Rallye Monte-Carlo 2014 | Perfect Start For Ogier, Not For Hyundai!

Rallye Monte-Carlo, first round of WRC 2014 has just came to an end, and the championship has begun. The man who made the perfect start was Sebastien Ogier with his Polo WRC, defending his title. But everyones attention was on the Korean car maker Hyundai, a.k.a Hyundai Shell WRT. But when the rally began it was over for Hyundai, as their top driver Thierry Neuville crashed out in the very first stage , it was third time the Belgian was out of Rallye Monte Carlo on the first day, may be Monte is a not so lucky for ‘Belgian Bullet’! It was not over yet, after four more stages Dani Sordo was out, it was not a driver error this time, but alternator failure of i20 WRC, with that both the cars were out leaving behind a huge disappointment in Hyundai camp.

Very first stage was won by Pole Robert Kubica, showing what he can do in a WRC machine, going quicker than Ogier. Followed by another win on SS2, and from then drama began, wrong tyre choices left some drivers stranded, Ogier dropped to ninth place in just one stage and Bouffier moved to top, and after end of Leg 1 Frenchman Bouffier was in the lead. Ogier managed to jump to fourth. Rober Kubica and Kris Meeke in second and third repectively.

Leg 2 of Rallye Monte Carlo was set for Frenchman’s battle for top spot, Ogier won the first stage of the day and next was Bouffier’s turn to take a stage win and from then Ogier was unstoppable, winning all stages except last one of the day and few mistakes by Bouffier which costed him the lead, ending day two in second place. In between that Robert Kubica went off on SS8 a disssapointing end to battle with Kris Meeke. Fellow Citroen driver Mads Ostberg was on fourth place , Latvala fifth and M-Sport drivers Evans and Hirvonen sixth and seventh respectively.

After end of Leg 2 it was Ogier’s rally to loose, as only four more stages for the third leg which he won two of that and the rally. But drama was still not over, Mikko Hirvonen’s Fiesta WRC gave up with an alternator failure with only Power stage to go, big disappointment for the Finn. Latvala won the final Power stage and Ogier won the rally, Bouffier finished as runner up with a fine drive. Kris Meeke had a strong weekend and ended in a podium finish with his team mate Mads Ostberg in fourth. Elfyn Evans was impressive on his Monte debut finishing sixth. Andreas Mikkelsen and Melicharek rounded off the top eight finishers.       

WRC 2 victory went to Yuriy Protasov, his maiden win in the category, Bertelli and Barrable rounding off the top three spots. Sebastien Chardonnet took WRC 3 win with a strong drive in his Citroen DS3 R3T.

Well Monte is over for now, next trip for WRC crews is the frozen forests of Scandinavia Rally Sweden. Plenty of action awaited! Untill then Happy Rallying!
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Dakar - 2014 ~ Just one more day left..

Dakar2014 is all set for a thrilling battle, at finale tomorrow. Perhaps, it was the cold of Monte, that had taken its toll on us to even think of the scorching heat in the South American desert, that was disposing off onto its annual conquerors.

Here is a brief insight of the situation at hand, as of now.

Bikes: Marc Coma is going stronger and keeping it all together for the final day, to celebrate his almost certain 4th victory in the most demanding rally-raid event on the planet. Unfortunately, for the title defender Cyril Despres it was a bitter pill, with his new bike from Yamaha that he rode with many issues.

Quads: Title defender Marcos Patronelli opted out early on Stage 8, so the fight is between Ignacio Casale & Rafal Sonik both in a Yamaha, while Sebastien Husseini trails them in a Honda. The gap between the trio is quite huge and in hours, so they are expected to cruise through to hold their positions.

Cars: A definitive tight fight between the team players, Mini All4 drivers and Dakar veterans, Stephane Peterhansel & Nani Roma, who are separated by less than half a minute. Another Mini driver, Nasser Al-attiyah is 54+minutes to the top and will surely be interested in holding his position from the chasing Toyota driver Giniel De Villiers.

