26 January 2004
Loeb triumphs again on the Rallye Monte Carlo.
Marcus Gronholm was also in the thick of the fight for second and third, but the Finn ultimately came home in fourth position in the new Peugeot 307.
"I'm glad it's all over! I've always found the changing weather conditions of this event very difficult, so fourth place is not a bad result at all," commented the double world champion, "Maybe we could have been higher up if we had not slid off the road Saturday, and lost 40 seconds, but I can't complain about anything else. The most important thing is that the new 307 WRC has been both fast and reliable, so I feel very positive about the rest of the season."
Petter Solberg was the greatest loser, the Subaru driver dropping from fifth to seventh after damaging the front suspension in stage 14. His position was taken by Freddy Loix in the second registered 307.
"What can I say? I just hit a patch of snow, braked a little too late and slid into a wall," explained the Norwegian. "It's a shame as I wasn't really driving to risk anything, but these things just happen sometimes. Perhaps I was a little unlucky, but at least we didn't drop out of the points altogether. Luckily, we're taking two points away this year, which is two more than last year! Overall, it's not such a bad result especially when you consider that there are fifteen more rallies still to go."
Gilles Panizzi also benefited from Hollywood's misfortune, the former Peugeot driver taking sixth in the new Lancer WRC04 – a good start then for Mitsubishi, following their sabbatical in 2003.
"I am very happy," said Panizzi, "We did not make a lot of testing and of course we are all completely surprised we have not had more problems the first time the car has run in these conditions. To finish and score points is very good. I am confident with the team and the car, and this is the start of a new chapter in my motorsport career; I have found a good team."
Of the rest Olivier Burri was the top privateer, taking eighth in his Subaru, and also scoring the final world championship point. Josef Beres was ninth, while Nicolas Bernardi was tenth overall, and also the winner of the Junior World Rally Championship [JWRC] category.
Bernardi finished over 4 minutes ahead of his nearest class rival, Suzuki's Urmo Aava, while Brit Kris Meeke completed the top three in his Opel Corsa in the JWRC.
In total nine 'Junior' crews completed the event, in the overall that number was increased by a further eleven, making twenty finishers from 43 starters, two more dropping out Sunday, during the final leg, which consisted of two stages, both repeated once, totalling around 100 kms.
Three manufacturer entries were lost during the course of the event, Mitsubishi's Gianluigi Galli going out on day one, in SS5, while Carlos Sainz and Mikko Hirvonen both retired on Saturday in SS9.
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