Well, of course, the unstoppable Sebastien Loeb won the 2013 Rallye Monte Carlo, his seventh. But with the rally legend competing in only four rounds for Citroën this year the real story from the Monte is Sebastien Ogier’s sensational debut in the Volkswagen Polo R WRC.
In dreadful conditions throughout the rally, Ogier wasted no time in showing the potential of the new Polo by clocking the fastest time in the opening stage of the event. He capped off that great start with a podium position, including a healthy lead of over 2 minutes to third placed Dani Sordo (Citroën).
In effect, then, Ogier leads the world championship. Both he and Volkswagen are talking down their chances for the rest of the year, but we sense there could be something special brewing here and we’d not be surprised at all if one of the Polo drivers claimed the top prize at year’s end.
Fellow Volkswagen driver, Jari-Matti Latvala was running strongly in the top five as well until he, along with several others, fell foul to the extreme conditions on the final day, crashing out on the famous Col de Turini stage.
In the previous 80 Monte rallies we can’t imagine conditions ever being worse than they were in 2013. And with Rally Sweden the next event on the WRC calendar there will be no respite from the snow and ice.
Team statements from Volkswagen and Citroën are available below, along with several photos.
For our part we welcome Volkswagen’s approach to making many photos available to the likes of us and wish the other teams followed suit.
Strong debut: Volkswagen finishes “Monte” in second place
Wolfsburg (19 January 2013).
- Absolutely “Monte”: Volkswagen showed an impressive debut in the FIA World Rally Championship.
In one of the toughest editions of the Rally Monte Carlo in recent years, Sébastien Ogier/Julien Ingrassia (F/F) managed to lead the Polo R WRC in its first competitive outing to second place. In difficult weather conditions with a mix of snow, ice, and wet asphalt next to bright sunshine, thick fog, and heavy rain Ogier/Ingrassa won two special stages on the classic through the French Maritime Alps.
Behind the nine-time world champions Sébastien Loeb/Daniel Elena (F/MC, Citroën), Ogier/Ingrassia achieved top times from the start, thus reaching the podium straightaway and on their own accord in the debut of the Polo R WRC. Their team colleagues Jari-Matti Latvala/Miikka Anttila (FIN/FIN) were among the top five almost until the end of the rally. Because of the extremely challenging weather conditions with slush and pieces of ice, they were, however, forced to retire after sliding off in the legendary special stage over the Col de Turini.
Milestones: Fastest times for Ogier/Ingrassia
First special stage, first fastest time – for Volkswagen the Rally Monte Carlo began with a milestone achievement. On “Le Moulinon”, with 37.1 kilometers the longest special stage of the rally, Sébastien Ogier/Julien Ingrassia achieved the best time. On the second day, the French duo also secured their position with the best time in the fifth special stage, “La Batie D’Andaure”, in their home rally “Monte”. With other top results Ogier/Ingrassia consolidated their second position in the overall ranking. In total, Volkswagen managed to record top-three results in 14 of 16 special stages.
Extreme weather: premature end to the “Monte” for safety reasons
Extreme weather conditions and safety concerns resulted in a premature end of the Rally Monte Carlo. The organizers of the rally called off the remaining two stages on Saturday evening, including the final round over the Col de Turini. Heavy rain and the resulting unpredictable weather conditions in the night from Saturday to Sunday as well as traffic chaos around the mythical special stage caused safety concerns. Shortly before the cancellation of special stages 17 and 18, Jari-Matti Latvala/Miikka Anttila had slipped from the track into the barriers with their Polo R WRC. Slush and pieces of ice had made the opening stage of last day of the rally unpredictable. Besides Latvala/Anttila, other top drivers crashed out in this special stage.
Tyre gamble and driving skills most crucial
Changing road textures and unpredictable weather: The conditions in the Rally Monte Carlo are unique in the WRC calendar. In no other rally is the skill of the driver as important as in the “Monte”. An additional success factor: the tyre choice. In the 2013 edition of the classic rally spike tyres turned out to be a rare commodity. No more than 20 pieces per car are permitted by the regulations. When which tyres are used, is a decision that the teams decide based on the information provided by weather crews along the stages and precise weather forecasts. Here, Volkswagen not only proved to be ready for the WRC with the Polo R WRC technically but also in driving and logistically.
The next round of the FIA World Rally Championship (WRC) will take place in Sweden from February 07–10, 2013.
Quotes, day four of the Rally Monte Carlo
Jost Capito, Volkswagen Motorsport Director
“Second place in the first rally of the new Polo R WRC is more than we could have expected. The team did an exceptional job in the last four rally days and prepared the cars perfectly. The Rally Monte Carlo is the most complex event in the calendar and the team has here shown that they are ready for the World Rally Championship. There was no mistake, not the slightest problem. One cannot value the performance of Sébastien Ogier high enough. He drove the ‘Monte’ for in a World Rally Car the first time. There is no other rally in which the driver’s impact on the result is bigger. That is why we will not see where we stand with the Polo R WRC until after the upcoming events.”
