, competitors faced no end of potential pitfalls which made driving skill and mechanical reliability absolutely essential.
Prior to the final leg, which featured two visits to the celebrated Col du Turini test, the top-four were covered by less than a minute, with SÃ©bastien Ogier (Peugeot 207 Super 2000) topping the provisional standings ahead of Freddy Loix (Peugeot 207 Super 2000), Juho Hanninen (Skoda Fabia) and Kris Meeke (Peugeot 207 Super 2000). But Friday's opening stage changed all that when Hanninen and Peugeot UK's Kris Meeke crashed out shortly after the start.
The same test also saw Freddy Loix (Peugeot Belgium-Luxemburg) drop two minutes following a puncture which handed second spot to Fiat driver Toni Gardemeister. The Finn then went off on the first Turini loop, however, enabling Peugeot to clinch a one-two-three finish, thanks in part to the incisive performance of StÃ©phane Sarrazin over the last two stages. Entered by Peugeot France, with support from France's dealer network, the Frenchman had no alternative but to push as hard as he could over the final stages if he was to hold on to third spot after Skoda's Kopecky succeeded in closing the gap to within just two 2 seconds when the Peugeot driver damaged his car in an off on the first night-time loop. The work of the mechanics at the following service halt on the harbour front in Monaco was spontaneously applauded by spectators as the team succeeded in replacing the car's entire front-left corner and subframe in just 18 minutes.
Sarrazin went on to produce a breathtaking run over the last two stages which was rewarded with two fastest times, taking his final tally to five stage wins, the best score of the three-day event. The Frenchman completed the rally less than half a minute behind Belgium's Freddy Loix whose consistent, faultless drive has put him in a strong position in the provisional IRC standings, since the 2009 Rallye Monte-Carlo winner SÃ©bastien Ogier has no plans to contest the rest of the series.
After being revealed by France's 'Rallye Jeunes' talent-seeking programme, Ogier went on to win the Volant Peugeot 206 two years ago, before taking the Junior Rally Championship title in 2008. Named to defend the colours of the BFGoodrich Drivers Team on the Monte Carlo, the 25-year old youngster succeeded in winning the legendary rally at first attempt in his Kronos-run 207 Super 2000 which he only got to drive for the first time a few days before the start.
After profiting from the opening leg to find his marks, he started to up his pace on Day 2 and then again early on the final leg, before controlling from in front to add his name directly under that of SÃ©bastien Loeb in the list of Rallye Monte Carlo winners. The Frenchman consequently headed Peugeot's first ever one-two-three finish on the event which saw Tobia Cavallini cross the line in 12th place overall at the wheel of his Racing Lions-tended car.
Olivier QUESNEL (Director, Peugeot Sport): "Twenty-four years after Ari Vatanen's win with the 205 Turbo T16 in 1985, Peugeot has succeeded in securing an emphatic one-two-three finish at the end of what has been a memorable 2009 Rallye Monte-Carlo. We couldn't have wished for a better confidence booster for everyone at Peugeot Sport before they refocus on their priority objective this season, which is the Le Mans 24 Hours. The Peugeot 207 Super 2000 has once again shown itself to be incredibly competitive and reliable. And we mustn't forget the capital roles played by Kronos Racing, whose cars finished first and second, and by BFGoodrich whose tyres performed perfectly in the difficult conditions."
StÃ©phane SARRAZIN: "I made a poor tyre choice for the first Turini loop. I also made a mistake on SS12 which resulted in significant damage to the front-left corner of my car. After the finish of the stage, I managed to fit the spare wheel and tyre but I couldn't turn the steering wheel, so I decided to put the damaged rim back on and disconnect the damper before attempting to make it back to service. We checked in at the time control with just three seconds remaining before incurring time penalties! The mechanics did a fantastic job and I went back out with a car that was capable of posting the last two fastest times. It's nice to have played my part in Peugeot's one-two-three finish, although I would obviously have preferred to have won!"
SÃ©bastien OGIER: "I think the keys to our win today were our steady approach and the fact that we chose not to try to match the speed of the early front-runners who set off at a blistering pace. Given the conditions, we didn't think anybody would be able to keep up that sort of speed for long, so we decided to hold back, not to mention the fact that I wasn't exactly familiar with the car. I tried to stay out of trouble by driving as consistently as possible, while our direct rivals started to make mistakes. Given the high level of the entry, I never thought I could win this rally at first attempt. Everything was new to us, and we didn't even know we would be competing until a fortnight ago. Thanks to BFGoodrich, however, we were given the opportunity to take part and I would like to say a big thank you to the BFGoodrich Drivers Team programme, as well as to Kronos Racing who provided us with a car that was extremely competitive in conditions I have never seen on any other rally."
Freddy LOIX: "That was the toughest Rallye Monte-Carlo I have ever contested, if only because of the weather which threw snow, ice, frost and rain at us. I have never competed with such wide snow tyres either, and the stages were particularly treacherous. The slightest mistake could easily cost 20 seconds, so it was vital to keep out of trouble. Everything went reasonably well for us over the three days, although we knew there was no way we would be able to catch SÃ©bastien after we dropped two minutes with a puncture. After that, we concentrated on defending second place which is a good result for us in championship terms."â€¨â€¨
2009 RALLYE MONTE-CARLO, FINAL POSITIONS: â€¨
1, S. Ogier (Peugeot 207 Super 2000), 4h 40m 45.7sâ€¨
2, F. Loix (Peugeot 207 Super 2000), +1m 43.6sâ€¨
3, S. Sarrazin (Peugeot 207 Super 2000), +2m 21.6sâ€¨
4, J. Kopecky (Skoda Fabia), +3m 17.3sâ€¨
5, G. Basso (Fiat Abarth), +4m 28.0sâ€¨
6, A. Alan (Fiat Abarth), +10m 49.7sâ€¨
â€¦12, T. Cavallini (Peugeot 207 Super 2000), +28m 44.2s â€¨â€¨
Next IRC round: Rally Brazil (March 5-7)
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