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Gala Evening at Sporting Monte-Carlo
13 April 2024

Gala Evening at Sporting Monte-Carlo

Neuville / Wydaeghe pay tribute to the stewards of Automobile Club de Monaco

The winning crew of the 92nd Monte-Carlo Rally, Thierry Neuville and Martijn Wydaeghe, had spoken of “perfection” after one of his eight fastest times over the weekend, out of 17 special stages contested. They paid a heartfelt and much appreciated tribute to all members of Automobile Club de Monaco (ACM) during Sunday’s gala evening at the “Salle des Etoiles” of Sporting Monte-Carlo.

The compliment came from a Belgian resident of Monaco, so it went straight to the heart of president Michel Boeri and his troops on the ground, who did not count their hours throughout the week, in the five French departments crossed by this memorable 92nd edition.

“We enjoyed having a huge number of spectators and people cheering us on, and it was great to see so many people lining the stages of this perfectly organized rally”, said Neuville on the Sporting stage.

The composition of the podium was exactly the same as in 2020, with Neuville, the Hyundai leading driver, ahead of two Toyota drivers, Sébastien Ogier and Elfyn Evans, as the official speaker had already pointed out on the podium in Casino Square, a few hours earlier.

“I’m very proud of our work, and I want to thank all the marshals and stewards who did an extraordinary job,” added Martijn Wydaeghe, the victorious co-driver, who was not yet here in 2020. He was very tired and couldn’t wait to rest, but once again this week he did justice to his role as a perfect co-driver for a star driver.

It was a beautiful gala evening at the Sporting and the hero of the day, congratulated in the afternoon by his famous compatriot Jacky Ickx, spoke at length: “This win has a special flavour because Monte Carlo is the most prestigious of all rallies, and because it’s the second time I’ve had the chance to win here. But it’s the first time for Martijn, so we’re very happy”.

Neuville also spoke about the rest of the 2024 season, which has clearly been well prepared at Hyundai Motorsport: “There have been a lot of changes and with our new boss, Cyril (Abiteboul), we have put things in place to go after the drivers’ title, which has been eluding me for so long, and a new manufacturers’ title. We’ve got off to the best possible start, but there are still a few rallies to go. We need to keep our feet on the ground and look ahead. I want to make my dream come true and I want to tell all the young people who follow rallying that there is always a way of achieving your goal, if you fight hard, if you keep believing, if you are well surrounded, if you have the motivation and the will. D-Day will come”. A very strong message, from a worthy champion.

Neuville: 20 wins in WRC, 30 points to start 2024!
13 April 2024

Neuville: 20 wins in WRC, 30 points to start 2024!

He’s done it! Thierry Neuville dominated the 92nd Monte-Carlo Rally, claiming his 20th win in WRC and pocketing all 30 points available under the new World Championship points system. He is now, logically, the favourite for 2024.

It was an even-handed victory over Sébastien Ogier (Toyota), the absolute benchmark in the Monte-Carlo (9 wins), who today scored his 99th WRC podium. But the Frenchman was in mourning, as he said at the finish of the last special stage: “It was difficult to say goodbye on Monday to someone who was very important to me, who launched my career in motorsport and who bought me my first go-kart”.

Because he is a great champion, Ogier took the start anyway, after having considered withdrawing, but he was upset all week. His attitude, his behaviour and his performances (6 best times on Friday and Saturday) were all blatant tributes to this member of his family who had suddenly passed away. And he searched for no excuse.

“It was a great battle with Thierry [Neuville]. Well done to him, he was very quick this weekend. It was a difficult week for me. It was a rollercoaster of emotions. I really struggled on Friday,” said the eight-time world champion, whose emotions as a young driver came flooding back this week on his home turf.

A double for Neuville in the Principality

That in no way detracts from Neuville’s merit, who won for the 2nd time in the Principality, after his victory in 2020, and took the maximum number of points available under the new championship scale (30), because he was also the best in the Power Stage. His Hyundai was the absolute weapon this week, thanks also to the new Hyundai technical director, François Xavier Demaison (formerly with Citroën Sport, VW Motorsport and Williams F1).

