Rallye Monte-Carlo 2017 served up a classic start to the new WRC era, the weather as always provided a challenge for the drivers and the new cars looked and sounded fantastic. We will have to wait hopefully for a snowy Sweden to see what they can do it full noise on a consistent surface.
The headlines after the first special stage were grabbed for all the wrong reasons, after an accident involving Hayden Paddon’s Hyundai and a spectator ended in tragedy, with the spectator losing his life. It has been a relief to see no knee-jerk reactions following the incident and let’s hope it stays that way. Shit happens sometimes and we need to keep it in context. I hope Paddon can move on and that it doesn’t dampen his hunger for a championship – which after reading his statement I don’t think it has and his Gran reckons he’ll be alright.
Sébastien Ogier survived brushes with a bank and a field to claim his fourth Monte in a row and M-Sport’s first since Rally GB 2012. Strangely it was Latvala who provided that very victory, who finished second in his Toyota after poor Tänak again struck mechanical issues on the last day of a rally and limped home in spectacular fashion in third.
Neuville will be sour as a grape after a small mistake ended his dominant performance. He looked unbeatable in the changing conditions and even had Ogier singing his praises. It was a rally to forget for Kris Meeke, who while in second ran wide and collected a bank hard breaking the rear suspension and even after restarting the next day ran into more mechanical issues and to cap it all off was in an accident on a public road loop. The only bright spot for Citroen was the performance of Craig Breen, who in last years DS3 WRC drove wonderfully and finished fifth overall. Elveyn Evans showed some genuine pace on day 2 taking out a couple of stage wins.
My drive of the rally goes to Breen, who although helped by the weather in bridging the gap in power with the new cars, appears to have made great progress over the break. Manufacturer of the rally goes to Toyota, who will be stoked with second in its first Rally back and shows Tommi and his team in Finland haven’t been mucking around.
Redbull TV’s coverage of the Rally was on point and I can see that it will only get better as the season goes on. Mark Webber, Matthew Wilson and Mike Chen all looked to be genuinely stoked to be there and that enthusiasm is what we need in the coverage of such great events. Sébastien Loeb was also in attendance and he too looked quite impressed with the new cars. I wonder, if Citroen continues to struggle could we see them try to lure Loeb back? Pure speculation and I do think Meeke will bounce back. But no doubt they want to win and Loeb knows just how to do that. I do think on the other hand that he has unfinished business at Dakar and the less demanding calendar of World Rally Cross is no doubt easier on the family life.
I can’t wait for Sweden and this year is shaping up to be a real humdinger.