FIVE Monte Carlo Rally Facts You May Not Know
The most famous round of the World Rally Championship is underway this weekend, and while a record-setting seven wins for Sébastiens Loeb and Ogier, a massive 13 wins for Lancia, and the relative pace of new champions Toyota vs nearest rival Hyundai are all salient talking points this weekend, what about those facts and figures that are less well known? For instance…
1) In 2019, Sébastien Ogier set two events records with the smallest winning margin in history…
The 2019 Rallye Monte-Carlo proved a banner event for World Rally Championship historians. For starters, six-time champion Sébastien Ogier, together with co-driver Julien Ingrassia, got his title defence, and his first full season with Citroën in eight years, off to the best possible start with his sixth event win in succession (a new record) and his seventh in total. The result tied the Frenchman with nine-time champion and fellow Sébastien, Loeb.
And Ogier accomplished all of this with the narrowest winning margin on Rallye Monte-Carlo to-date.
His final time of 3h 21m 15.9s was just 2.2 seconds quicker than Hyundai’s Thierry Neuville, a wafer thin advantage about the length of a slightly exaggerated sneeze. It also undercuts the 15 seconds that split ’93 winner Didier Auriol from 2nd placed François Delecour.
Given that impressive run, it was almost easy to forget that the win was the 100th for the Citroen World Rally Team since its debut in 1998 (Citroën Competition also competed in select rounds of the 1986 season but walked away with only a 6th place finish in Sweden). A remarkable achievement that firmly plants the French marque at the top of the series’ most successful manufacturers, its 102 wins now nine clear of Ford and 29 clear of Lancia.
By the way, if you’re curious as to who took the first win, it was eight-time Spanish Rally Champion, Jesús Puras at the 2001 Tour de Corse.
*Images courtesy of Citroën
2) …and Jari-Matti Latvala became the joint-most experienced driver in WRC history.
If asked you’d expect to be the most exerienced driver in official WRC history, your mind might reasonably wander to names like Carlos Sainz, Sébastien Loeb and even Petter Solberg, given their extended tenures in the World Rally Championship.
And you’d be wrong, as it’s actually Finland’s Jari-Matti Latvala, who equalled the record for most WRC starts at last year’s Monte Carlo Rally and now holds an unopposed 202-start record heading into 2020.
On his Toyota debut, Latvala drew level with two-time World Champion, and three-time Dakar Rally winner, Carlos Sainz to record his 196th WRC start. The legendary Spaniard made his first WRC start on the 1987 Rallye de Portugal in a Ford Sierra RS Cosworth before signing with Toyota Team Europe for 1989. One year later, he was a World Champion. In 2004, Sainz, now with Citroën, completed his final full-time season before signing off his WRC career the following year with two outings in Turkey and on the Acropolis.
Latvala meanwhile made his WRC debut in an eponymously-entered Mitsubishi Lancer Evo at Rally Great Britain in 2002, though the Finn wouldn’t start his first full-time season until tying up with M-Sport Ford in 2007. He’s been a WRC mainstay ever since, and after tying the record with Sainz in Monte Carlo last year, Latvala reset the benchmark one round later in Sweden, his 197th start. From which he unfortunately retired.
*Images courtesy of Red Bull, Ford, Volkswagen, and Toyota
3) A British driver hasn’t won the Monte Carlo Rally in more than half a century.
In 1968, sports car legend Vic Elford proved his formidable chops yet further by winning the Monte Carlo Rally – the first for the Porsche 911, by the by – ahead of fellow Porsche driver, Pauli Toivonen. Already a Group Three European Rally Champion, Elford went on to win the 1968 Daytona 24 Hours just one week later in a factory Porsche 907 LH, finish 2nd at the 12 Hours of Sebring, and cement a banner year with victories on the Targa Florio in a Porsche 907 and at the Nürburgring 1000km in a Porsche 908. He even made his Formula 1 debut at the ’68 French Grand Prix, finishing a stunning 4th on his debut in the Cooper T86B behind only Jacky Ickx, John Surtees, and (Sir) Jackie Stewart.
Though he didn’t know it at the time, Elford’s win indirectly kicked off a barren period on the Monte Carlo Rally for Great Britain, which has yet to take another event win in the intervening 52 years.
In fact, since Elford, only three British drivers – Colin McRae, Guy Wilks, and Kris Meeke – have finished on the Monte Carlo podium, boasting one runners-up spot and four 3rd place finishes collectively. And even then, Britain had to wait until 1998 – 30 years later – to get back on the Monte Carlo podium.
