Any worries of the WRC losing its fierce competition in 2019 were swiftly brushed aside in Monte Carlo. With typical mixed road conditions there was an unusually close lead fight between last year’s two main championship contenders. In the end Seb Ogier would win his home event by a narrow 2.2 seconds but there were mixed fortunes throughout the top competitors. Here are my thoughts on how the drivers coped in the French Alps.
There were very few mistakes by Citroen’s lead driver allowing him to consistently settle into his new car and deliver the top stage times when needed. A crucial message to his rivals that his change of team presents no weakness in this year’s fight.
Never really got his weekend going with very few stage miles completed over the weekend. Friday’s suspension damage seemed rather unfortunate rather than a big mistake. He will be pleased to see the car is competitive as he aims to strike back in Sweden.
Relentlessly swapping stage times against Seb Ogier the Belgian will undoubtedly be devastated to miss out on winning the iconic event. The mistake on Friday may have lost him the win but all looks positive for another competitive year in 2019.
Extra credit has to be given to Loeb and Elena after such limited time testing due to the Dakar. Will probably be disappointed to see Tanak take huge chunks of time on the final day but Loeb delivered for the team.
After a poor tyre choice on Thursday night Andreas would set consistently quick times throughout Friday to be in a podium position going into Saturday. Then on one quick right hander he misjudged the grip with terrible consequences. Andreas will need to take advantage of his road position during the next two events to silence the doubters.
As Ott said at the end of Stage 8 “Monte is not really about the pace, it is about consistency.” Unfortunately for him this was true despite staggering pace including winning every stage Saturday a puncture on Friday would put Ott out of the lead fight. Only 4th fastest in the power stage would add extra disappointment but despite this signs are good for Ott’s 2019.
A disappointing event for Latvala who himself admitted an accident in testing and some wrong setup adjustments played a crucial role in him missing speed this weekend. Despite this Jari avoided any major incidents to bring back points for himself and the team.
2nd quickest on the events first stage set a big message that Kris Meeke was back. A string of three broken rims during Thursday and Friday put him well out of contention. But after waiting all weekend Kris put in a spectacular power stage run to put himself 4th in the championship despite a less than ideal event.
Monte Carlo was a development rally for Teemu however the lessons would come quickly as he slid straight on into a ditch first thing Thursday evening. The rest of the weekend the stage times were generally steady however a push through the power stage rewarded a single point from the weekend.
This weekend was all about learning the car for Tidemand and despite broken suspension on the Friday he will be a lot more acquainted with the car then he was before the event. The times never looked to threaten the top 5 though and he may be disappointed to have been beaten by R5 cars on a few stages.
Arguably the disappointment of the event Evans never strung together a good set of stages. Wrong tyre choices contributed but to crash out while already down the Leader board was painful. Hopefully road position in Sweden will help boost confidence and provide a strong result.