The Belgian twins Philippe and Antoine CORNET DE WAYS RUART (Porsche 911 N° 45) were in the fight for the victory from the beginning of the 24th Rallye Monte-Carlo Historique. They took the lead at the end of the Regularity Stage N° 13 on Tuesday morning, and did not relinquish it after a well-run final leg, succeeding to Henrik BJERREGAARD and Jaromir SVEC, the previous and latest winners (Ford Escort RS2000 MkII).
On the menu of this last night, the “starter” was the famous Col de Turini with the stage “Sospel – La-Bollène-Vésubie / SR 16 / 22h00 / 30,96 km” won respectively by the Lancia Fulvia HF 1.3 N° 268 of the Norwegians (Kenneth SIMONSEN / Otto KRISTENSEN) and the Lancia Beta Coupé 1800 N° 23 of the Italians (Maurizio AIOLFI / Carlo MERENDA) ex-aequo.
Finally, the “main course” was the Porte and Saint-Roch passes with the special stage of “Loda – Coaraze / SR 17 / 23h10 / 22,43 km” won by the Ford Escort MkI N° 171 of the Greek team Petros VASILOPOULOS / Dimitrios STATHAKOS.
On arrival at the Hercule harbour in Monaco in the early hours of the morning, the Belgian twins savored a well-deserved victory. “It’s a great honour for us”, Philippe the driver enthused. And his co-driver of brother added: “The complicity between us worked perfectly well. Winning this legendary rally is a pure happiness…”. For the two brothers, this snow-free edition was not without its pitfalls, with notably a lot of ice in the morning stages! “We did well and were as consistent as possible, with a car that was perfect. The last two night stages were very intense and we are really happy to put our name on the list of winners of this fantastic event. A podium finish would have been a great reward, but this victory is pure happiness!”
205 cars have now reached the finish of this 24th edition of the Rallye Monte Carlo Historique… and they all now have a date with the traditional Gala Evening and Prize Giving Ceremony organized this evening in the Salle des Etoiles of the Monte Carlo Sporting Club…
This Tuesday, departure from Valence at 06h00 in direction of the Diois massif.
The start, or rather “the highlight of the show”, is the famous and dreaded Special Stage (SR13) “Saint-Nazaire-le-Désert – Gumiane” 30.04km with 4 passes (Guillens / Portail / Vache / Roustans) and a vertiginous descent, the “Route de Tremouret”, which looked like a giant bobsleigh run this morning. You had to be a little bit crazy to dare to face these frightening twists and turns with a grip close to “0” but the 226 crews still in the race at the start of Valence were asking for more… In this game of Roller Coasters, it was the Lancia Fulvia Coupe 1.3 S driven by SCHIMITZEK Kurt/FLECK Stefan that won the race.
After this warm-up session, the SR14, scene of last week’s titanic battle in the WRC: “Sisteron – Thoard” 32.77 km via Authon and the Col de Fontbelle. A special stage with a lot of rhythm and once again a descent which, if it wasn’t hell, wasn’t heaven either. The best are this time, ANDRE Jérôme/MANSORD Frédéric on BMW 2002 TI.
The next stage which concludes the morning is also well known to the WRC drivers: “Rouaine – Entrevaux” with its 23.52 km which takes in the Val de Chalvagne and the Col de Félines, all of which is winding. The proximity of the Mediterranean has removed the frost and ice that was still present at the recent Monte Carlo Rally, but the event is still very technical with many relaunches and some very rough ropes after the passage of the powerful WRC hybrids. The most consistent finishers in Entrevaux were ABRIAL François/ABRIAL Cécile in a Peugeot 104 ZS.
Last TC before entering the park fermé in Monaco : La Turbie and then the long-awaited piece of bravery: the start of the Final Stage of Monaco from 21:00 with the legendary and always unpredictable time trials of “Sospel – La-Bollène-Vésubie / SR 16 / 22:00 / 30.96 km” via the famous Col de Turini and “Loda – Coaraze / SR 17 / 23:10 / 22.43 km” by the Cols de Porte and Saint-Roch. Arrival planned on the Port Hercule of Monaco around 01h10.