The Belgian hopes, in his heart of hearts, that it will remain so throughout the season, to help him finally claim the world crown that has eluded him since his WRC debut in 2012. He is already the stage winner leader for 2024, having set eight fastest times in this rally, compared to six for Ogier, two for Evans and one for Tänak.

“I’m at a loss for words. It was such a great weekend and I felt so comfortable. The whole team did a fantastic job and I think it worked really well. We need to keep working, but we’re very happy to win this rally,” reacted Neuville, before climbing onto the podium on Col de Turini. For co-driver Martijn Wydaeghe, it was a first Monte Carlo victory since he took over from Nicolas Gilsoul in the right-hand bucket.

Successful comeback for Fourmaux

The podium, behind the untouchable Neuville and Ogier, was completed by Elfyn Evans (Toyota), the reigning world vice-champion who led from Thursday evening to Saturday morning. “We weren’t quick enough to win this weekend. The potential was there but we didn’t do what we needed to do on Saturday afternoon. On this stage, things were fine but the tyres started to weaken on the climb [to the Col de Turini]. That’s just the way it is”, summed up the Welshman.

The last spots in the Top 5 went to Ott Tänak (Hyundai), the 2019 World Champion, and Adrien Fourmaux (M-Sport Ford). “We are very happy to be at the end of this rally, at the top of the Col de Turini. We still need to improve on certain aspects but for the start of the season, it’s really good, so I’m positive,” explained Fourmaux, back in the queen category (Rally1) after a season of purgatory in WRC2.

WRC: Rossel wins at the end

In addition to Ogier and Fourmaux, the colours of French rallying were also brilliantly defended by Yohan Rossel (Citroën), the 2021 WRC3 champion. He won the WRC2 category thanks to a clear-cut fastest time on Col de Turini, even though he was only 3rd in the standings on Sunday morning when he left the service park in Gap.

Once again, it was a Monte-Carlo Rally to remember in many ways. One of the most important features for the organisers at Automobile Club de Monaco (ACM) is always the safety of the thousands of spectators in all the departments crossed. Thanks to the patience and dedication of dozens of volunteer marshals from the ACM, the mission was accomplished and successful, from start to finish.

General Classification

SS17: Neuville wins Monte-Carlo thriller
13 April 2024

SS17: Neuville wins Monte-Carlo thriller

Thierry Neuville (Hyundai) won the 92nd Monte-Carlo Rally on Sunday after an impressive display of driving that makes him the logical favourite for the 2024 World Rally Championship (WRC).

The Belgian had to beat Sébastien Ogier (Toyota), the absolute benchmark in WRC (9 Monte-Carlo wins, 99 podiums), to take the laurels for the second time in the Principality, after his victory in 2020. He takes the maximum number of points available under the new championship scale (30), since he also won the Power Stage in Col de Turini.

The podium, behind Neuville and Ogier, the untouchables, was completed by Elfyn Evans (Toyota), the reigning vice-world champion, who lead the race from Thursday night to Saturday morning. The places of honour, in the Top 5, were taken by Ott Tänak (Hyundai), the 2019 World Champion, and Adrien Fourmaux (M-Sport Ford).

The colours of French rallying were also well defended by Yohan Rossel (Citroën), the 2021 WRC3 champion: he won the WRC2 category thanks to a fastest time, fair and square, in Col de Turini, although he was only third in the standings on Sunday morning when he left the service park in Gap.

Classification SS17

SS16: Neuville is getting close...
13 April 2024

SS16: Neuville is getting close…

With just 14.8km to go on Col de Turini (SS17) and a 13.5-second lead over Sébastien Ogier, it’s starting to look good for Thierry Neuville, leader of the 92nd Monte-Carlo Rally and fastest on SS16 between Digne-les-Bains and Chaudon-Norante (16.01km), in order to show, one more time, who is the boss this year.

“So far, so good. It was a bit more slippery than expected at the start and really dirty at the end, but I’m feeling fine. There’s still one stage to go and I need to stay focused on the Power Stage,” summed up the Belgian, as serene and smiling as ever. He knows the feeling, since he has already won the opening event of WRC in 2020, ahead of Ogier, after a similar driving display.

