Despite the extreme weather conditions, the Citroën DS3 R3s produced some stand-out performances at the 81st running of the Rallye Monte-Carlo as they dominated the two-wheel drive category from start to finish. Ultimately, Sébastien Chardonnet and Thibault de la Haye won the category in their DS3 R3, whilst also finishing 13th overall.
From the Burzet–Saint Martial stage to the Col du Turini, and taking in the appropriately-named Saint-Bonnet-le-Froid and Lamastre, the wintry conditions formed the competitors’ greatest rival at this year’s rally. Heavy snow fell throughout the four days of racing, forcing the teams to fit studded tyres at each service. The early lead in the 2WD category was grabbed by young driver Andréa Crugnola. The winner of the 2012 Italian Citroën Racing Trophy set two fastest times for the category to lead the standings, followed by two drivers from the Drôme, Mathieu Maurage and Renaud Poutot, and Sébastien Chardonnet. At the end of day one, four Citroën DS3 R3s dominated the two-wheel drive category. Day two featured six timed stages on roads through the Ardèche and Haute-Loire departments. Andréa Crugnola lost close to two minutes on SS6, relinquishing his lead to Mathieu Maurage, trailed by Renaud Poutot in second, who then threw in the towel on stage nine after going off in a minor incident.
Day three featured stages on the Vercors Plateau and the new 36.70km-long Sisteron-Thoard stage carved through the hills. The two-wheel drive category standings remained unchanged as Sébastien Chardonnet produced a fine performance to rack up two fastest times, compared with one for the young Italian driver. Meanwhile, the World Rally Championship bandwagon decamped to Monaco.
The final leg promised to provide a formidable day’s racing with the tricky roads on the Col de Turini covered in snow. Mathieu Maurage was the first to be caught out by the conditions, forced to retire on the day’s first stage after a fine performance. Sébastien Chardonnet and Andréa Crugnola then found themselves first and second in the category after stunning performances on the Lantosque – Luceram stage, where they claimed seventh and eighth overall. The final two stages of the day were cancelled for safety reasons related to the poor conditions, handing victory to the man from the Var.
“This is the first time I have driven in conditions like this at a rally! It was really incredible!”, commented Sébastien at the end of the race. “Although we made a mistake, we managed to stay in the rally and then, gradually we climbed back up the standings. Our approach paid off in the end, and we’re very proud to win the two-wheel drive category at this 81st running of the rally. It was without a doubt the most complicated Monte in the last ten years!”
Meanwhile, Marek Nawarecki, Customer Racing Manager for Citroën Racing, admitted that he was “delighted to see two DS3 R3s top the two-wheel drive category at this year’s extremely difficult rally. Given the testing conditions and at such a long rally, once again the DS3 R3 proved that it is the leader in its category and we had yet further evidence that we can count on our talented junior drivers to shine on the international scene.”