To put that into perspective, since 1968, France has been represented on the top step 25 times by 11 different drivers, Finland eight times by five different drivers, and Italy seven times by three drivers. Even Estonia has taken four podium finishes since 2004, Markko Märtin finishing 2nd that year before newly crowned WRC champion Ott Tänak finished 3rd, 2nd and 3rd from 2017 to 2019.
*Images courtesy of Porsche
4) Its lineage dates back to 1906.
Here’s a fun little snippet. In 1909, with the approval of Prince Albert I of Monaco, and overseen by Alexandre Noghès, president of what would later become the Automobile Club de Monaco, planning began in earnest for the inaugural Rallye Monte Carlo. Financed by the Société des Bains de Mer, the road-rally event would encourage car enthusiasts – read ‘gentry’ – to converge on Monte Carlo from the four corners of Europe in the spirit of competition. That each entrant would travel for thousands of kilometres from the five starting points in Paris, Brussels, Geneva, Vienna and Berlin with ‘Monte Carlo’ logos adorning the bodywork, thus promoting the principality over the neighbouring Automobile Club of Nice and the Côte d’Azur, was neither here nor there…
Arriving in Monte Carlo on 28 January 1911, having left Paris a week earlier in his 25hp Turcat-Méry, Henri Rougier was eventually declared the ‘winner’ of an arbitrary decision by the judging panel, much to the consternation of Germany’s Von Esmark, furious that his 1,700km, 30kph average speed run from Berlin had seemingly been overlooked. Still, the event continued into 1912, returned in 1924 and again in 1949 after the conclusion of two World Wars, and would later receive European Grand Tourism status in 1953 and European Rally Championship grandeur in 1961 before the World Rally Championship era began in 1973.
But did you know that the event’s lineage arguably dates back to Britain’s Charles Jarrott, who took on the formidable ‘Road to Monte Carlo’ in April 1906? One of the more prominent ‘gentleman racers’ of the early 20th century, Jarrott set himself the ambitious challenge of driving from the Automobile Club in Piccadilly, London, to Monte Carlo in just 48 hours. This at a time when the automobile travelled slower than erosion.
Nevertheless, his ambition came to fruition, and Jarrott, together with passengers and a French navigator, eventually piloted his 40hp Crossley for 1,242km across France (if not more, as Jarrott himself admitted his party frequently got lost) in just a shade over 37.5 hours. Human nature being what it is though, this unofficial record was quickly in the crosshairs, and almost overnight, the Hon. C. S. Rolls, a veteran of the Paris-Boulogne, Paris-Berlin and Paris-Vienna rallies, claimed he could complete the reverse journey from Monte Carlo to London quicker in his more powerful Rolls-Royce. He did, though only 90 seconds faster than Jarrott had managed! Neither men realised at the time that they’d indirectly set into motion a rally that continues to this day.
*Images courtesy of Rallye Monte-Carlo and Just Posters
5) The podium has been locked out only SEVEN times since 1911.
Think about it for a second. The Peugeot 205 T16. The FIAT 131 Abarth. The Toyota Celica. The Mitsubishi Lancer Evo. The Subaru Impreza. All World Rally Championship Hall of Famers, and yet not one of them has locked out the podium.
Fittingly, the first came just one year later in 1961, when Maurice Martin, Walter Löffler and Guy Jouanneaux finished 1st, 2nd and 3rd with the Panhard PL 17, though it would be another 12 years before Alpine, in the first year of the WRC-era no less, repeated this with the A110, Jean-Claude Andruet, Ove Andersson, and Jean-Pierre Nicolas taking the respective steps on the podium.
Fast-forward to 1984 and it was Audi’s turn with the all-conquering Quattro A2 en-route to a commanding championship win for Stig Blomqvist, who finished 2nd that year between the victorious Walter Röhrl and 3rd-placed Hannu Mikkola. Most recently, in 2015, parent group Volkswagen emulated the achievement with the Polo R WRC when Sébastien Ogier finished ahead of VW teammates Jari-Matti Latvala and Andreas Mikkelsen en-route to his third consecutive WRC title.
Interestingly, Lancia is the only one to have done this twice (obviously, it’s Lancia). The first came with the Stratos HF in 1976, inaugural WRC champion Sandro Munari leading home Björn Waldegård and Bernard Darniche for his third straight Monte Carlo win. 13 years later in 1989, Miki Biasion took his first win of the season ahead of Didier Auriol and Bruno Saby en-route to his second consecutive WRC title in the Delta Integrale.
And yes, you did read that correctly, Citroen has never managed to lock out the podium in Monte Carlo!
*Images courtesy of Mercedes-Benz, Renault Communications, McKlein, Audi, Volkswagen and Veloce