Sébastien Loeb (Ford) set his third best stage time in a row, on Friday morning, to take the lead of the 90th Rallye Monte-Carlo from the hands of arch-rival Sébastien Ogier (Toyota), who proved too cautious with a choice of tyres that was different from the one decided early this morning by the 9-time world champion, on very tricky roads that were often slippery.
“I pushed all morning, as much as possible, my gravel crew (Yoann Bonato) did a great job and I feel very good in this car, it’s fantastic. Congratulations to the whole team at M-Sport,” Loeb said at the end of SS5, while images of the M-Sport factory in England, and the staff, appeared in a corner of the screen.
The most successful driver in WRC history made no mistake on Friday morning, and as Ogier played it safe and drove much slower than his rivals on SS5, between Val de Chalvagne-Entrevaux, Loeb took advantage. Especially in these 17 km that he finished with a bang, rushing downhill in the sun towards the medieval village of Entrevaux. Ogier lost 15.8 seconds on Loeb, and 13.5 seconds on teammate Elfyn Evans. More worryingly, Ogier lost 11.1 seconds to Thierry Neuville, who is starting to find some rhythm in his Hyundai. And this without any specific reason, except for tough conditions, and several patches of ice and frost.
For almost half an hour, we had to wait to find out if Loeb, number 11 on the starting list, was doing as well, or better than Evans, the reigning vice-world champion, who started three minutes after Ogier in each stage this morning. The answer came just before noon, at the perfect time to take a break at Puget-Théniers, to think about the choice of tyres for the afternoon. We shall see if Loeb’s daring bet, five soft tyres, instead of 4 super-soft and 2 soft for Ogier this morning, has some sort of a boomerang effect this afternoon.
A new loop of three stages is scheduled to start at 2:16 p.m., with Loeb leading the general classification, as he often did in the past, from 2004 to 2012. He holds a 10.6-second lead over Evans and 13 over Ogier. Behind the leading trio, the gaps are already significant: 40.2 seconds for Thierry Neuville in 4th position, 46 for Craig Breen (Ford Puma) in 5th, and 48.3 for Ott Tänak, the 2019 world champion, in the other leading Hyundai. After five stages out of the 17 scheduled until Sunday.
Sébastien Loeb (Ford) continues building on his momentum at the 90th Monte-Carlo Rally. After the lunch break at Puget-Théniers, the 9-time world champion and 7-time winner in Monaco set his 4th best time in a row, while the two best Toyota drivers, Elfyn Evans and Sébastien Ogier, held up well and limited the damage, on increasingly dry roads.
Unlike this Friday morning which allowed him to take the lead in style, Loeb was on equal terms with most of his rivals to start the afternoon and the second loop of three stages. Everyone, except Ott Tänak (4 soft, 1 super-soft), left Puget-Théniers with 4 soft tyres and one another soft in the trunk, in the event of a puncture or premature wear.
“I’m at the limit, it was a perfect stage, everything is going well so far so I’m continuing like this”, declared a very calm, super-focused Loeb, after crossing the finish line of SS6 (18 km), the second run between Roure and Beuil, not far from the ski resort of Valberg, at the end of SS7.
The most successful driver in the history of the WRC (79 victories) also added a new record to his collection on Friday: Loeb is now the oldest driver to have ever led a WRC event, beating the record held for a long time by legendary Swede Bjorn Waldegard, in the last century.
Behind Loeb and the Toyotas, Gus Greensmith provided further proof that the Ford Puma Hybrid is a really good rally car, by setting the 4th fastest time in this SS6, ahead of all the Hyundai drivers who had finished the morning well. Enough to stay in 7th place but getting a little closer to Thierry Neuville, 4th at 49.1 seconds behind Loeb, Craig Breen, 5th at 54.2 seconds, and Ott Tänak, the 2019 world champion, 6th at 56 seconds and therefore only five seconds ahead of Greensmith.
“We’re going to have a great fight,” said Greensmith, who did trials for Manchester City as a young goalkeeper, before shifting to rally. Two other runs are planned for Friday afternoon, from Guillaumes to Valberg (SS7, 13 km) then from Val-de-Chalvagne to Entrevaux (SS8, 17 km). With a question on the minds of all fans, and of Malcolm Wilson, the boss of M-Sport: will Loeb hold on and start as the leader, on Saturday morning, for the penultimate day of the 90th Monte-Carlo Rally?