Trucks: It is a tight battle between Kamaz & Iveco. Andrey Karginov & Eduard Nikolaev are wrapping up Iveco driver Gerard de Rooy in their Kamaz trucks. The gap for the top two are just under a minute, and it is almost nothing in a Dakar stage. This also promises a good tactical and close fight for the victory. Another two Kamaz are in the top five positions for now.

So tomorrow the competition is both freezing at Rallye MonteCarlo & sizzling hot at Dakar. Stay tuned!!

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Ogier rises up to no.1, Bouffier & Meeke settle for 2nd & 3rd, Day 2 | Rallye MonteCarlo - 2014

Was it too much for Bryan Bouffier to handle or was it simply the world champion had determined a comeback day, but it was Sebastien Ogier who flew through the day with maximum attack to take the lead from his fellow compatriot. Being in a privateer+Msport-supported entry into top level rallying, in Monte up and against the biggies, definitely deserves a loud applaud to the Frenchman. Bravo Bouffier!

The day opened with a monstrous special SS7 Vitrolles - Faye, with 49.03 km between the ends. Ogier emerged victorious and moved up one position to 2nd overall by the stage win, Bouffier finished just under 12s down the winner. Kris Meeke & Robert Kubica quickly populated the scoreboard below. The stage reported heavy downpour mid-way.

SS8 Selonnet - Breziers, [22.68 km] was where Bouffier showed his best skills and took the stage win with just 0.2s to the world champion, despite reported presence of ice on the stage. M-Sport driver Mikko Hirvonen had issues with a misted windscreen, up until the last three kilometers at which it cleared.

Ah, also it is in this stage that Ogier & Mads Ostberg and other fast runners, who had to go off the road just after flying finish to avoid collision with the car & people ahead at the stop control, which was reportedly located in just around 100mts from the flying finish. It was reported as '6th gear flatout at the flying finish' by Mads, and the short tarmac section wet with rain was not sufficient enough to stop the car within that the control zone. However, nothing uneventful happened, with the presence of mind of the drivers and the cars left towards the mid-day service. Lucky or crazy? Lucky, I guess!

SS9 was the second pass of the longest stage [49.03 km] and it was here Ogier really flew against others [despite a hair raising moment in an off, but was lucky] & Bouffier lost considerable time with his off-road excursion [helped by spectators to push his car back on road] and along with it, the rally lead. It was not good either for the Finn Jari-Matti Latvala, it was a stage of agony as he hit a kerb in the very first corner and costed him dearly with a puncture and had to stop to change it, thus slipped down from 6th to 8th in overall ranking. Mads was having a good time, especially on his least preferred surface, wet & that too on tarmac. Perhaps, he Citroen is made for him or he for the double-helical. It was not a good stage for Kubica fans, as he happened to loose control & going off the road, unable to get the car back on road was terminal for his outing. Luckily nobody were hurt, including the crew.

SS10 - Sisteron-Thoard 36.85 km, is a piece of history and very Iconic to Rallye MonteCarlo & Carlos Sainz holds the record here way back in 1993 in a Lancia Delta HF Integrale. It is a very fast run up to the ascent and then a much slower and technical run back down to the finish. Ogier was quickest, Boufffier & Mads finish behind him. Andreas Mikkelsen had an incident at 27 km mark, and had stopped after going off the road. They had to convince some 6-7 spectators, who seemed not to be confident / bothered to push him back, until sometime after they did it successfully.
A quick remote service at Digne Les Bains was in schedule and SS11 went on live in the dusky, cold & wet final stage for the day. Clumanc - Lambruisse a distance of 20.77 km & Latvala was the quickest of the lot, Ogier & Meeke finished behind the flying finn. Bryan Bouffier braved this stage with borrowed pacenotes from his senior compatriot Francois Delecour.

