Eneko Conde wins E-Rallye Monte Carlo

Eneko Conde wins E-Rallye Monte Carlo

Defending Bridgestone FIA ecoRally Cup champion Eneko Conde claimed his second successive victory on the series’ blue riband E-Rallye Monte Carlo


Top 3 drivers in the championship fill the podium, setting up thrilling seson finale with just four points between first and third
Huge 60-strong entry list in Monaco with crews eager to experience the classic alpine stages in all-electric competition
The seventh E-Rallye Monte Carlo, penultimate round of the 2023 Bridgestone FIA ecoRally Cup, has ended with victory for defending series champion Eneko Conde and co-driver Lukas Sergnese. The two Spaniards repeated their 2022 Monte Carlo victory after four days of gripping action while driving a Kia E-Niro.


Around the world, Monte Carlo is synonymous with rallying, with its winter showcase event, the FIA World Rally Championship’s traditional season-opening Monte Carlo Rally, dating back to 1911. The more youthful and all-electric sibling event, E-Rallye Monte Carlo, continues the tradition of being the biggest and most challenging test of drivers, navigation and the cars that they compete in.


Such is the magic of Monte Carlo that a record 60-car entry list was recorded, encompassing 19 motor manufacturers and 36 individual models of full electric vehicle. Not all of these cars were compliant with the entry regulations for the FIA ecoRally Cup, and therefore not scored with the registered competitors, but the strength and depth of the entry from 15 competing nations – with three female drivers in the mix – was testament to the interest in electric regularity competition.


Unlike the traditional Monte Carlo Rally, there were no closed special stages through which cars were driven flat-out to set their fastest possible time. Instead there were timed regularities in which crews had to meet the optimum possible average time while complying with all local speed limits and traffic laws. If they were early or late through any checkpoints on each regularity stage they would incur penalty points.


Wednesday’ opening action began with a ceremonial start in Monaco’s iconic Casino Square before the field embarked upon three regularity stages in the Alpes Maritimes.  The roads would be familiar to rally fans around the world, comprising classic Monte Carlo stages such as Luceram and Sospel, complete with the dizzying hairpins of the Col de Braus and the climb to the top of Col de Turini.


At the first overnight halt, the lead was held by the Volkswagen ID3 of Belgian crew Eric Cunin/Alexandre Peeters. While Heine was on sparkling form, all eyes were on the three-way battle for this yar’s championship between Conde, the Hyundai Kona of Czech crew Michal Zd’arsky and Jakub Nablek and the Kia E-Niro of Italian Guido Guerrini and his Polish co-driver Artur Prusak in their Kia E-Niro.


Sure enough it was this trio who made the lion’s share of top-ten and top-five regularity times, with Conde taking the overall lead on the second day through the course of four hard-fought regularity stages. Closest to him in the overall rankings was the 2017 Monte Carlo winner Didier Malga, co-driven by Valérie Bonnel, whose 2023 ecoRally Cup season has been full of unfulfilled promise.


A switch from their regular Kia EV6 to a Tesla Model 3 clearly invigorated the couple, who entered into a private battle with Conde for the overall lead over the next two days. The friends and rivals enjoyed the mountain stages and the battle as Malga was finally able to get on terms with the top three contenders in the standings on an equal footing.


The third day’s stages were cut from four to two following extreme rainfall in the Alpes Maritimes overnight. Once the mountain roads were suitably cleared, Conde once again led the way, with Malga and Guerrini in hot pursuit.


One last and historic day’s running took the E-Rallye Monte Carlo field into Italian territory for the first time: an act of celebration for the twinning of Monaco with the neighbouring Italian village of Dolceaqua, where the competitors stopped for refreshments at the mid-day halt.


Guerrini played the home ground advantage to perfection, rising up the leaderboard to pass Conde. With Malga and Zd’arsky also performing strongly, and the Belgian-entered Volkswagens also at the top of their game, it was nip-and-tuck on every checkpoint as all of the crews waged their battle while not exceeding the limited average speed of 31 km/h set for each hour of the day’s running.


Nevertheless Conde fought back on the return to Monaco, and when all of the driving was done he had returned to the top of the leaderboard by a margin of just 70 penalty points grom Guerrini, with Heine third. The French-crewed Nissan Ariya of Jérome Aymard and co-driver Christophe Marques held fourth, with Zd’arsky fifth and Malga slipping back after a disappointing end to the day.


“It has been such a strong week for us, every day, but then not so good at the end,” rued the 2017 Monte Carlo winner. “But it was a great fight to be in.”


While the crews’ performance on the stages was thus decided, the overall classification of the rally also factors in the energy consumption level of their vehicles. A long night lay ahead for the officials of the FIA and Automobile Club de Monaco as they collected and processed all the data gathered by the sensors throughout the weekend before the final classification was revealed on Sunday morning.


Once again it was Conde who emerged on top – followed by Guerrini and Zd’arsky. For the irs ttime since the opening round of the season, the top three in the points filled the event podium when the awards were handed out in the Monaco Harbour Club. This result means that Zd;arsky still leads the title race by two points from Conde, with Guerrini just two points further behind.


“We are happy to win the regularity on these famous stages because Monte Carlo is so special,” said Conde’s co-driver Sergnese. “We now come to the last race with a very close race for the championship with two incrediblky talented crews. Everything could not be better for us.”

 


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