Qatar M-Sport World Rally Team driver Evgeny Novikov has voiced his disappointment after he missed out on a likely podium result on Rallye Monte Carlo.
Novikov had battled his way up third place on the penultimate day and going into the final leg he had a slender 1.7 second advantage over Citroen's Dani Sordo. However in the first stage on Saturday, the Russian succumbed to the treacherous conditions lying in wait through the fearsome 'Col de Turini' test, SS14, and 3 kilometres in, damaged the rear left wheel on his Ford Fiesta RS WRC car and was unable to continue.
“We ran wide on the third corner into the stage – it was a very slippery one and the information from the gravel crew was not the same as the conditions on the road. The conditions were changing so quickly, and there was just no way for us to avoid what happened,” Novikov explained. “We hit a stone wall and spun. We damaged the rear-left wheel and then had to stop about four kilometres down the road.”
It was an unfortunate end to the event for the youngster, especially as he had been so impressive up to that point, winning two stages on the Thursday and in total posting ten top-five times, on what was only his second outing on the Monte.
“It is true that we were setting some really good times before my retirement, but no-one will remember that; history remembers results so this is very disappointing for me,” he continued. “Having said that though, we completed almost the entire rally and had some really good pacenotes up until that point – that means we should be in a really good position when we come back here next year.”
Fellow Qatar M-Sport man, Juho Hanninen meanwhile also retired in SS14 and he was similarly upset: “I haven't seen conditions like that ever before – it was horrible if I am honest! But in the end, most of the guys made it through and I didn't. As I've been saying all weekend, I needed to be patient and make sure I learnt the car so I am very disappointed,” said the Finn, who had been set to take points in P7.
“After about 15 kilometres when we started the downhill section [on SS14] there was a very narrow line, and I lost it. If you leave that line then there is no grip and unfortunately it was all over for me. We hit a stone wall quite heavily. Okay, the car was still driveable but with two stages to go it wasn't worth the risk.
“On some stages we set some good times which was promising. I was hoping to set some better times but I need to be realistic. This was my first time in a new WRC car and my first time in the Ford. It was such a difficult rally and I was actually quite happy with my driving up until the mistake. I don't think I could have done much better to be honest and we learnt a lot for sure.
"Now we just have to concentrate on doing a good job at Rally Sweden,” Hanninen summed-up.