Our Fan Reporter recounts his behind-the-scenes experiences at Monte-Carlo
Towards the end of 2016, we offered our fans the chance to report on the first round of the 2017 World Rally Championship at Monte-Carlo. We had a fantastic response to the competition, and it was a tough job to select a winner from the many entries.
Fast-forward to January this year, and our chosen fan reporter Eskild from Norway started packing his bags for the trip of a lifetime to join our team on the Monte stages. Joining him for the journey was his brother Jarle. Heres their report.
We started the first day by going to the airport, checked in our baggage and headed for the gate. The annoying, heavily alcoholized fellow next to us tried but could not kill our good mood. We arrived safely in Marseille, with some delay that tried to cause havoc in our itinerary. We had to choose between eating lunch or catching the first stage. We were hungry, but hungry for rally! After a quick greet with our guide Koen and 4 French guests, receiving a couple of awesome goodie bags, we were headed for our first stage at St Leger les Melezes!
The drive from Marseille was picturesque, with the surrounding mountains getting whiter the closer we got to Tallard – location of the helicopter pad we were getting to know later on. After reaching our destination, we had a stairway run up towards the hill, with our guide Koen taking an extra run for the fun of it – fair to say the poor lad was short of breath.
The sensation of the new cars was out of this world, with the engine roaring from afar and the power getting the car easily sideways around the roundabout. The village was buzzing with spectators cheering their favourites on, this one was dominated by Toyota-supporters having an area for themselves.
When the coach arrived at the service park at Gap, we had the chance to witness the service for both Sordo and Neuville, who was leading at the time being. Paddon unfortunately had retired and withdrew from the event under tragic circumstances Thursday evening. The standard of the hospitality area of Hyundai Motorsport is nothing short of extraordinary. Delicious food and beverages, friendly atmosphere – even spotting a few legends within rally. The highlight came when we had a brief chat with Colin Clark – the nicest man with THE voice of rally.
Saturday started off with a boom, with Jarle nearly disabling himself at the hotel bathroom, headbutting the toilet and huge scratches on his back. He dusted himself off and we were ready for a helicopter ride from Tallard to SS11, located on the highest point of the stage. What a view, both from the helicopter and the stage! A classic Monte-Carlo section, twisting by the mountain with a huge drop on the outside. Even Tommi Mäkinen had found his way to this location. The heli took us back down the mountain in time for service in Gap, where the crowd was cheering as we witnessed Neuville parked his car from the second floor. Another highlight of the weekend was the trip downstairs to the floor, for a closer inspection of the work being performed on Neuville’s car, carefully guided, of course, by the lovely Mieke.
Back out to the airport, for another ride by helicopter up to the second stage of the day. Again a wonderful experience, but this time with a bitter aftertaste as Neuville went an estimated 6 inches wide in a corner and lost 25 minutes and the overall lead due to roadside repair.
We then had a 4 hour ride in the minivan down to luxurious Monaco where cars with a total value of a small Norwegian village were parked in front of our hotel at arrival, the 4* Fairmont Hotel. After an awkwardly silent elevator-ride in the hotel with Hänninen, we went out for a nice dinner and a walkaround of the GP track. Unconfirmed rumours say Eskild was spotted scraping off rubber on the inside curb in front of the hotel, for a souvenir. Eskild quote: “Not true!”.
Sunday’s plan was SS16 and then the podium ceremony at the palace. We were catching the later cars on SS14, but the next run through was cancelled, due to spectator safety issues.
Back down to the podium ceremony, where we had front-row positions to witness Sordo take home a 4th position and of course Malcolm Wilson’s smile from ear to ear. Neuville had an incredible performance on the Powerstage, to take home at 5 points for the championship from this weekend.
The taste of Veuve Clicquot fumes from the podium ceremony hanging in the air, was in many ways a perfect ending on a once-in-a-lifetime experience with Hyundai Motorsport. A memory for life!