The most successful man in WRC history struck again, on SS4, and set his second best time in a row, this Friday morning between Guillaumes and the ski resort of Valberg, via the village of Péone. Those 13.49 kms were quickly swallowed up by the WRC top drivers, including Loeb of course, back in business after 16 months of absence and very constant at the top of the time sheets since Thursday evening: two best times, two second places.
“We did two great stages this morning. It was really not easy in this one, because there were places where we had grip, and others with no grip at all”, said Loeb, very focused and very happy with his new Ford Puma Hybrid, thanks to the little bit of extra power available, thanks to its electric motor and 100 HP of bonus power, at times…
The Hyundai team, on the back foot since the start of the rally, reassured itself a little by placing its two leading drivers, Ott Tänak and Thierry Neuville, in the Top 3 of this SS4, less than a second behind Loeb. And for once, the Toyota drivers had to settle for runners-up, respectively 4th (Evans) and 5th (Ogier), 1.4 and 2.7 seconds behind Loeb. Ahead of the two other Ford Pumas of Craig Breen and Gus Greensmith, also entered by Malcolm Wilson’s M-Sport team.
“I’m a bit defensive and trying to play it safe in these conditions,” Ogier acknowledged. The Frenchman is still leading the general classification but his lead has melted a bit on Friday morning: he now holds a tiny 2.8-second gap over Loeb, before a third stage in a row (SS5, Val de Chalvagne-Entrevaux). Then, after another 17 km portion full of icy traps of all sorts, it will be time to relax and regroup in Puget-Théniers, to change tyres and prepare for a long afternoon.
Finally, some action! Credit where credit is due: Sébastien Loeb, the 9-time world rally champion and 7-time a winner in the Principality, set the very first best time of the hybrid era in the WRC, during his first run on Thursday, in the shakedown, driving his brand new Ford Puma Hybrid Rally1 entered by the British M-Sport team. But he was finally beaten by half a second, on the third and final run, by the other Sébastien, the implacable Ogier, in his Toyota Yaris.
This shakedown was 2.29 kms long, on a pretty little road that took the 11 priority drivers to the small village of Peille, on the heights of Monaco. “It doesn’t mean much, because it’s only the shakedown, but it confirms the good feeling we had during private testing (in December)”, Loeb summarized. He starts this new adventure with a new co-driver, Isabelle Galmiche. And he was encouraged, this Thursday morning in Peille, by the most faithful lieutenant of his glory days: Dani Sordo, who this year will share the wheel of the 3rd Hyundai i20 N with Oliver Solberg, son of the 2003 world champion.
On the 3rd run, on an increasingly fast road, in ideal conditions, the reigning world champion restored some order: best time of the morning, in 1:50.4, that’s half a second better than Loeb’s Ford and one full second better than his Toyota team-mate, Welshman Elfyn Evans.
Another candidate for victory, quite logically, will be Thierry Neuville (Hyundai), 4th time between Sainte-Agnès and Peille. The 2020 winner of the “Monte-Carl” (15 wins in WRC, 50 podiums, six times on the final podium of the championship since 2013), will watch closely, once again, the expected duel between the two absolute WRC masters (17 world crowns between them).
At Ford M-Sport, Frenchman Adrien Fourmaux started well his first full season in the WRC, with a 5th time (1:53.0 all round, on the 3rd run) behind Ogier, Loeb, Evans and Neuville, and ahead of all the others. With the added bonus of a very funny question asked on his official Twitter account, between two runs in the shakedown: “How old was the oldest winner in WRC? I’m asking for a friend…” FYI, the current record stands since 1990 and the win of a famous and very fast Swede, Bjorn Waldegard, then aged 46, at the Safari Rally, in a Toyota Celica.
At Hyundai, Ott Tänak, the 2019 world champion, chose to spend the morning with soft Pirelli tires only, which was not the right choice to shine in this shakedown: his best run is the 10th in the morning, out of 11 priority drivers, and four seconds behind Ogier’s best time. But that was just the shakedown, so no need to jump to premature conclusions.
For the record, this shakedown in full sun also allowed Mario Isola, the boss of the Pirelli competition department, to celebrate the 150th anniversary of the Italian brand in style, by driving from Sainte-Agnès to Peille in an antique Lancia 037 rally. On his side, a very special co-driver for a day: Peter Solberg.
