So that’s the Rallye Monte Carlo put to bed for another year. And it’s been a very positive start to the season for the ŠKODA Fabia R5.

With conditions around the course including snow, ice, dirt and slush, there were big headaches back in the service area and for the drivers on the course, particularly in the mountain stages, where there were no shortage of crashes and retirements. Ultimately, it was the teams with the best strategy for the conditions, and the right tyre selections, who prevailed.

With no ŠKODA works cars present in this rally, our eyes were firmly on our official crew Esapekka Lappi/Janne Ferm who were taking part independently in preparation for the season ahead. They remained focused throughout, despite not competing for WRC2 points, and drove a committed rally. Their highlight of which was undoubtedly the penultimate La Bollène Vésubie – Peira Cava stage which they finished eighth overall and faster than any other RC2 class cars.

Speaking after that stage Esapekka Lappi said: “We had a perfect tyre choice for that one. It was a nice stage.” They closed out the final stage to finish ninth overall, a hugely impressive outing, which bodes well for the rallies ahead.

The Baumschlager Rallye & Racing (BRR) team can be pleased with their rally too. Their team Armin Kremer/Pirmin Winklhofer finished a mere three seconds behind Lappi in tenth place overall, and second in the final WRC2 standings. This is an improvement on their performance here last year and came in spite of spins in stages 9 and 10, and a puncture for more than 8km of stage 12.

Kremer drove a thoughtful rally, admitting to taking it slowly at certain points where there was a lot of ice around the course, and it was this considered approach which helped him to secure the top ten finish, and a spot on the WRC2 podium, ahead of others who took a more gung-ho approach.

Team Ptock, comprising the Polish pairing of Hubert Ptaszek and Kamil Kozdroń also drove the conditions almost perfectly and were delighted with their Fabia R5 as they finished seventh in the WRC2 standings.

One spot behind them in the WRC2 standings was the Laskaris Foundation Team Greece pairing of Lambros Athanassoulas and Nikolaos Zacheos with a hugely impressive first outing in their Fabia R5. They chose to stick to winter tyres and drive cautiously, with their final result proving their more cautious approach was worthwhile.

French driver Julien Maurin along with his co-driver Benjamin Veillas were also going great guns at the top end of the WRC2 field at the start of the race, before unfortunately encountering difficulties in stage 9 and being forced to retire.

However, the Team Oreca Fabia R5 of Teemu Suninen and Mikko Markkula, who were also not competing for WRC2 points, handled the conditions brilliantly, and despite getting stuck in a snowbank at one point, finished a hugely creditable 12th overall.

The outing will prove to be very useful preparation for them ahead of the rest of the season, and we are delighted with the excellent performance of all the ŠKODA Fabia R5s in Monte Carlo, especially given the extremely difficult conditions.

We now look ahead to the next round of the WRC2 Championship, the Rally Sweden, in which drivers will have plenty more snow and ice to contend with. The drama begins again on the 12th February.