Tommi Neuvonen has won the Crest Autosport Monte Carlo Sim-Rally whilst debut team #NoControl have won in their first event in the series.
The 5th Crest Autosport Sim-Rally Championship WRC Season kicked off on the 25th January on a cold icy night in the mountains of Monte-Carlo. Over 40 drivers and 7 teams were ready to take on the narrow mountain side icy roads of the Col De Turini.
In the super category, Miika Salonen of the FritoSport Volkswagen Team took an early lead setting great pace. Miika has never really had luck on his side in past seasons but this season he put in a solid set of times. Last season’s runner-up Teemu Karna, who this season joined FritoSport and Volkswagen from the TAMZ Detailing Ltd Citroen team, the favourite to win the championship this season was looking good to take an early win as he stretched out a 30 second lead in front of Miika Salonen. That was until stage 8, where coming down a steep hill a small mistake resulted in a heavy impact with the roadside walls, losing him masses of time and the rally lead.
A valiant effort on the power stage from Teemu still wasn’t enough to take back the lead, as Miika Salonen had also put in a good power stage time. For now, Miika was still in control. Up steps the defending champion, Alex Everitt, who like Sebastien Ogier has moved from the Volkswagen Polo to the Ford Fiesta. The Crest Autosport driver took an early lead with two stunning runs on the night stages. Stage 3, slower, but still in control. Stage 4, the 100% snow stages got the better of him as some technical difficulties in the Crest Autosport cockpit resulted in a drop of over 20 seconds conceding positions to Teemu Karna and Miika Salonen.
Teemu’s mistakes proved to be fatal as he still could not take back the rally lead from Miika Salonen. Many super drivers came through in the final hours of the rally, but the only one who could deny Mikka Salonen his first WRC Monte Carlo win was Tommi Neuvonen of the #NoControl Volkswagen Team. Neuvonen’s bad start to the rally on the night stages was overlooked, but when day light came into play he put in 5 stage wins to win the rally by just under 30 seconds ahead of Salonen. Plus, maximum points for Neuvonen and his team as he scored not only the rally win, but 1st place points on the power stage.
Meanwhile in the Pro category, most of the contenders in this bracket from last season earned themselves a promotion to the super category, meaning it was very difficult to predict the lookout name for this bracket. After Monte Carlo, we may have that name already, as Liam Quinn started his run early on and was putting in times that were over shadowing many of the Super drivers! Liam of the Rally Updates Hyundai team was looking unbeatable already.
However, round one at Monte-Carlo always brings out the dark horses, the sudden pace setters, as many of the pro drivers jostled for the lead as each one passed through the early night stages of the rally. It was Crest Autosport’s very own Pedro Dias da Silva of Portugal and Gordon Anderson of Scotland who stomped into action on the night stages as they both set times that saw them as favourites to take the rally eventually. However, it was not to be, as both drivers retired around the half way point. Craig Evans, the Northern Lights Racing privateer entry, was the talk of the town after this event, after his single event entry last season at Germany where he placed, dead last, not many were expecting him to take an early lead in the Pros category. But he did, and he was looking very good to threaten the lead of Liam Quinn.
However, the half way stages were to prove difficult for everyone including Craig as his times and positions began to descend. None-the-less, a performance that gifted Craig ‘Driver of the Day’. Alexander Chainho of the TAMZ Detailing Ltd Ford team and Kevin Edwards of the AW Decals Subaru team were to battle it out for 2nd throughout the rally, a thrilling battle all the way through saw Kevin beat Alex to 2nd in the rally, but a great power stage from Alex saw him get enough bonus points to take 2nd in the championship following the rally, expect more battles from these as the season progresses.
Liam Quinn had done everything he needed to do to win this rally, stay consistent, stay on track, and be fast – a great start for the Brit.
In the AM Category, Edgar Sanchinelli of the FritoSport Volkswagen team took an early lead, Edgar has already felt what success at Monte Carlo feels like. As he finished first in his class here last season, meaning the pressure of being the favorite was upon his shoulders. However, Carlos Andrade of the Crest Autosport Ford team almost immediately silenced those predictions with 6 stage wins at Monte to take the rally win and maximum points. Throughout the grid they were some surprises though, as Charis Remountis the Greek TAMZ Detailing Ltd Ford driver who had a quiet last season had clearly been putting in the practice and favoured his new car as all rally he was putting in 2nd and 3rd place stage times, he only just missed out on 3rd in the rally, leading to speculation of a potential podium or even a win in the AM Category in the near future.
Third place was taken by new driver Tonga Guardia from Argentina of the AW Decals Subaru team. The only South American based driver in the championship put in a mature and consistent performance to take third place in the rally. The former AM Class champion has succeeded in setting up strong foundations for his title defense and looks to continue that for round two.
What does this do for the team’s championship? Despite Crests Autosport’s 3 retirements, their remaining 3 drivers all contributed to the team’s early championship lead following Monte-Carlo, but only by 1 point ahead of defending team’s championship winners FritoSport.
Rally Updates had many finishers up and down the field, but Liam Quinn certainly helped them secure an early 3rd place in the standings. Despite #NoControl’s Super category win, they didn’t secure high enough wins from their other drivers to threaten the other teams. Daniel Beyer of the NoControl team was looking good for a high finish until his retirement so they are not to be overlooked for future rounds.
AW Decals sit in 6th, but what could have been, as Paul ‘The Entertainer’ Morris was set to finish on the podium in the pros which would’ve meant 3 podium contributions for the team. However, it’s a long season, and there are many joker rounds that will be taken as the season goes by. Nothing is set in stone but we could have 11 equally exciting rounds like Monte-Carlo.
Next is Rally Sweden in the forests of Varmland, the only snow event of the season, beginning on the 11th of March on Crest Autosport’s live YouTube broadcast, and remember you can find full in depth rally reviews right here on Overtake Motorsport.