AN exciting new season for the FIA World Rally Championship starring new drivers, cars and teams is ready to hit the road when the historic Rallye Monte-Carlo starts today.
The Monte opens the 2013 WRC season, which also will visit the New South Wales Coffs Coast for Rally Australia, round 10, on 12-15 September.
Attracted by the WRC’s popularity with millions of fans and its reputation as the planet’s most challenging motorsport championship, German automotive giant Volkswagen has captured the major headlines with a high-profile return after 24 years on the sidelines to do battle with Citroen, Ford and Mini teams.
There have been many driver changes in a frantic off-season of less than 10 weeks, meaning the early stages of the four-day Rallye Monte-Carlo will be watched as keenly as any in recent times.
The form guide was established on a pre-event shakedown stage test in snow yesterday near the city of Valence in south-eastern France, 400 kms north of the final destination at Monaco’s Place du Palais.
Qatar M-Sport Ford team new recruit Thierry Neuville, 24, of Belgium, narrowly won the session from Citroen’s nine-time champion Sebastien Loeb and 22-year-old Russian Evgeny Novikov, in another Ford Fiesta RS WRC.
Loeb’s teammate Mikko Hirvonen finished fourth and the drivers of the new Volkswagen Polo R WRC, Jari-Matti Latvala and Sebastien Ogier, were fifth and sixth.
Neuville was happy to be fastest but warned about reading too much into his performance.
“So much depends on the road conditions,” he told wrc.com.
“We had a great couple of runs at the end when the road was quite clean. I had good confidence and could try to drive hard and see the limits of the car.
“But it’s not always the fastest driver who wins this rally, almost never, in fact.
“We just need to be careful – especially during tomorrow’s first day, which I expect will be very complicated. My objective remains to stay on the road and get the car all the way to Monaco.”
Rallye Monte-Carlo is the oldest rally in the WRC calendar and the longest-running in all rally sport.
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This year is the 81st edition of the event, which can trace its roots back to 1911 – the same year as the inaugural Indianapolis 500 motor race – when the first of the marathon pan-European rallies that finished in the Principality of Monaco was held.
The Monte is famous for its narrow asphalt mountain roads and fiendish mix of changeable weather and road conditions.
Freezing temperatures in the mountains mean patches of ice and snow are never far away. Experience counts and drivers with a good understanding of the specialist conditions can be a serious threat to the established stars.
This year’s route covers 468 competitive kilometres run as 18 Special Stages, which will include on Saturday three runs – two at night – over the legendary Col de Turini.
Fans can follow the Rallye Monte-Carlo with live results, radio commentary, video, stories and photographs on www.wrc.com.
About Rally Australia
Rally Australia on 12-15 September 2013 will be the 22nd WRC event in Australia and the third since it moved to New South Wales from Western Australia. The 2011 rally attracted more than 13,000 individual visitors to the Coffs Coast, generating more than 64,000 bed nights and a net economic impact of $14.8 million, according to Destination NSW. The shire and forestry roads of the Coffs Harbour, Nambucca, Bellingen and Clarence Valley local government areas provide a true challenge for the WRC drivers against a magnificent backdrop of subtropical coastal and hinterland scenery.
About the FIA World Rally Championship
The FIA World Rally Championship (WRC) is widely regarded as the world’s most challenging motorsport championship. Rounds in 13 countries pit drivers in highly-modified versions of popular production cars over a series of timed “special stages” on surfaces varying from gravel and asphalt to snow and ice. Started in 1973, the WRC over the years has been a battleground for makes including Toyota, Subaru, Ford, Citroen, Fiat, Audi, Mitsubishi, Mini and Peugeot. Volkswagen and Hyundai are poised to join the series, which attracts hundreds of thousands of spectators in some countries and a huge global television audience. The WRC is regulated and controlled by the Federation Internationale de l’Automobile (FIA), the governing body for motorsport worldwide.
For further information, please contact:
Ben Rainsford Chris Nixon
Chairman Media Manager
Rally Australia M. +61 418 759 417
M. +61 419 816 227 E. [email protected]