WRC: 5 Takeaways from Rally Monte Carlo 2021
With the first event complete in this years WRC season we look at what we should take away from the most prestigious event on the calendar.
Ogier Makes History
Was there ever really any doubt. Sebastien Ogier has made history this weekend by winning the Monte Carlo Rally for a record-breaking eighth victory, the feet also marks his 50th win the World Rally Championship. In the end, it will look like a fairly simple victory with the margin being 32.6 seconds, but that is far from the case after an event long tussle with teammate Elfyn Evans who kept the reigning champion honest throughout the event. But when it came to putting everything on the line to win the event, only Ogier was able to find that next level that is required to win the Monte, it was evident on Friday that in his mind he was going to win the event, the way he came across in interviews showed how much he wanted to win his final Monte Carlo Rally as his last season as a full-time competitor. As is tradition, victory in Monte puts him at a huge disadvantage for as next round is on snow, this being the Arctic Rally instead of Sweden for this year, that being said he won't be too worried as he has come out on top in his most important event of the season.
Neuville Better Than Expected
At the start of the Monte Carlo Rally many people had written Thierry Neuville of for a top finish, then add on to that at one point he was over a minute and a half of the lead with his stage times being regularly midfield at best it all looked as if it would be an underwhelming start to the season. It was not to be, however, as a brace of stage wins including a dominant performance in SS10 put him right back in podium contention, on the first stage on Sunday Neuville managed to pass Rovanpera and break the Toyota domination. Considering SS1 was the first time Thierry Neuville and Martijn Wydaeghe had been in the same car together it was quite remarkable they were up to speed as quickly as Saturday and a third-place finish has to seem like a huge result and will do him a world of good in his pursuit for a first championship.
Evans Holds His Own
After coming within a day of winning his first WRC championship only six weeks ago, it was crucial for Elfyn Evans to come back strongly and not let his heartbreak get the better of him. And what we saw was a performance that reminded us exactly why he is now considered one of the 'A' list drivers of the championship, all weekend long he was the closest challenger to teammate Ogier and even managed to lead overnight on Friday. Ultimately it was Ogier who would prevail but it was obvious Ogier wanted this win and Evans, very cleverly realised he wasn't going to win on pure pace so his best bet was to drive within his limits and hold station in case something should happen to Ogier and he would be able to capitalise. This didn't happen, but in terms of the championship a second on the Monte is an improvement on last year and sets up a solid platform for him as the season progresses. The next event is the annual snow Rally, an event he won last year, however, with it being based in Finland this year rather than Sweden things might be very different but he will still surely be positive of a strong result.
Tanak Misery Continues
Since joining Hyundai it has sort have been win or bust for 2019 WRC champion Ott Tanak, he has been very fast but also has had trouble finishing. After day 1 it seemed as if his luck had changed with two-stage wins out of a possible two, from then on, however, it was all downhill. Day 2 wasn't great but it wasn't awful either he was still in third and had a realistic chance to continue the fight for victory. It was day 3 though when his event went from bad too worse, a puncture on SS9 dropped him back to fifth, the result of this puncture meant he had to put on his last remaining tyre which in theory would lead you to believe he would take things slightly easier. It did not. The very next stage he once again got a puncture and it was this setback that was to be the final straw for the Estonian as it was deemed he did not have enough tread on his wheel to be able to drive on the road section and was forced to retire. After the Rally it was announced that Tanak would receive a suspended ban because he broke regulations and drove back to the service park without enough tread meaning should he breach regulations he will be forced to miss a round. In short, his season could not have started worse.
Mighty Mikkelsen Dominant
What else is there to say about the performance of Andreas Mikkelsen at Rally Monte Carlo than, WOW. The way he drove to take a dominant victory was nothing short of emphatic. Not only did he take a WRC2 victory, as well as being the fastest Rally2 car overall with a margin of just under 2 minutes, but he also was mixing it up against some of the slower Rally1 cars, even beating M-Sport's Gus Greensmith on pure pace. Going into the event, Andreas made no secret of the fact he wanted to make a statement early on and is keen to make a claim on the WRC2 title early doors in order to have the potential to make a return to the top class sooner rather than later. Judging by this event he is well on his way and it must only be a matter of time now before he gets another chance in the top class.