Yes, I agree that it is a lengthy writeup for today, but the day was even more dramatic than this. Another four stages for tomorrow, in the dusk & dark will decide and crown the winner & the runner-ups. Until then 'au revoir'!
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Bryan Bouffier leads Rallye MonteCarlo, after Day 1 | WRC - 2014

Rallye MonteCarlo roads can be bad for you, especially if you don't respect it during winter! It proved true for the debuting Hyundai World Rally Team's driver Thierry Neuville on the very first stage in under 10 km from the start. He crashed heavily on the car's rear, fortunately nobody was hurt, but did populate the first on the retirement list of the rally within an hour of competitive stage start.

Fortunate or unfortunate, it was a driver error in his case, but not so with the second car, piloted by Dani Sordo. His i20 WRC suffered a flat battery quickly after SS4 & had to retire. And remember, in Monte if you retire, there is no Rally2 and the end of the game. Right there! A bitter start to the debuting team, unfortunately.

It was the pole, Robert Kubica who started to show his potential with consecutive stage wins in his M-Sport Ford Fiesta WRC. The third stage victory went to another Fiesta driver Bryan Bouffier, who took over the overall tops from the pole and retains at the end of the day with a gap of 38.8s.

Ogier, Latvala & Mikkelsen seemed lost with bad choice of tires, and remember it is not just tarmac or wet-tarmac here. Ice and snow lines a good sheet of anti-grip layer on the tarmac, hence most of the top players were troubled by it. So much is the importance of it, even a front wheel driven R3T car piloted by Sebastien Chardonnet was 4th quickest in SS3 up against the big boys!

Citroen WRT's newer drivers, Kris Meeke & Mads Ostberg were making some good times, while Monte the experts were failing. Meeke is in the runnerup spot by the end of the day.

The stages for the day were,
  1. Orpierre - St Andre De Rosans  [25.49 km]
  2. Rosans - Ste Marie - La Charce [17.98 km]
  3. Montauban Sur L'Ouveze - Laborel [19.34 km]
These stages were run twice consecutively, once in morning and for the final time in the noon after a service break.

In the second pass of the morning's stages, Volkswagen drivers sprang up with the right tyre choice and took the stages win, Latvala SS4 & Ogier the remaining two stages of the day and moves up to 4th overall.

Top 10 overall scoreboard [courtesy wrc.com], by the end of SS6 [Day 1]
Pos    No    Driver
Time           Diff Prev     Diff 1st

11:15.9 +4.0 +4.0
11:28.9 +13.0 +17.0
11:29.6 +0.7 +17.7
11:30.4 +0.8 +18.5
11:31.7 +1.3 +19.8
11:33.1 +1.4 +21.2
11:40.0 +6.9 +28.1
11:45.6 +5.6 +33.7
12:17.7 +32.1 +1:05.8

Nine more stages more to declare the winner, with 5 stages on tomorrow's itinerary and the remaining four for Saturday.
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WRC 2014 | Round 1- Rallye Monte-Carlo, Ogier Tops Shakedown

WRC-2014 has begun! Round 1 Rallye Monte-Carlo has kicked off, with the shakedown stage of 3..52km located in the village of Chateauvieux – six kilometres south of Ogier’s hometown of Gap. The weather condition for the stage was absolutely dry.

Reigning WRC Champion Sebastien Ogier topped the shakedown stage with the time of 2m 15.3s, behind him were the two factory Citroen drivers,  Kris Meeke   and    Mads Ostberg setting  identical time 2m 16.5s just 1.2s slower than Ogier, both the full season Citroen drivers were on a flying start to the season. 

Everyones' eyes were fixed on the Korean car maker Hyundai i20 WRC, who went on competitively for the first time on a WRC stage. Thierry Neuville piloted his i20 WRC to a sixth fastest stage time, while his team mate Dani Sordo was locked up in a battle with Andreas Mikkelsen and settled for eighth fastest time. M-Sport driver Mikko Hirvonen went seventh fastest in his Ford Fiesta WRC. Bryan Bouffier rounded up final in the the top 10 in his privateer Fiesta WRC.

