The opening event of the new FIA World Rally Championship season, the famous Rallye Monte-Carlo, often sees crews warming up, taking a breather and getting up to speed after a break. However, the Pepe López/David Vázquez crew, competing for the first time in this line-up and also with the Fabia RS Rally2, kept great pace throughout the weekend and came up just short of victory. The other Škoda drivers also showed good pace.

The first complete season in the WRC2 category; the first time with the Škoda Fabia RS Rally2 and the first time with a new co-driver; three-time Spanish Rally Superchampionship champion Pepe López had a lot to get familiar with in Monte-Carlo. And yet, he was extremely fast right from the start of the event. He clearly clicked with his co-driver, David Vázquez, because from the opening stage the new duo chased the fastest times in the individual stages, which were mostly contested with the very experienced pairing of Nikolay Gryazin/Konstantin Aleksandrov.

After two night tests on Thursday, it was the Spanish crew that led the category. On Friday, however, Gryazin and Aleksandrov took the lead by just 1.3 seconds, and they held on to the lead on Saturday as well. However, the Spanish crew cut their lead to 0.2 seconds and were ready to fight for the top spot on Sunday. But the French crew of Yohan Rossel/Arnaud Dunand, who won the event last year, were also involved in the battle for the top positions on Saturday afternoon and were about to shuffle the cards.

On Sunday, the French crew set an incredible pace, and although the Pepe López/David Vázquez crew was in the lead before the final stage, they were only four seconds behind the French crew at the finish of the famous Col de Turini. Not surprisingly, Pepe López had a bit of a sigh at the finish.

Pepe López

"Satisfied? Not really. We fought hard to win this rally. We gave it our all and it would have been nice to start the season with a win for everyone who put their trust in me," said the pilot. But there is no reason to be disappointed and López knows it too: "Of course we are grateful for the result in this rally. It was our first rally with a Škoda, so it certainly wasn't too bad. We also scored important points and won the Forum8 WRC2 Most Stage Wins Award (Note: Awarded for the highest number of stages won in the competition. The López/Vázquez crew was the fastest in 8 of the 17 stages in the WRC2 category). We'll see what this year brings," he added.

The pace of the Oliver Solberg/Elliott Edmondson crew, who did not have the Monte-Carlo Rally entered as a scored event, also looked promising. That may also be the reason why they carried only one spare tyre in their Fabia RS Rally2 special. Unfortunately for them, two punctures in stage 10 meant the race being over for them. They did return to the competition the following day, but of course with no chance of finishing on the podium. Nevertheless, Solberg showed his speed, being the fastest in four of the seventeen rally stages. Thus, the Škoda cars in the WRC2 category won the vast majority of the stages in this year's Rallye Monte-Carlo.

The Mauro Miele/Luca Beltrame crew also did well in the WRC Masters Cup category, which involves drivers over 50 years of age. The duo, in the Škoda Fabia RS Rally2, dominated their category from the very beginning of the event and had more than a nine-minute lead over their rivals at the finish. Mauro Miele celebrated his 68th birthday triumphantly and was beaming with enthusiasm at the finish line.

"I definitely had a great time! It's a great celebration to arrive at the finish with such a great result. It was definitely a tricky and challenging rally for me because it's really fast due to the conditions here. This Monte-Carlo was really unusual for me. I've never experienced anything like this before. But anyway, it's very important to go without mistakes because it's really easy to make them. The car drove great and I really enjoyed it!"

Mauro Miele