The 2012 World Rally Championship season opened this last weekend with the Monte Carlo Rally. Starting much where he left off, Sebastien Loeb clinched a dominant victory, including a win on the power stage, to take home maximum points for the event.
The remainder of the podium positions were not quite so easily decided, as a weekend long battle took place between Mini’s Dani Sordo, Ford’s Petter Solberg and Citroen’s Mikko Hirvonen. While a podium looked unlikely for Sordo when he damaged his car’s suspension on stage two, the Spaniard drove impeccably thereafter to secure the second.
Ford’s newest recruits, Petter Solberg and Chris Patterson, finished the opening leg in a competitive third position following an impressive drive on arduous road conditions. Solberg, who completed only two days testing the Fiesta RS WRC prior to the season’s curtain-raiser, proved his abilities as a world class rally driver by setting a string of top three stage times.
Team-mates Jari-Matti Latvala and Miikka Anttila were forced to retire after the Finnish pair rolled their Fiesta 10km into the first day’s closing stage. Latvala’s retirement proved bitter sweet as the Finn was leading the rally by half a minute thanks to a brilliant tyre choice amid changeable weather, until a driver error proved costly.
Mikko Hirvonen endured a tough start to his first event with Citroen, however managed to put together a string of stage victories on Friday and Saturday to move up the leader board from sixth to finish a satisfactory fourth.
Evgeny Novikov steered his M-Sport Ford into fifth place in what was one of his best WRC performances to date, and also took third place behind Hirvonen on the power stage.
The Russian’s team-mate, veteran Francois Delecour returned to WRC after a long absence to finish sixth position. Delecour was kind enough to let his co-driver, Dominique Savignoni, take the reins for the power stage to finish off his WRC career in style.
The second work Mini, piloted by Pierre Campana, finished seventh ahead of Ott Tanak’s M-Sport Ford. Martin Prokop in a Czech Ford narrowly beat Armindo Araujo’s Mini for ninth.
Pos Driver Team/Car Time/Gap
1. Sebastien Loeb Citroen 4h32m39.9s
2. Dani Sordo Mini + 2m45.5s
3. Petter Solberg Ford + 3m14.2s
4. Mikko Hirvonen Citroen + 4m06.8s
5. Evgeny Novikov M-Sport Ford + 6m03.4s
6. Francois Delecour M-Sport Ford + 7m47.9s
7. Pierre Campana Mini + 8m31.4s
8. Ott Tanak M-Sport Ford + 10m34.7s
9. Martin Prokop Czech Ford + 16m10.7s
10. Armindo Araujo Araujo Mini + 16m16.6s