Christian Merli: splendid performance at the Rallye Monte-Carlo
Christian Merli, with Marco Zortea as his co-driver in the Skoda Fabia Evo 2, took the start of the 91st Rallye Monte-Carlo in 39th position. After four days of competition he finished 25th, gaining fourteen places battling against the rally regulars. He was 13th out of forty participants in WRC Group 2 after eighteen special stages, and 8th in WRC2 Challenger.
Interview with Merli
“Being at the finish line makes me extremely happy. There were so many unknowns. It was my first race of this size, and so a lot of things were new to me. You get to do only two recce passages here, and so there were a few mistakes in the pacenotes too. That’s why I’m really glad that we made it to the finish. I’ve learned many things which I hope to put to good use in future. This year I’ll still be busy with the European hill climb championship, but rally has always fascinated me and I’d been wanting to do a big one. I’ll definitely be doing rally in future, even only for fun. I think I’ve given a lot in hill climb by now. The Monte-Carlo seems to me true competition. The smaller events have become about speed nowadays. But these big events are great. It was really hard. I’d been told that this was the most complex event of the WRC and I’m sure that’s true! On the first night I made a few mistakes too many, but that’s how it is, and then little by little we became more confident. But the most important thing for me was to finish the race. Of course, when you’re in the car you always want to do a little more, but I always have to stay focused on the ultimate goal.”
For the first time at night
“Yes, and it changes everything. I’m not used to racing at night and I took some risks, but I told myself to try and reach our goal: to make it to the finish line. It was great, fun, exhausting, and it’s a dream I’d had for many years and which has now come true. I would like to thank my excellent co-driver Marco Zortea and Team Erreffe, who gave me a perfect car. And of course our recce team, sponsors and friends.”
The adventure of the Trentino team, who were racing for Scuderia Pintarally Motorsport, began on Thursday night, when they left the beautiful Monaco backdrop in 39th position to tackle the 25 km special stages of Col de Turini and La Cabanette. After midnight they got back to their service area in Monaco. They had managed the two difficult stages in the dark, a first-time experience for them, losing three places. “I went straight twice in the second special stage, and we lost a minute. To make matters worse, the car went out and wouldn’t come on again.” Friday brought six special stages, and the team started to climb back up the ranking. When they got back to the paddock they were 33rd overall and 11th in WRC2 Challenger. By Saturday evening, they had moved up to 27th overall, 14th in WRC2 and 9th in WRC2 Challenger. The final four special stages took place on Sunday. Merli and Zortea finished the race 25th overall, 13th in WRC2 and 8th in WRC2 Challenger.
The overall victory went to Ogier/Landais in their Toyota Yaris Rally 1.
PHOTO: ANDREA DALMONECH
Translation by Ruth Scheithauer