Monte Carlo Rally winner Sébastien Ogier admits he went into the World Rally Championship season opener with some trepidation after a pre-event testing crash reduced his mileage on Pirelli’s slick compound to just six miles.
The tire company returned to the WRC as an exclusive supplier for the first time in a decade but testing on the new compounds has been limited due to the short gap between the end of last season and the beginning of the 2021 campaign.
Tire choice played a crucial part in the outcome of the Monte, but Ogier’s preparations took a knock during a private pre-rally test, crashing his Toyota Yaris WRC heavily.
Despite going on to take his record-breaking eighth victory on the rally – and his 50th career win – Ogier says he felt a little underprepared.
“I had a bit of an issue the week before [the rally] with a test crash, so I came here with maybe 10km of experience with the slick tires,” said the seven-time world champion,
“It was not that easy, but it worked out, so I’m very happy.
“Coming here, there was still a lot of interrogation with the tires. Even in the race we saw Hyundai was cleverer than us when they used some old [studded winter] tires and it worked better than us.
“Later in the season we will have to discover some more tires from Pirelli, but this 2020 season helped me a lot to be more ready for this rally.”
Although there were high-profile puncture victims during the event, including Ott Tänak – who was ruled out of round one when he lost two tires on as many stages on Saturday – Pirelli’s rally activity manager Terenzio Testoni was pleased with the firm’s WRC comeback.
“Having gone over everything and analyzed all the data from the weekend, I can confirm that we’re very pleased with how Monte Carlo went for us,” Testoni said.
“Never has there been so little grip, due to the amount of ice and mud on the road, compared to the snow that has characterized recent years.
“Despite that, our winter Sottozero tires, both with and without studs, allowed the rally to run as usual, demonstrating excellent levels of performance.”
Testoni added that the level of deflations were in-line with what had been seen in previous years when Michelin was supplying all the manufacturer teams.
“As well as that, the tires retained all their studs, which surprised quite a few of the drivers,” he said.
“As far as punctures are concerned, they were at about the same level on this rally as previous years, even though it would be more accurate to talk about damaged wheel rims – which then went on to damage the tires.”