It was 100 years ago that the first Monte Carlo Rally took place and this year’s rally will be the first one for Peugeot UK’s Guy Wilks and Phil Pugh in a Peugeot 207 S2000.
The first Monte Carlo Rally ran in 1911 and it is still (possibly) the most iconic rally in the world. This year it will provide the backdrop to Peugeot UK’s new driver pairing, Guy Wilks and Phil Pugh as they kick off their own as well as Peugeot UK’s third IRC Campaign.
The Monte Carlo Rally is steeped in history and can even be said to have created the sport of rallying. The original Monte Carlo Rally competitors set off from all four corners of Europe and then “rallied” together to finish up in Monte Carlo to celebrate the end of a unique event. The current event no longer sees competitors start from the four corners of Europe, but it is, however, no less of a challenge.
In 1911 the first rally was won by Henri Rougier at the wheel of a 25 hp Turcat-Mery - now competitors will take up the challenge in state-of-the-art 300 bhp, four wheel drive Super 2000 rally cars. For Guy and Phil this will be a Peugeot 207 S2000 Evolution, the latest offering from the most successful manufacturer in the IRC with, to date, 20 rally wins to its credit.
The cars have changed a lot since the first rally but the need to control the car over ice and snow-covered surfaces too slippery to stand on has not. Now the competitors start the rally in the area around Valence, the capital of France’s Drome Region and then wind their way through a number of historic stages to the climax of the rally - the famous run over the Col de Turini. The rally starts on Wednesday 19th January and finishes in the early hours of Saturday 22nd January, in Monte Carlo.
The rally for Guy and Phil, however, started well before the starting ramp in Valence on Tuesday 18th January. It began before Christmas with a visit to Kronos to see the building of their Peugeot UK 207 S2000 and to meet their new team followed by a test to familiarise themselves with their new car. The test, however, did not go to plan; Phil was unable to make the test as he could not fly from the UK due to heavy snow. Guy did make the test and with the help of Xavier Panseri as his temporary co-driver he was able to complete a very successful first drive and test of the Peugeot 207 S2000.
Now the already thorough preparations go up a gear with a two day test in France this week to work on final set-up ready for the start of the rally next week. The test will also be the first time Guy and Phil will have driven the Peugeot UK 207 S2000 they will contest in the Monte Carlo rally, with its new livery.
This week’s test will be conducted over two different test stages to simulate the range of conditions which could be found on this year’s rally. It will also provide the opportunity to fine tune the final set-up and to shake down their new car.
Three years ago, the Monte Carlo Rally became the starting event for the Intercontinental Rally Challenge (IRC) and that year it was won by Sebastien Ogier in a Peugeot 207 S2000, with two other Peugeot 207 S2000s driven by Freddy Loix and Stephane Sarrazin, making it an all Peugeot Podium.
Guy and Phil will, therefore, be hoping the Peugeot Magic returns to the “Monte” and, with a little luck, they can finally provide Peugeot UK with the podium position in Monte Carlo they have been working for over the last two years. If all the preparation pays off for Guy Wilks, he will also be the first British driver to win the Monte Carlo rally for 43 years, when it was won in 1968 by Vic Elford in a Porsche 911. In the history of the rally there have only been five Britons on the top step of the podium.
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