The 50th season of the WRC, but the first of the hybrid era, is now underway. The official opening will be set on Casino Square, from 6.45 p.m. Then the first two special stages will be broadcasted live on Canal+ this evening: SS1, Lucéram-Lantosque (15.2 km) from 8:18 p.m., then SS2, between La Bollène-Vésubie and Moulinet (23.25 km), from 9:31 p.m. The first car to set off will be Ogier’s Toyota Yaris, with number 1 on the doors. Green light!
Sébastien Ogier (Toyota) got the 90th Monte-Carlo Rally off to a flying start, launching the 50th season of the World Rally Championship but the first in WRC history with hybrid cars in the top flight: as soon as the first special stage, the 8-time world champion and 8-time winner in Monaco set a best time untouchable by most of his rivals, in 10 min 34 sec over the 15.2 km of SS1 between Lucéram and Lantosque, on a dry road from start to finish, apart from a few slightly wet and slippery sections, around Col Saint-Roch.
The only one to resist this seizure of power by Ogier was the other Sébastien, Loeb, back in the WRC after several months of absence, and for the first time at the wheel of a Ford in a rally, the new Puma Hybrid entered by M-Sport. The 9-time world champion set the second best time in this SS1, just 5.4 seconds behind Ogier: “At the top, it was slippery a bit, so I was rather defensive. But I feel good in this car”, Loeb said at the end, before heading towards SS2.
Behind Ogier and Loeb, the gaps started to expand, right away. Elfyn Evans, 3rd in the other top Toyota, finished SS1 with a 9.3-second gap behind his leader, ahead of three other perfectly grouped Ford Pumas: Gus Greensmith at 12.3 seconds, Craig Breen at 13.2 seconds and Adrien Fourmaux 13.7 seconds behind Ogier. “It was starting to slip a little, we didn’t know where the most slippery portions were, compared to the notes of our gravel crew, so I preferred to be careful,” Fourmaux explained, echoing Loeb.
The three big disappointments of this SS1 came from the three Hyundai drivers, with Thierry Neuville 7th at 15.9 seconds, ahead of Oliver Solberg 8th at 22.3 seconds, because he could not hear his co-driver Elliott Edmondson’s notes properly. And especially Ott Tänak, the 2019 world champion, who dropped 22.4 seconds on Ogier, having conceded more than one second per kilometer. Stunning.
The start of SS2, between La Bollène-Vésubie and Moulinet (23.25 km), was scheduled from 9:31 p.m. for the first car. Ogier’s Toyota, with the number 1 on the doors and already in a leading position, just ahead of his historic rival. The one on whom all rally fans are counting on to resist Ogier in style during this 90th Monte-Carlo Rally. As long as possible.
Sébastien Ogier (Toyota), already the fastest driver in SS1 which opened this 90th Monte-Carlo Rally, did it again in the next one, the SS2 passing through the legendary Col de Turini, by setting another best time. The relative surprise came from the very efficient Sébastien Loeb, again second, but only 1.3 seconds behind Ogier in this 23.25 km long stage, between La Bollène-Vésubie and the village of Moulinet.
“It was good, even though I overheated my tyres a bit before mid-stage, on the climb to Col de Turini,” said Loeb, the undisputed leader of a nice quartet of Ford M-Sport drivers grouped together in the Top 7 of this SS2. In the meantime, the Hyundai drivers were faced with a series of various issues and fell further in the standings.
Back in the WRC after more than a year’s absence, since Rally Turkey in September 2020 in a Hyundai (3rd behind Evans and Neuville), Loeb could return to his hotel in Monaco with the satisfaction of a tricky but ultimately successful evening. He was the only one to follow, in two stages in a row, the infernal pace of Ogier, eight times victorious in the Principality.
Elfyn Evans sat third in the times in this second stage, 1.9 seconds behind Ogier, enough to remain 3rd also in the general classification, while Loeb showed the way to young hopeful Adrien Fourmaux, more and more at ease in his Ford Puma and 4th fastest in SS2, just 4.2 seconds behind Ogier: “It was a great pleasure to drive this car, especially in the downhill portion, thanks to all the extra power made available by the electric engine”, Fourmaux said, delighted with his evening.
