Morzine, France. No, it’s not an obvious one, but it’s the place that’s going to be grabbing the eyeballs of rally fans the world over for the next two days.
Why? Four reasons. Three French drivers. And one Rally Mont-Blanc Morzine.
For the first time since the 2002 Rally GB, Sébastien Loeb, François Delecour and Gilles Panizzi appear on the same entry list – the entry list for the Morzine-based event. Running across Friday and Saturday this week, the 16-stage event includes 116 miles of competitive asphalt.
Rally Mont-Blanc Morzine has been a feature of French motorsport for more than 70 years and always attracts a quality entry. The top three reflects that, with Eric Camilli (Citroën C3 Rally2), Quentin Giordano (Volkswagen Polo R5) and Yoann Bonato (Citroën C3 Rally2, pictured below) all chasing a win – success for the latter would mean more than ever. Two-time World Rally Championship event winner Philippe Bugalski is the most successful driver in the event’s history with five victories. To date, Bonato has four to his name.
Entertaining as those three will be, it’s the combination of Loeb, Delecour and Panizzi that will really fire the imagination of the fans.
Loeb and Delecour are running a pair of Sébastien Loeb Racing-run Peugeot 306 Maxis, while Panizzi is driving a Hyundai i20 R5.
Another fascinating aspect of Loeb’s entry is, of course, the return of Daniel Elena to the co-driver’s seat. The pair haven’t competed together since Loeb elected to go with Fabian Lurquin for his Dakar program.
“After two runs with Danos [Elena] to get back on my feet before the start, I couldn’t help but ask for an expert’s advice,” said Loeb. “François Delecour climbed into the right seat. According to him: ‘It doesn’t run too badly!’”
Rally Mont-Blanc Morzine opened with a 12-miler from Morzine to Montriond le Lac, and Quentin Giordano set the pace by 5.3 seconds ahead of Bonato. Loeb was ninth fastest in his Peugeot, going faster than a Ford Fiesta WRC.