Report: Rallye Automobile Monte Carlo 2007

There’s nothing like a season opener. It’s a fresh start for everyone. Everyone’s on zero points. Everyone has new goals in sight. And there are so many questions…

Seb Loeb is my favorite driver, and I was really worried about the new C4. Would it be fast? Would it be reliable? And on top of that, could his healing arm make it through the weekend? Would he be hampered by the fact that he hasn’t competed since Cyprus? Would Petter Solberg’s ridiculous run of bad luck finally end? How will the Subaru drivers take to their new BF Goodrich tyres? Would the Fords be able to continue their dominance? Would any of the “young guns” mature into a true contender? How well could Toni Gardemeister, Manfred Stohl and Henning Solberg adapt to their new cars? How would the rally itself do in Valence?

Now, for some answers. Seb’s arm may not be 100%, but it was enough to win. The Citroen C4 is fast, but not too fast. Petter’s bad luck streak is still streaking. The BF Goodriches are working just fine, through they take some getting used to. The Fords still seem competitve, though the drivers don’t do too well on tarmac. Young gun Dani Sordo (scarily enough) already looks like he can win a tarmac rally this season. Mikko needs some waking up from the vacation. Toni, Manfred and Henning are still learning their cars and it shows. And finally, the roads in Valence are fine, but they need snow on them.

There are still lingering questions that the Monte couldn’t answer. Neither Marcus or Mikko ever do well here. Marcus hateshateshates Monte Carlo, so his season doesn’t start until Sweden (which is another specialized rally that doesn’t tell us how the cars will do on gravel). I think the C4 isn’t “so, so fast,” as Marcus said. It seems on par with the Focus’ pace, which is exciting. It means there will be tight battles between Marcus and Seb all year. It’s no fun when one car is light-years ahead of the others anyway.

Speaking of tight battles, how fun was Mikko and Atko’s fight for fourth position? (“Very fun” is the correct answer, in case you didn’t know.) They swapped position on every stage on the last leg, a 0.8s lead here, a 2.1s lead there. It all came down to the super special in none other than the F1 Grand Prix circuit in Monte Carlo. I’ll admit it–I jumped up and cheered when Atko took it by freakin’ 0.2 seconds. He somehow pulled out one second from his “disastrous”* ’06 Impreza S12 from Mikko’s championship-title-holding Ford. And the cherry on top was how generous Mikko was with his congratulations. He knows how to lose, and that’s what makes a true winner. I have a feeling it’s gonna be Mikko vs. Atko in the years to come. Very cool.

*Sez Mr. Nicky Grist himself. Harsh, but true.


January 26, 2007. Auto Racing, Citroen, Ford, Motorsport, Rally, Rally Reports, Rallying, Solberg, Subaru, WRC.

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