87th Rallye Monte-Carlo (22-27 January 2019) – Preview
The six-time world rally champion answered a few questions as he talked to us about his special relationship with Monte.
What’s your favourite stage?
I’ve often really enjoyed Col du Perty – Col Saint Jean. Although it’s not being run in its usual configuration this year, the test that finishes in Laborel, which was held last year in really heavy rain, should be a fantastic stage.
What about your favourite memory?
That’s a tough question, because I have lots of good memories. I guess I would have to say the first time I won the rally in 2009, because it was my first major international win.
And your worst memory?
That would be in 2012, with the S2000. We were on course to finish sixth overall, a fairly exceptional performance up against the WRCs, but we pushed perhaps a bit too much, given the huge crash that ended our race!
Which “spectator spot” would you recommend?
On the St Léger les Mélèzes stage, the finish is always nice, provided you stay within the authorised areas and follow the instructions of the stewards. There are some really fast and spectacular stretches because generally speaking, we come into that section with studded snow tyres, whereas it’s invariably pretty dry.
Which part of the rally you prefer most?
When we drive onto the final podium in front of the Palais Princier! Monte-Carlo has a very special atmosphere as the opening rally of the championship. And often, it’s such a tough race that you feel pleased just to make to the end, so when you manage to win it, it’s even more special. Having said that, it’s still the feeling in the car that is the most enjoyable. This is especially true when you start a stage knowing you have the right tyres to express yourself, because it’s not always the case.
Do you prefer it when the road is wet, damp, icy or covered in snow?
I really like it when there is a bit of mix, with changes in grip levels and you have to adjust your pace, because that’s when you can really make a difference.
Whilst competing for Citroën Racing in the WRC, Sébastien Ogier and Julien Ingrassia made their first appearance at Monte-Carlo in 2009, when the rally was part of the IRC, in a Peugeot 207 S2000. It proved to be a very successful one-off outing! Julien Ingrassia recalls…
“We had been selected by BFGoodrich to take part in our home round of the IRC. We had just been crowned Junior world rally champions, but we were still in the early stages of our career. We therefore initially decided to focus on consistency, before gradually upping our pace and claiming our only stage win of the weekend on the snow-covered roads on Montauban sur l’Ouvèze – Eygalayes. That moved us into the overall lead. We had literally overtaken Freddy Loix, side by side, as we started to climb the Col Saint Jean, just after the village of Laborel, which you don’t see very often in rallying! But we still had to get over the famous Col de Turini at night. I can still see us realising in the dark at Lucéram that we had claimed our first international win! As the job wasn’t over for the co-driver, however, it was only much later that I was really able to savour the moment, when it hit me that a year or two earlier, I was still just a fan with my mates, sleeping in the car at night on these same stages!”