Victory for Frenchman Sébastien Ogier on the 2009 Rallye Monte-Carlo has handed the BFGoodrich Drivers Team programme its first outright victory, and on the most prestigious rally of them all.
Sébastien Ogier was born and raised in Gap, in France's Hautes Alpes department, and his tender years were indelibly marked by the wintry classic's annual January visit to the mountains near his home. Like many of the region's would-be rally drivers, he vowed that he would one day take part in the legendary event...
It was a phone call on Friday, January 9, 2009, immediately after the voting process in Paris (see note below), that informed the young Frenchman that he had been selected to drive the BFGoodrich Drivers Team Peugeot 207 S2000 on the world famous 'Monte'.
"We called Sébastien on his cell phone. I think it took some time for him to understand what we were telling him..." relates BFGoodrich's IRC Programme Manager Jacques Morelli.
A week later, Sébastien Ogier and his co-driver Julien Ingrassia were given their first chance to sample the 2008 IRC-winning, Kronos Racing-tended Peugeot 207 S2000 during a specially-organised test session.
The French pair profited from the opportunity to cover 116 kilometres in total, in picture-book wintry conditions. They also took time to listen attentively to the valuable advice given to them by the Kronos engineers, as well as by their BFGoodrich technician, since tyres have always played a crucial role on this unique rally.
Wednesday January 21 – With minutes to go before the official start of the 2009 Rallye Monte-Carlo, it was still dark on the harbourside parc fermé in Monaco as crews weighed up the various tyre options for the first morning of the rally.
The first test of the opening two-stage loop was reported to be icy, and the second almost entirely dry, which meant that competitors faced their first difficult tyre choice of the event. Running on non-studded BFGoodrich g-Force Winter snow tyres, Sébastien Ogier completed SS2 in fourth place, just shy of the provisional top three.
By the end of Day Two, the BFGoodrich Drivers Team representative was in the lead, helped on his way to the top of the leaderboard by a bold tyre choice on the Thursday afternoon.
He then went on to consolidate his advantage with a fastest time on Friday morning's Laborel test – with his parents watching proudly from the stage side – before emerging from the celebrated 'Nuit du Turini' night-time loop, high in the Alps, with a fairy tale victory firmly in his grasp.
As he popped the victory champagne at the finish ceremony in the Principality of Monaco in the early hours of Saturday morning, the reality of the situation was able to sink in at last. His storybook dream of winning the celebrated Rallye Monte Carlo at first attempt had been fulfilled... thanks to the BFGoodrich Drivers Team!
Sébastien Ogier: "This is a dream come true for me, and I can't imagine that I will ever forget it! A fortnight ago, I had no idea I would be taking apart in this year's Rallye Monte Carlo. Had it not been for the opportunity the BFGoodrich Drivers Team programme gave me, I would never had been able to line up for the start of what has got to be the sport's most prestigious showpiece."
"This year's Monte was marked by extremely difficult, varied and treacherous conditions, and featured the cocktail of rain, ice and snow that has long been the hallmark of this unique event. Tyre choices were decisive but never straightforward, and I would like to thank all BFGoodrich's technical staff for the impeccable advice they gave me from start to finish."
Frédéric Henry-Biabaud, Competition Director, BFGoodrich:"This result says so much for the magic of the BFGoodrich Drivers Team operation! Sébastien Ogier, who was elected to drive the BFGoodrich Drivers Team car on the opening round of the 2009 Intercontinental Rally Challenge, ended up winning the most famous rally of them all, the celebrated Rallye Monte Carlo. Opportunities rarely get more magical than that!"
"Barely two weeks ago, Sébastien's hopes of taking part in the Monte were little more than a dream. However, after receiving the majority of the votes cast by a panel of 16 French journalists in Paris earlier this month, he has gone on to win this extraordinary rally... at first attempt!"
"Today's win is a tremendous success for the BFGoodrich Drivers Team programme which is really proving to be the human adventure we intended it to be when it was introduced. The scheme's sixth outing since its launch at the beginning of 2008 has provided us with just the result we had been hoping for: outright victory."
Driver/ Car/ Time/ Gap 1 S.OgierPeugeot 207 S2000 4h40’45’’7 ---2 F.Loix Peugeot 207 S2000 4h42’29’’3 + 01’43’’63 S.Sarrazin Peugeot 207 S2000 4h43’07’’3 + 02’21’’64 J.Kopecky Skoda Fabia S2000 4h44’03’’0 + 03’17’’35 G.Basso Abarth Grande Punto S2000 4h45’13’’7 + 04’28’’06 A.Alen Abarth Grande Punto S2000 4h51’35’’4 + 10’49’’77 F.Romeyer Mitsubishi Lancer Evo IX 5h01’16’’0 + 20’30’’38 O.Burri Abarth Grande Punto S2000 5h02’08’’7 + 21’23’09 L.Betti Renault Clio 5h04’50’’5 + 24’04’’810 P.Artru Mitsubishi Lancer Evo IX 5h06’36’’4 + 25’50’’711 D.Daumas Renault Clio 5h08’45’’5 + 27’59’’812 T.Cavallini Peugeot 207 S2000 5h09’29’’9 + 28’44’’2