Much-loved Porsche maniac, French rally legend François Delecour, is currently leading the R-GT category of the 2015 Monte Carlo Rally. The event reached its mid-way point this evening, at which point Delecour’s 3.8-litre ex-GT3 Cup car was two and a half minutes ahead of compatriot and Porsche works driver, Romain Dumas in a GT3 RS 4.0.
Romain is doing a superb job in the 4-litre, matching Delecour’s pace to the second in some split sections on his first-ever Monte and setting faster times in a couple of stages. But Delecour is driving like a man possessed, because he is a man possessed: by a passion for this course. His previous Monte Carlo rallies don’t count for a great deal of pace, as the stages are brand new for everyone. It’s a very careful game of power versus know-how.
The rally kicked off last night (Thursday), with two long stages over a deadly ice-into-snow-into-dry-tarmac-into-ice surface. Everyone was running studded tyres: the only option in these freezing conditions, high in the mountains around the ski resort of Gap. Making his return to the WRC was fellow Porsche fancier and nine-time world champion, Sebastien Loeb, driving a one-off event for Citröen.
Reigning world champion, Volkswagen’s Sebastien Ogier, went first into the snow, setting a quick time right from the off. The WRC Live service streamed perfect TV pictures of the unfolding stage from Ogier’s front bumper, which were studied very closely. I was texting info back to the Tuthill service tent and maybe Loeb (below) was watching too, as he went out and set a time half a minute quicker than Ogier on the thirteen-mile section. The online rally world went nuts – such a great start to the Monte.
Three R-GT cars are running in this year’s Monte Carlo Rally: all of them Porsches. Delecour and Dumas are racing against Belgium’s Marc Duez in a 996 GT3 built to R-GT rules. Duez set an opening time of 20:38.0 over the stage. Dumas went 20:24.6: roughly 14 seconds quicker than Duez. Delecour went out with the bit between his teeth, setting a time of 19:01.2 – a full minute and 23 seconds faster than the 4-litre.
Stage 2 was another 20 kms. Delecour 16:56. Dumas 17:06, so another ten seconds chipped. Stage three took place early this morning (Friday) in thick fog and sheet ice. Delecour was eight seconds slower than Dumas, but went 17 seconds faster on the following stage.
On it went until the day’s final trial. This stage was a killer, with three top guys (Meeke, Loeb and Kubica) coming off heavily and ripping huge chunks off their cars. Delecour took it steady, finishing ten seconds slower then Romain, but with a lead now stretched to 2m30s. He was joyous on WRC Radio.
“It’s fantastic to drive a Porsche in Monte Carlo: it’s a dream,” he enthused. “When I was a little boy, I watched Waldegård and Nicolas, winning Monte Carlo in 911s, so today it is a dream for me to drive this car on this rally.
“Things now are more complicated than in the past, because we have to run these large tread tyres, which makes it very difficult to keep the car on the road in tricky conditions. But for now we are happy and will keep pushing hard.”
Pushing hard included losing his rear window and a brake line on Stage 5 (above), where he still went thirty-five seconds quicker over the course, with much-diminished rear brakes. The team changed the brake line and the rear discs and pads, and sent their young charger on his way.
“Our aim for this rally was a strong start to our R-GT Cup campaign,” says team boss, Richard Tuthill. “Everyone in the Tuthill Porsche workshop has worked tirelessly since the car’s last WRC outing on Rallye de France-Alsace, making changes required by the FIA and a few more based on driver feedback.
“François has also worked hard. His commercial efforts brought in a major new sponsor, and he’s maintained a high level of personal fitness through the winter. What we’ve seen in the last two days of rallying is a product of all that commitment.”
The 2015 Monte Carlo continues with four tricky stages on Saturday – including the two longest stages in the rally at 51 km and 36 km respectively – before finishing in the mountains above Monaco on Sunday afternoon. Follow the latest news and stage times on www.wrc.com or via @Tuthill_Porsche on Twitter.
Featured Photo Credit: Colin McMaster for McKlein Image Database