D he superhero is well armed. In November, Sébastien Loeb and his wife Séverine won the Rallye du Var in the Citroën DS3 WRC, which is driven on typical Monte Carlo territory. Incidentally, the nine-time champion also tested the current tires for the Monte. Barely a year and a half after his official departure from rallying, the most successful automobile athlete of all time is returning to his ancestral territory.
Loeb has been testing hard in the Maritime Alps. Chief designer Francois Méstelan has revised the DS3 with a new rear axle and a new rear wing. The new engine in the DS3 is an old acquaintance for Loeb. Citroën has now installed the 1.6-liter turbo from the Élysée touring car in the rally car and is hoping for greater performance despite the smaller air mass limiter.
VW is also stepping up
This is also necessary, because twelve victories in 13 rallies in 2014 impressively underpin the dominance of the VW world championship team. Given the superiority of the Polo WRC in previous years, technical director Willy Rampf and project manager Francois Xavier Demaison were able to concentrate on the construction of a completely redesigned Polo from an early stage. It has a lighter engine, a reinforced chassis and a new rear wing with more downforce.
Thanks to a new arrangement of the tank, the spare wheels can be stowed deeper in the trunk, which means that the center of gravity is slightly lower. After initial difficulties with the drivability, world champion Sébastien Ogier and his runner-up Jari-Matti Latvala are very familiar with the new equipment. Because sponsor Red Bull digs deeper into their pockets, the typical dark blue has largely replaced last year's white.
While Latvala and the Monte never liked each other, and the Finn would be satisfied with a place in the top four , defending champion Ogier goes for victory, of course. It is a meeting of the giants when the two Sebs meet on Thursday. Ogier won the Monte 2014, the starting place Gap is his hometown, but with seven victories Loeb is the most successful Monte participant in the 114-year history of the queen of rallies.
On the Citroën side, all parties swear It is a one-time guest appearance by the record world champion, but if so, things look bleak for the beginning of the seasonfor the former successful group. Kris Meeke improved a lot in 2014, but couldn't stop the VW drivers. Mads Östberg, on the other hand, tended to stagnate and had to step aside for Loeb in the south of France and only drove the third car. It remains to be seen whether the revised DS3 is a big hit. Just in case, Xavier Méstelan has a second shot ready. A revised front axle and a new chassis are coming in the second half of the season.
Hyundai with another year of learning
At the earliest after the The new Hyundai i20 also makes its debut during the summer break. Until then, Thierry Neuville and Dani Sordo have to come to terms with the previous year's car, which is about two tenths of a second per kilometer short of the top. For the Koreans based in Bavaria, 2015 is another year of learning. Neuville has the speed to endanger Ogier and Latvala, but the Monte doesn't particularly like him. So far he never saw the target. Teammate Sordo, on the other hand, was on course for the podium until the defect in the Hyundai debut last year and is always good for a place on the podium.
That leaves the former Ford factory team M-Sport. For the second time in a row, team principal Malcolm Wilson will be at the start at his own expense. The Fiesta WRC is still a solid and fast car, but the last bit of the chassis and especially the engine is missing. A modified Fiesta with a self-developed racing engine will only be launched in Portugal in May.
The drivers Elfyn Evans and Ott Tänak have great potential, but are unlikely to be victorious on their own. There is no talk of victories in Cockermouth, Wilson would be satisfied with podium places in the course of the year. But the Englishman has another ace up his sleeve, at least at the start of the season: Bryan Bouffier, who has been retired from Hyundai for lack of results, will start with a fiesta in Gap, as in 2014. At that time he finished second.
Monte 2015 could turn white again
Initially, he was even in the lead at the beginning of the Monte 2014 ex-Formula 1 star Robert Kubica. But like on the second stage in southern France, the Pole shot himself off and offside a dozen times over the course of the season. After half the season he no longer trusted his team boss Malcolm Wilson, and at the end of the year he gambled away while trying to return to Citroën. With the Italian private A-Style team, the Cracow man is contesting another full WRC season in a Ford Fiesta due to the lack of alternatives thanks to the Polish oil multi lotus.
Even if not a German driver at the 83rd Monte Carlo Rally is one of the overall candidates for victory, Black-Red-Gold still has two hot irons in the fire. Former European champion Armin Kremer wants to use all of his experience with co-driver Klaus Wicha and take a podium in Monte Carlo with a Skoda Fabia S2000. TheMecklenburg is planning a season in the WRC2 category and wants to switch to the new Fabia R5 in the middle of the year.
Christian Riedemann makes another attempt at the junior title. Even if Citroën Germany is now supporting the younger Philipp Knof and the financial support from the ADAC Sport Foundation has expired, the Sulinger has scraped together a budget for a job with a Citroën DS3 R3. As with Kremer, third place is the goal at the very special World Championship run in southern France.
With its narrow mountain roads, the difficult to predict weather and the tricky choice of tires, the Monte Carlo Rally is a case for specialists. Because of the early final on Sunday afternoon in favor of television, the legendary Col de Turini will only be run over once in the 83rd edition. The teams complete a total of 15 tests covering 355 kilometers. Some of them could also be white. The weather forecast announces a low pressure area with snow for the northern Mediterranean.
This is bad news for the R /GT Cup, newly launched by the FIA, which is making its debut in Monte Carlo. In the rear-wheel drive sports car category, there are only three cars at the start, but they are made up of big names, including former Monte Carlo winner Francois Délécour, sports car ace Romain Dumas and Belgian veteran Marc Duez.
Even under optimally dry conditions, a Porsche 911 GT3 is anything but easy to control on rally slopes; in ice and snow, driving on 295 millimeter wide rear tires becomes a pure struggle for survival for the drivers. At least there would be a clear winner: the audience.
In our gallery we show the highlights of Monte's history again.