Night of Turini
|Monte Carlo Rally 2004|
The Monte Carlo Rally traditonally opened the WRC season. More than in recent years, the weather conditions were particularly extreme for this 72st edition. Indeed, a thick fog covered the 2nd leg, adding an additional difficulty to the pilots who struggled already with a conditions of snow, ice, wet and complete dries. No need to remind you that in these kind of conditions the choice of tyres is a key factor in the race. The figures speak for themselves: 43 crews starting of which only 20 would reach the finishline. It would be a marvellous rally and taken along by a formidable fight to the outposts, and providing the answers to all the questions that one can pose at the beginning of the season.
The race :
Friday, 07h48: SS1 cancelled because of too much spectators on the stage, and dangerously parked cars.
In SS2, Grönholm makes a strong impression: he takes the scratch at the wheel of the debuting Peugeot 307 WRC. A performance which shows the enormous potential of the car, developed in the shade of the 206 since August 2002. Märtin (Ford), Loeb (Citroen) and Duval (Ford) are right behind the Finn, ready to benefit from the slightest error Marcus could make. We'll have to wait till SS6 to see it happen: a bad choice of tyres and Magic-Marcus is found 3rd behind Loeb in 1st and Märtin in 2nd. It is in this order with 18 seconds between the three of them at the end of the first leg.
The following day, the day starts as badly as had done the first one: Vouilloz (Peugeot 206 FFSA) leaves the road and blocks the passage of the cars: stage one is neutralized and a contractual time is given to all the crews. So it is in SS8 that the pilots continue their battle. It is at this time that Loeb plans, and consequently executes his attack. In the fog and with a visibility lower than 50 meters, the Alsatian, helped well by Elena, its copilot from Monaco, takes all the scratches of the day whereas Galli (Mitsubishi), Hirvonen (Subaru) and Sainz (Citroen) were tricked by the difficult conditions and left the roads. At the evening of this 2nd leg, the Frenchman has 1'28''7 on Duval, 1'41''7 on Märtin and 1'57''9 on Grönholm. The 5th is retrogressed with more than 3 minutes.
It could be
said that the race for victory was over at the start of the third leg,
as all Loeb had to do was to get to the finish without any mistakes,
while the others - still very close to one and other - fight over the
other places of honour. Märtin, Solberg (Subaru), Duval and Grönholm
are all aiming for second, as the drivers start off the four stages
of leg 3, a double run of the famous stages of Lucéram and of
the Turini. At the end of the day, Märtin has proven himself to
be most capable of the task as he takes 2nd overall, followed by Duval
and Grönholm. On 5th one would expect Solberg, but he hit a patch
of ice and slid into the rockwall, damaging his steering and causing
him to drop to 7th. Therefore Loix moved up to 5th, while Panizzi gave
the Mitsubishi Lancer a good 6th place on its maiden rally.
Beginnings of the Mitsubishi Lancer WRC :
It is on the Monte Carlo that the new Mitsubishi Lancer, led by Panizzi and Galli, made its debut. After the 6th final place of the Frenchman, one can say that the sabbatical year the nippone mark took to develop its car was used for nothing. This good result is also a thank you from the "Tarmac Expert" to his new employer who offered him a seat for a complete program this season, something he did not dare hope for at Peugeot.
Final classification :
It is thus Loeb who wins in front of the duet Ford Märtin-Duval, the duet Peugeot Grönholm-Loix and Panizzi 6st. So, Ford takes the head of the constructor championship in front of Citroen and Peugeot. Mitsubishi is 4th and Subaru 5th.
As Tirabassi in 2003, Bernardi wins the "juniors" category of this rally in a Renault Clio prepared by Oreca. He defeats Aava (Suzuki Ignis) and Meeke (Opel Corsa) respectively with 04'08'' and 07'34'', a significant advantage and demonstration of the Frenchman's abilities. How sad it is that Tirabassi will become world champion at the end of the 2004 season only to find himself without a drive for 2005....What a mess.