“It was already over after the first special stage (this morning),” agreed Ogier, with a smile on his face. “Thierry is flying. I’m not the kind of guy who takes risks for nothing”, Ogier added, as if already acknowledging his defeat, without waiting for SS17 on Col de Turini. But the Gap man is not disappointed, and he says it clearly: “If I don’t win a 10th time here, it doesn’t really matter, because I’ve already won nine times, and nobody has done as well”. Not even Seb Loeb, who has won 9 times in Spain and Germany, but only 8 times in Monte-Carlo.

There will be two drivers to keep a close eye on in SS17, aiming for the 5 points awarded to the Power Stage winner: Elfyn Evans (3rd) and Ott Tänak (4th), at the end of a rather frustrating weekend. They would love to close it in style, with a bit of panache, especially if the two aliens ease off a bit… which is far from guaranteed!

In WRC2, on the other hand, the game is far from over. There is now only a 0.9 second gap left between Pepe Lopez (Skoda) and Yohan Rossel (Citroën), while Nikolay Gryazin has dropped back to third, 5 seconds behind. Not over yet…

Classification SS16

SS15: Neuville - Ogier 1-0. Game on!
13 April 2024

SS15: Neuville – Ogier 1-0. Game on!

To kick off the grand finale of the 92nd Monte Carlo Rally in style, Thierry Neuville (Hyundai) put pedal to the metal in SS15 (La Bréole-Selonnet, 18.31km), the same stage where Sébastien Ogier had been dominant on Friday (SS5, SS8). This was enough to extend his lead over the Frenchman from 3.3 to 8 seconds, with just 33km of timed sections remaining…

It was very early on Sunday morning, daylight was just breaking and there was black ice everywhere in the second part of this very fast special, but none of the top drivers let themselves be surprised. Especially not Neuville and Ogier, engaged in a sumptuous mano a mano keeping rally fans on the edge of their seats since Thursday night.

“It’s great! At the start, I pushed a lot, and towards the end I was a bit more cautious, but I think that everyone else must have done the same. We did some good things and I’m happy with my time,” said a beaming Neuville, still very much at ease in his Hyundai i20N. Thanks also to star engineer François-Xavier Demaison (ex-Citroën, VW Motorsport and Williams F1), who has already made some precious improvements to the South Korean car.

“The conditions were interesting, with a bit of black ice in places, so I was perhaps too cautious. He [Thierry Neuville] pushed a lot,” admitted Ogier when admiring his Belgian rival’s performance, posted on the end of stage board, after having conceded 4.7 seconds to him over 18 km. Without slowing down so much on the way.

The two other members of the initial Group of Four, Ott Tänak and Elfyn Evans, also showed in that stage that they were ready to take as many points as possible this Sunday: 7 for the whole of the final day, 5 for the Power Stage, i.e. a maximum of 12 points to add to the points already scored on Saturday. To be continued.

Classification SS15

SS14: Neuville in pole position!
13 April 2024

SS14: Neuville in pole position!

Thierry Neuville (Hyundai) will start the final day of the 92ndMonte Carlo Rally as the overall leader, after a beautiful battle against Sébastien Ogier. He set a memorable fastest time on SS9 on Saturday morning, to kick off Day 3 in style, and ended it in the same way with another phenomenal fastest time on SS14, at sunset.

Thanks to beating Ogier (Toyota) by 4.1 seconds between Pellafol and Agnières-en-Dévoluy (21.37 km), the Belgian regained the upper hand in this high-flying duel that pitted him all day against the Frenchman, beaten fair and square on the day: “Since the start of the rally, I’ve done my utmost to try and catch him, in fact, but today I didn’t do enough. He (Neuville) did a good stage. We’ll have to push even more tomorrow,” smiled the eight-time world champion as he looked at his rival’s time on the board at the end of the stage.

“We did a good stage, it was perfection,” reacted Neuville at the last stop of this long day (120 km). He had already said, after the previous stage, that “everything is in place, everything is going well”. He repeated it, clearly delighted with his performance, and added some detailed insight: “I’m really enjoying the car, it’s incredible. Obviously, it was important to take the points tonight but we need to keep the car on the road [until tomorrow]”.

Neuville and Ogier on another planet

This Saturday evening, before the last three stages on Sunday morning (SS15 to 17), Neuville has a 3.3 second lead over Ogier, and above all 18 points in the World Championship, under the new points scale. There is just one condition to fulfil: to complete the rally on Sunday, in Monaco, whatever his position in Sunday’s classification.