Top 10 Shakedown Times 

Pos     DriverCarTime
1S. OgierVW Polo R WRC2m 15.3s
=2K. MeekeCitroen DS3 WRC2m 16.5s
=2M. OstbergCitroen DS3 WRC2m 16.5s
4J-M. LatvalaVW Polo R WRC2m 18.2s
5R. KubicaFord Fiesta RS WRC     2m 18.3s
6T. NeuvilleHyundai i20 WRC2m 18.4s
7M. HirvonenFord Fiesta RS WRC2m 18.8s
=8D. SordoHyundai i20 WRC2m 20.4s
=8A. Mikkelsen      VW Polo R WRC2m 20.4s
10B. BouffierFord Fiesta RS WRC2m 21.9s

Well this is just begining, real Monte-Carlo begins from tomorrow, as weather is unpredictable and tyre choice will be as tricky as driving on the stages. Thats all for now have a Happy WRC Weekend!

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WRC - 2014 | Sneak-a-Peek [..ctd - Part 2]

WRC - 2014 is ready to kick off in a few days, on the icy asphalt roads of Monte Carlo. So we would like to put some light on what to expect from this season. As we already discussed in previous post, this is the continued part of it.

Talking about the “Blue Oval[a.k.a. Ford] run by M-Sport, they have also revealed their livery which is very spectacular, mix of blue and black. They have already sorted out their driver line up which is pretty strong, combination of experience and youth. Yes, experience in the form of Finn Mikko Hirvonen, which is like coming back to home for him. Youth in the form of young Britt Elfyn Evans, who has already shown glimpses of his talent in a Fiesta RS WRC machine. But the only thing which is still not sorted is the sponsors. 

According to recently published Rallye Monte Carlo entry list, is says the team name as ‘M-Sport Ltd’ that means the 2013 season partner Qatar is long gone.

M-Sport has also joined forces with DMACK for a new driver series known as 'Drive DMACK Fiesta Cup' within WRC program. This is mainly targeted to young talented drivers, offering them a cost effective season program to showcase their talent in world stage. Series consists of five European rounds, winner of this series has a  guaranteed prize of full WRC 2 season in a Fiesta R5 in 2015.

One more good news is , the Pole Robert Kubica, switching to Ford Fiesta RS WRC run by M-Sport, in a full WRC  programme, the team is named as ‘RK-MSport WRT’. It will be interesting to see how his rally education resumes in a full season of top level rallying.

Coming to privateers, [not much of them though] leading WRC privateer Martin Prokop confirms another WRC season of 12 rounds, missing only single round of Rally Australia. Czech driver is confident of another strong season ahead. They will be running a second car for the Slovakian driver Jarosalov Melichárek, at Rallye Monte Carlo and expected o make five more appearances.

In WRC 2 there is one more good news, Ott Tanak is back to top level rallying. Yes! DMACK has signed Ott Tanak and Jari Ketomaa for their WRC 2 assualt, team is named as Drive DMACK WRT. Ford Fiesta R5 will be their weapon.

 Apart from that, Ott Tanak has a three round WRC programme in a Ford Fiesta RS WRC which commences from Rally Sweden, other two rounds are Portugal and Sardinia.

 Other than that, WRC2 regulars Yurii Protasov, Armin Kremer, Italian driver Lorenzo Bertelli and Irish driver Robert Barrable will start their season with Fiesta R5’s. WRC 3 will be running on Citroen DS3’s and Junior Championship will run on Citroen prep identical Citroën DS3 R3Ts, as not much info on the driver line up yet.

French aces Francois Delecour and Bryan Bouffier  will both drive Ford Fiesta RS WRC’s on the opening round of WRC , Rallye Monte Carlo. Many will be surprised by Bouffier’s choice to drive a Fiesta WRC as he was named as test driver for Korean car maker Hyundai.

Anyway, the team, drivers all are ready for the battle, so we are! Thats all for now, until then Happy Rallying
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