Events of the Month
Daytona 24 Hours: Florida, USA
Chip Ganassi's Grand-Am team has taken willful possession of Daytona's Rolex 24 Hours in recent years. Ganassi's team has won five of the last eight 24-hour races at Daytona, a pretty impressive record, and Chip's lead Daytona Prototype driver Scott Pruett has dominated the Grand-Am series, winning the last three championships in a row.
This year, as always, Ganassi ran two cars at Daytona with a starstudded driver line-up and his pair of RileyBMWs swept the front row and ran among the leaders from the start. The second car driven by Dario Franchitti, Scott Dixon, Jamie McMurray and Joey Hand led through the night, but eventually dropped out on Sunday morning with a gearbox failure. The team's number one car driven by Pruett Memo Rojas, Juan Pablo Montoya and Charlie Kimball led most of the race with Montoya driving a fast final stint to win comfortably by more than 20 seconds from Wayne Taylor's Corveffe DP driven by Max Angelelli, Jordan Taylor and Ryan Hunter-Reay.
The only team to win more 24-hour races at Daytona than Ganassi's operation is the Brumos team from nearby Jacksonville, which has done so on six occasions. Meanwhile, Prue-ft has tied Hurley Haywood's record of five wins in the race so he and Ganassi have every chance of emerging as Daytona's most successful longdistance driver and team.
After the race, second-placed Angelelli complained that Taylor's Chevy-powered Corveffe DP was hamstrung by Grand-Am's rules equalisation or performance balancing. "It's just like we were driving with handcuffs," the Italian grumbled. "It's so obvious, so unfair. Montoya is in another league with the number one car. It's an A class and we are B class."
Ganassi said his team had earned its advantage. "Our guys worked very, very hard on the cars' mechanical grip," he commented. "When you see the speed our car had at the end of the straightaway, it was because we had less wing in the car. Like I said, we work hard on the mechanical side so we can run less wing and be fast down the straight."
Montoya echoed Ganassi's comments. "We've been in that situation (Angelelli's) before and still fought for the win," he said.
"We were down on power here last year, but if you look at the other two BMW cars here this year they were as quick as the rest of the field. I think as a team we did a really good job of taking drag out of the car and understanding what needed to be done to get the top speed up. We did our homework and it paid off."
The first three finishers were impounded after the race and taken to NASCAR's technical centre in North Carolina for further inspection. Last year's winners AJ Allmendinger, Justin Wilson, Oswaldo Negri, John Pew and Marcos Ambrose finished third aboard one of Mike Shank's RileyFords. Shank's team lost six laps early in the race because of a suspension failure, but used the many yellow flags to great effect to get themselves back on the lead lap, only to be disqualified in the post-race inspection for an undisclosed engine illegality.
The GT class featured a one-two sweep for Audi. Alex Job Racing's Audi R8 driven by Filipe Albuquerque, Oliver Jarvis, Edoardo Mortara and Dion von Moltke won by liffle more than a second after a fierce baffle with another factory-backed R8. Job's Audi finished ninth overall, 31 laps behind Ganassi's outright winner.
The top six GT finishers completed the same number of laps as the classconquering Audi. Gordon Kirby
Dakar Rally: Santiago, Chile
Stephane Peterhansel has won his 11th Dakar rally, giving him an amazing six 'bike and five car wins.
The Frenchman held the lead from stage two in his X-Raid MINI (above) and finished more than 42 minutes ahead of secondplaced South African Giniel de Villiers, though the Red Bull Buggy of Nasser Al-Attiyah pressured him until the ninth stage when the Qatari suffered technical problems.
New rules this year meant the 2WD buggies were often faster but 4WD cars filled the top six places thanks to superior reliability.
"This is the first time we've finished without one mechanical problem," said Peterhansel at the finish. "It wasn't an easy victory because we knew the buggies would be fast. It's a special moment, though. I'm thinking of Jean-Claude Olivier (a former boss of the Yamaha France team), who passed away last week. He taught me everything I know. I'm dedicating this win to him."
This year's event which ran from Lima, Peru to Santiago, Chile also yielded the first finish for a disability crew. Race2Recovery, the team of injured servicemen and able-bodied volunteers that featured in our March issue, started the rally with four Bowler Wildcats. By the end of the 8574km route one remained Major Matt O'Hare and amputee Corporal Philip Gillespie crossing the line in 91st place in the car category.
Monte Carlo Rally: Monte Carlo, Monaco
With Sebastien Loeb deciding to go part-time in the WRC in 2013 before stopping for good at the end of the year, it was only fitting that he won what could be his final Monte Carlo Rally for a seventh time.
It was also fitting that his success was on the back of his most peerless performance yet on the World Championship's traditional season opener, as treacherous conditions formed the backdrop to the action.
For a fleeting moment, though, at the end of the opening test, Loeb was in danger of being upstaged by the man most likely to succeed him as the sport's next truly great driver, Sebastien Ogier.
Giving Volkswagen's Polo R WRC its competition debut, Ogier was expected to be a top-five contender at best. Instead he won the first stage to lead his former Citroen team-mate Loeb by 3.7sec. Although it wasn't to last Loeb was in front by the end of the very next stage to take a lead he wouldn't relinquish -the performance had served notice of Volkswagen's potential for world dominance.
While Loeb had the beating of Ogier, save for the fifth stage when the younger Frenchman set the pace, the nine-time title-winner's major threat thereafter was the weather.
Snow, ice and slush combined to make the 81st Monte one of the most demanding in years to the extent the rally didn't run to its full scheduled distance, with the final loop of three night stages canned.
This was more due to key access roads being blocked when fans decided to head home early rather than endure the inclement conditions any longer. But with Loeb describing the stages as "undriveable" on the first pass, the organisers were wise to call time early.
Indeed, the final day produced drama aplenty, with Ogier's VW team-mate Jari-Matti Latvala joining M-Sport Ford pair Juho Hanninen and Evgeny Novikov in crashing out.
Russian Novikov had excelled up until that point, winning three stages to climb into third place, but he got caught out on stage 14, hitting a wall and spinning. With only three wheels left on his Fiesta, Novikov joined a growing list of casualties.
Dani Sordo was third on his return to Citroen after -two seasons driving MINIs, with Mikko Hirvonen fourth after a performance as lacklustre as the WRC's new timing provider. SIT Sports was unable to confirm who was leading after day one following a system failure. Richard Rodgers
Rallye Monte Carlo Historique: Monte Carlo, Monaco
Almost 40 years to the day, the Alpine Renault A110 repeated its 1973 Monte Carlo victory when Gerard Brianti and Sebastien Chol won the 16th Rallye Monte Carlo Historique.
In 1973, on a snowy Monte, Al 1 Os dominated by taking a clean sweep of the podium in the hands of JeanClaude Andruet, Ove Andersson and Jean-Pierre Nicolas. This year, Brianti and Chol took a narrow victory over the A310 of fellow French crew JeanPierre Coppola and Olivier Sussot.
In total, 270 crews in pre-1980 cars started from Warsaw, Copenhagen, Glasgow, Reims, Barcelona and Monte Carlo for the concentration run to Valence. They faced fog, snow and rain before 222 finishers arrived back in the Principality after a final night leg that took in the Col du Turini.
By the time the cars reached the halfway point at Gap, Brianti/Chol had established a lead they would never lose in this testing regularity event. However, it was a nervous final section over the Turini for Brianti as his lead was halved by Coppola.
The Porsche 911 of Italians Fabio Babini and Andrea Capsoni chased the Alpines home in third while Alastair Vine and Peter Moss were best of the British contingent, down in 85th in their Mini Cooper S. Paul Lawrence