There’s something new this year in the WRC, and Elfyn Evans, who has been on a back foot since Friday morning, is determined to make the most of it: “With the new format, tomorrow is a new day, and that’s how we’re going to attack it,” summed up the Welshman from Toyota. He was completely outclassed on Saturday by the Neuville-Ogier duet, he only holds 13 points tonight, but he is capable of pulling out a great Sunday to take 7 more points, plus 5 for winning the Power Stage.

The provisional assessment of this rally is clear: this week, Neuville and Ogier are aliens, as Evans is relegated to 34.9 seconds and Tänak to almost two minutes. When it comes to fastest times in the stages, there’s no photo finish either: 6 for Ogier, including the 700thof his career on SS13, 5 for Neuville (3 on Friday, 2 on Saturday), 2 for Evans and just one for Tänak (on SS11, by 12 thousandths of a second). Roll on Sunday!

Classification SS14

SS13: Ogier takes the lead
13 April 2024

SS13: Ogier takes the lead

There is a new leader in this 92nd Monte-Carlo Rally: Sébastien Ogier (Toyota), thanks to his fastest time on SS13 (20.04km) this afternoon between Les Nonières (Drôme) and Chichilianne (Isère), has moved ahead of Thierry Neuville (Hyundai) by just eight-tenths of a second. There is just one more special stage to negotiate (SS14) before the end of this 3rd long day of rallying (120km of timed stages).

“We need to keep attacking. It’s very close, which is good. We love to fight and that’s good for the fans too. There is no time to back off now, we just need to keep pushing,” Ogier said at the end of SS13, delighted to have made up, in four stages, the time he lost early this morning on SS9.

Ogier, the luxury freelancer, is performing much better this Saturday than Elfyn Evans, the full-time Toyota driver: “I’m really struggling in the sections where there’s little grip, especially in terms of confidence. The others are clearly going faster than me this afternoon”, summed up the Welsh vice-world champion, lucid about the level of his performance.

As for Neuville, Ogier’s last rival for overall victory on the Col de Turini on Sunday, he hasn’t given up yet, far from it, even though he has just suffered two consecutive setbacks in his duel at the summit with the eight-time world champion. Like Evans, he is aiming for the world title this year. And this weekend, he began to get the better of his team-mate Ott Tänak, on the back foot since Friday morning.

In WRC2, the battle is as intense as ever. After SS12, Spain’s Pepe Lopez (Skoda Fabia RS) is once again leading the category, ahead of Russia’s Nikolay Gryazin (Citroën C3) and Frenchman Yohan Rossel (Citroën C3), the 2021 WRC3 champion. The three drivers are within 11.6 seconds of each other. Game on!

Classification SS13

SS12: Ogier back in the game
13 April 2024

SS12: Ogier back in the game

Sébastien Ogier, the defending champion, clawed back a handful of seconds from Thierry Neuville early on Saturday afternoon by setting the fastest time on SS12, the second pass between Esparron and Oze (18.79km). The suspense remains intact at the top of the 92nd Monte-Carlo Rally, with the Toyota driver only 2.2 seconds behind the Hyundai driver.

The margin is tiny, insane, barely believable: one hundredth of a second per kilometre, if you divide 2.2 seconds by the 220 km covered since the start on Thursday evening in the Alpes de Haute-Provence. That’s the gap between Neuville and Ogier, with around a hundred kilometres left until the grand finale on Sunday in Col de Turini. The battle is total, intense, between two drivers at the top of their game who have, so far, avoided all the traps of this 2024 edition.

Behind Neuville and Ogier, their rivals are falling behind, one by one. First there was Tänak, who crashed out on SS3 and has been doing his best since Friday morning to climb back on the podium. The most recent setback was that of Elfyn Evans, who led from Thursday evening until Saturday morning, but who is now unable to set a single fastest time.

Munster stuck in a barrier

“It did not feel so great, but that’s a bit chronic (this week),” said the Welshman at the end of SS12, at siesta time. He didn’t even mention the hybrid system that had abandoned him for a few minutes this morning. The reigning world vice-champion is now a privileged observer of this battle of the chiefs, 16.5 seconds behind the Belgian and 14.3 seconds behind the 8-time World Champion, in a Toyota Yaris strictly identical to his own.