Sébastien Ogier, Volkswagen Polo R WRC #8
“I never was as happy about a second place as I was today. To reach the podium in our debut with the Polo R WRC is just great. These were probably the most difficult conditions in a Rally Monte Carlo I have ever experienced. Especially today, during the first run to the Col de Turini, it was extremely slippery, so that speeds of more than 20 kph were not possible. It was just about keeping the car on the road. The entire team worked very hard during the last year, and I am happy to give something back to them. I am sorry for Jari-Matti but I am sure that we will celebrate further victories together for Volkswagen in the future.”
Jari-Matti Latvala, Volkswagen Polo R WRC #7
“I am very disappointed. There was more wet snow in the first run through the Col de Turini stage than I expected. I was too fast right in the beginning, the car did not turn as expected, and I crashed heavily. Another car had slipped there before I did and I hit the same lane. There was nothing I could do. It was my goal to gather lots of experience with the Polo R WRC. It is bitter to end the rally this way. I am sorry for the guys because they prepared the cars brilliantly. I really wanted to give them a points result.”
And then there was …
… the Volkswagen Group brand Audi, which got on board the World Rally Championship at the “Monte” in 1981 with the Quattro, winning, just like Volkswagen with the Polo R WRC, the very first special stage in its debut as a manufacturer. At the time, it was Hannu Mikkola who had a dream start; in 2013, it was Sébastien Ogier who started in a similarly spectacular way in the very first and longest special stage. The Quattro was revolutionary within the World Rally Championship in the early eighties and helped start the triumphant march of the four-wheel drive. This kind of transmission technology is indispensable in World Rally Cars today.
FIA World Rally Championship (WRC), Rally Monte Carlo – Final results
1. Sébastien Loeb/Daniel Elena (F/MC), Citroën 5h 18m 57.2s
2. Sébastien Ogier/Julien Ingrassia (F/F), Volkswagen + 1m 38.9s
3. Dani Sordo/Carlos del Barrio (E/E), Citroën + 3m 49.1s
4. Mikko Hirvonen/Jarmo Lehtinen (FIN/FIN), Citroën + 5m 26.3s
5. Bryan Bouffier/Xavier Panseri (F/F), Citroën + 8m 13.1s
6. Mads Østberg/Jonas Andersson (N/S), Ford + 12m 03.7s
7. Martin Prokop/Michal Ernst (CZ/CZ), Ford + 23m 27.3s
8. Sepp Wiegand/Frank Christian (D/D), Škoda + 29m 34.5s
Sébastien Ogier: “The first time I’ve been happy with second place”
Wolfsburg (20 January 2013). It was an impressive debut from Volkswagen in the FIA World Rally Championship (WRC): in their maiden competitive outing in the Polo R WRC, Sébastien Ogier/Julien Ingrassia (F/F) promptly finished runner-up at the Rally Monte Carlo. In an interview, the Volkswagen works driver, who was making his first appearance in a World Rally Car at the “Monte”, spoke about the success of the past four days.
Congratulations on a perfect start to the 2013 season. Did you believe, before the start of the Rally Monte Carlo, that you would finish runner-up at the first attempt?
Sébastien Ogier: “I really had no idea how well we would fair. The Rally Monte Carlo was the first time we had come up against the opposition in direct competition. Up until then we had only been able to compare data from the test drives with that from the Skoda Fabia S2000, with which I contested the whole of last season.”
How significant is this result for the rest of the season?
Sébastien Ogier: “The Rally Monte Carlo and the forthcoming Rally Sweden are so unique that neither really give a very accurate indication of our performance. We will have to wait for the first gravel rally to really gain any significant insight into what kind of performance we are capable of.”
What was going through your head as you lined up at the start of the opening special stage of the Rally Monte Carlo?
Sébastien Ogier: “That was the moment I had been working towards for an entire year. As such, I was a bit nervous and my adrenalin levels were quite high.”
Were you surprised when you immediately won the Polo R WRC’s first special stage in the World Championship?
Sébastien Ogier: “I did not receive any split times in the car throughout the stage, so I did not know how fast we were until we reached the finish. That was a great moment.”
How difficult was the 2013 Rally Monte Carlo?
Sébastien Ogier: “Unbelievably difficult. This was the first time I had driven here in a World Rally Car. Some special stages were completely new to me. This meant I was only able to rely on a limited amount of experience from past appearances. Selecting the right tyre and evaluating the conditions out on the course correctly was really complicated under these circumstances.”
After the first day, the gap to Sébastien Loeb barely changed for the rest of the rally. Why was that?
Sébastien Ogier: “We started the first day as the eighth car out on the course – seven places behind Sébastien Loeb. That was a disadvantage in the afternoon, as the conditions deteriorated significantly with every competitor. As a result, we lost almost a minute and a half on Loeb. As of the second leg, we started straight after him. From then on our times were more or less identical.”