Hyundai continued to disappoint, its three drivers facing “a series of problems”, admitted Ott Tänak, the 2019 world champion, who already encountered issues during the shakedown on Thursday morning. Thierry Neuville complained about his brakes and said he “didn’t trust the car”. As for Oliver Solberg, he could not hear the notes announced by his co-driver, Elliott Edmondson, which complicated his task.
Friday promises to be intense, fierce, long and complicated. There will be six special stages on the menu (SS3 to SS8), most of them in the Alpes-Maritimes department. We can rely on both Sebs, Ogier and Loeb, to make this 90th Monte-Carlo a truly historic edition. It is definitely starting well…
At the end of the afternoon, the drivers took part in the traditional pre-event press conference. The rather dry road conditions and the new generation of cars were particularly at the heart of the discussions.
That’s it, here we are! The 90th Rallye Automobile Monte-Carlo will be launched tomorrow at 6:45pm from the Place du Casino. And before tackling the first two stages prepared by the Automobile Club de Monaco organising committee, the drivers faced the press. After the R-GTs, WRC3s and WRC2s, Sébastien Ogier (Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT), Thierry Neuville (Hyundai Shell Mobis WRT) and Sébastien Loeb (M-Sport Ford WRT) played the Q&A game. Asked first, the reigning World Champion believes that “this weekend nobody is really ready” adding: “Maybe the one that is able to adapt quicker than the others is going to make the difference.” It must be said that the 11 crews entered in the WRC are facing a major novelty since the cars are now Rally1 hybrids. “It’s more open than ever. The team is always feeling they are not ready when you start a new era and they would always like more testing. For sure the car is different from before and for sure we have to expect them to be a bit slower – even though at some point we have this extra boost from the hybrid – but I’m pretty sure this will improve quickly”, says the Gapençais who will put his Monegasque victory in play.
New co-drivers for Loeb and Ogier
For his part, Thierry Neuville is worried about the days of Friday and Saturday, where there will be no assistance. “The days are long with no service, I hope we don’t have to be mechanics too much and we can enjoy.” The Belgian expects “stable conditions, much drier than what [he] saw in the past“, which is why he did not test on snow with his Hyundai i20 N. About his preparation, he adds: “We have done what we could, it was busy, but we have managed quite well and we are as much looking forward as anybody.” Last driver questioned this Wednesday, Sébastien Loeb is back from Dakar, where he finished second. Although the nine-time World Champion claims to be sufficiently rested for the Rallye Automobile Monte-Carlo, he admits that he does not have the memory of a Turini “as dry”. “With no snow even at the side of the road. It’s like a Tarmac rally with soft tyres.” Driving with Isabelle Galmiche, the M-Sport driver reveals: “It’s the co-driver, except Daniel [Elena] I drove with the most. She knows my notes, I was used to having her with me. She is passionate about the rally and she is a friend of mine and I knew she would be happy to come with me.” Sébastien Ogier is also experiencing a change in the right-hand seat. There too, no gamble, the last winner of the Rallye Automobile Monte-Carlo knows very well with whom he is getting involved: “Thinking about it, Benjamin [Veillas] is the first name to come to my mind. It’s a different job from test to race. He is stepping up and I can see the pressure on him a little bit – I see that and I try to relax him, the best way to do your job is not to think too much about [the pressure]. »
For celebrating the 90th edition of the Rallye Monte-Carlo and the 50th anniversary of the WRC World Rally Championship, a special program will be take in place this year.
Follow and watch all the special stages LIVE on the Canal Plus channels (Canal + & Canal + Décalé), with dedicated programmes. All details about the Canal Plus Programs.
You can also watch all the stages LIVE on the WRC+ channel with exclusive content (videos, archives, programmes).
Monaco Info will be broadcasting a daily program “Les Experts du Rallye” on Friday 21, Saturday 22 and Sunday 23 at 8.30am, as well as a debriefing of this 90th edition at 8.30pm on the same day.
On the digital part, a special feature will be offered to you. The Automobile Club de Monaco will be broadcasting on Live Streaming the Opeining & Start Ceremony from the Casino Square in Monaco (Thursday 20th from 6.30pm), as well as the Prize Giving Ceremony (Sunday 23rd from 3.50pm). These events will be broadcast on the ACM Facebook and YouTube pages and on our website.
It will also be possible to follow the Start Ceremony on the Monaco Info website and mobile application.