The main incident of SS12 involved Grégoire Munster, who had been very clean and efficient up to that point in his M-Sport Ford Puma, on his first Rally1 event, in the top category (his 24th rally in WRC conditions). The Belgian (with a Luxembourg licence) made a small error at km 6.3 and his Puma got stuck in a wooden safety barrier on the edge of a ravine. The co-driver then went to the side of the road, upstream of the bend, to warn other competitors who slowed down at this point, all losing a handful of seconds. The stage was not neutralised.

Classification SS12

SS11: Tänak shines, Neuville consolidates
13 April 2024

SS11: Tänak shines, Neuville consolidates

The fastest time on SS11 (Pellafol-Agnières-en-Dévoluy, 21.37km) was set by two Hyundai drivers, Ott Tänak, the 2019 World Champion, and Thierry Neuville, the provisional leader of the 92nd Monte-Carlo Rally. This 1-2 by the Korean brand showed that the 2024 version of the Hyundai i20N has everything it takes to do well against the Toyota Yaris this season.

“It’s an unfamiliar stage, so I didn’t take too many risks. And I couldn’t hear my co-driver’s notes very well, especially in the last section,” explained Neuville, who seems to be, more and more, in control of the rally after a cautious start on Thursday evening. The Belgian, five times runner-up in the World Championship, returned to the Gap service park at midday with a 5.1 second lead over Elfyn Evans and a 7.7 second lead over Sébastien Ogier.

Both Toyota drivers – one of whom, the Welshman, will be aiming for the world title, while the other, the Frenchman, will be content with a few official outings – may well have found someone to talk to, this season. Particularly if the new version of the Hyundai i20N, developed by technical director François-Xavier Demaison, an exceptional engineer from Citroën and then Volkswagen, continues to prove as reliable as it is efficient.

Hyundai on a high

The good performances this week by Neuville, and this morning by Tänak, show that this new Hyundai is healthy and easy to drive, and that it could be the pleasant surprise of the start of the 2024 season, against the ogre Toyota. In the meantime, there are still three stages to go this afternoon (SS12 to 14), the same as this morning, and three more on Sunday morning (SS15 to 17) on the way back to Monaco.

In WRC2, the battle is as fierce as ever. After SS10, Russia’s Nikolay Gryazin (Citroën C3) was leading the way again, ahead of Spain’s Pepe Lopez (Skoda Fabia RS) and Frenchman Yohan Rossel (Citroën C3), the 2021 WRC3 champion. The three drivers are all within 9 seconds of each other, on another planet compared to their rivals. Same as in Rally1.

Classification SS11

SS10: Ogier bounces back, Neuville takes the lead
13 April 2024

SS10: Ogier bounces back, Neuville takes the lead

It was the first major turning point of the 92nd Monte-Carlo Rally: on SS10 this morning, between Les Nonières (Drôme) and Chichilianne (Isère), a rather quick 20.04km stage, Thierry Neuville (Hyundai) took the overall lead by just nine-tenths of a second from Elfyn Evans (Toyota), the leader since the start on Thursday evening.

The fastest time on SS10 was indeed set by Sébastien Ogier, a fine reaction from the Toyota driver after his disappointment on SS9, but it was Neuville who did the trick, on a road that was dry on the uphill section and damper going downhill.

The Belgian winner of the 2020 edition is very calm and efficient this week: “After the tunnel, on the descent, the grip was better than expected. Maybe I was too careful with my braking zones. It was a good morning for us,” said Neuville at the end of this stage, not used in WRC since 1997 (fastest time by Armin Schwarz in a Ford Escort).

Ogier set the fastest time, his fourth of the week, despite a small incident on the stage when a stone hit his windscreen, creating a small impact. “It’s good, especially after losing so much time on the previous stage. The only thing we can do is look ahead and keep attacking,” said last year’s winner.

“We have a small issue “, said Evans at the end, without saying anything more. The surprise of this stage came from his Japanese team-mate Takamoto Katsuta, who set the 3rdfastest time as first on the road, with two super-soft tyres mounted in front. It was a bold choice, but one that paid off in the end. His aim today is to get back into the Top 10 after crashing out yesterday in SS3.

Classification SS10

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