What does second place mean to you?
Sébastien Ogier: “I think this is the first time that I’ve been happy with second place. I am normally only satisfied if I win.”
The only man who finished ahead of you is Sébastien Loeb, and he will not be starting at every round of the World Championship. That makes you one of the favourites for the title …
Sébastien Ogier: “The title is not our goal this year. Our initial priority is to gain as much experience as possible at all the rallies.”
Loeb claims seventh Monte win
- Sébastien Loeb and Daniel Elena seal seventh Rallye Monte-Carlo win
- Two Citroën DS3 WRCs secured podium positions
- Citroën Total Abu Dhabi World Rally Team now leads Manufacturers’ standings
Just as in testing in the first three days, despite Saturday’s two night stages on the Col du Turini being cancelled, day four saw Sébastien Loeb and Daniel Elena win the Rallye Monte-Carlo for the seventh time. Two Citroën DS3 WRCs finished on the podium at this year’s opening round, with third place overall secured by Dani Sordo and Carlos del Barrio. Thanks to the fourth position of Mikko Hirvonen and Jarmo Lehtinen, the Citroën Total Abu Dhabi World Rally Team now leads the Manufacturers’ World Rally Championship standings.
Flashback to Valence, early on Friday afternoon; while the crews headed off to complete the final two stages of the day, the Citroën Racing team were beginning to dismantle the service park structures. After covering some 393 kilometres, the five articulated lorries arrived in the Principality in the middle of the night. By dawn, everything was ready to welcome the DS3 WRCs in the place where the pits are set up for the Formula 1 Grand Prix.
The switch of the rally base to the far south of France did not result in any milder weather conditions. Incessant rain fell in Monaco, turning to snow above 800 metres. The conditions meant the crews had to fit studded Michelin Pilot Alpine snow tyres again. The first loop was made up of two runs up the Col du Turini (Moulinet – La Bollène Vésubie), interspersed with a run through the Col de Loda (Lantosque – Luceram).
At the end of SS14, Sébastien Loeb couldn’t quite believe how difficult the conditions were: “It was just undriveable… I had to carve a line through a thick layer of slush, and we were aquaplaning all the time. You couldn’t go any faster than 30kph on the straight sections, otherwise you would lose the car completely and go off!” Forced to carve out the line for his rivals, Seb’s efforts certainly delighted Bryan Bouffier, who took his DS3 WRC to the top of the timesheets.
This stage saw a number of crews retire after going off. Dani Sordo’s and Mikko Hirvonen’s rivals were punished by their mistakes and the Spaniard and the Finn thus moved up to third and fourth overall. “You had to stay on the road, the conditions were truly awful, totally mad,” reported Dani Sordo. “The second run on the Col du Turini wasn’t quite as difficult, you just had to keep to the lines. But in any case, I am not taking any risks to make sure I make it to the end.”
Less extreme, SS15 gave Sébastien Loeb a breather before taking on Turini again: “The first run had left two clean lines on the road, lines from which you could not afford to wander. Once again, it wasn’t very interesting for the drivers or the spectators, but we just had to make it to the end…”
When they returned to Monaco in the early evening, the crews set about choosing the least worn studded tyres for the two night stages on the Col du Turini. However, the cars had barely left the service park when the organisers of the rally announced that the final two stages had been cancelled for safety reasons.
The rally was therefore over, with the feeling of surprise quickly replaced by one of joy in the Citroën camp, which celebrated fittingly the achievement of its heroes. “It was a bit of a strange end to the rally, but given the extreme conditions, we understand the decision,” admitted Yves Matton, Citroën Racing Team Principal. “The target we had set ourselves was to put two cars on the podium, and that’s exactly what we did. It’s also very pleasing to see the four DS3 WRCs end the rally in the top 5.”
In winning the Monte-Carlo for the seventh time, Sébastien Loeb equalled the record of four consecutive wins held up to now by Tommi Mäkinen. “It’s been a little bit peculiar, not because of how the rally has gone, but because we have had every condition possible this weekend… apart from dry roads! I think this is the first Monte-Carlo that I have competed in where I haven’t used slick tyres at all. We nearly dominated the event from start to finish, so I’m pleased about that and I’m going to really savour this win, especially as in all likelihood it’ll be my last one here.”
“Obviously, I am pleased to mark my return to Citroën with a podium finish,” said Dani Sordo. “In conditions which aren’t really natural for me, it really is a good result. There’s no doubt that I finished quite a long way behind both Sebs, but we quickly found ourselves in a different race. I can’t wait for the next rally!”
Mikko Hirvonen’s fourth place overall enabled the Citroën Total Abu Dhabi World Rally Team to finish the first round with a 19-point lead at the top of the Manufacturers’ World Championship standings. “I was perhaps a little fortunate at the end of the race, but I am really happy with this result,” confirmed the Finn. “It was so difficult that I have to be pleased to have made it to the finish in a good position! It’s really not bad in terms of the championship.”