Mission accomplished for Oliver at Rallye Monte Carlo
For this week’s Rallye Monte Carlo the emphasis was very much on Oliver gaining experience of his first ever tarmac rally and only his second ever round of the FIA World Rally Championship (following his debut at last year’s Wales Rally GB).
Taking safe tyre options throughout the event, Oliver and co-driver Aaron Johnston took a sensible line through some of the world’s toughest stages in ever-changing conditions to pick up knowledge and experience for the coming years.
Even at that safe speed, they were able to post hugely impressive times, including a third fastest of all R5 class cars on the second run at the Cubans – Venterol test. The only incident for Oliver was when he clipped a kerb with the left-rear of his Monster Energy-backed Volkswagen Polo R5.
The highlight of the event came for Oliver when he drove the Monte’s most famous stage, the Col de Turini.
What did Oliver say?
“Everything everybody told me about the Monte was true. It is such a difficult rally. So difficult!
“Everything we did on this event was new. I never competed on tarmac before, everything we had done in the previous years had been getting ready for gravel rallies – which are the ones we will be doing most. We had a test before this event, but when we came to these conditions it was just incredible.
“Everybody said we would be on the wrong tyre for a lot of the time and this was exactly how it was. We were on the ice tyre for a long time on Saturday morning, doing these huge slides as the studs have no grip on the dry asphalt. All the time I was thinking: “Is this right?” And then you come to the full ice and snow and the tyre is perfect. Then you think: “Yes! This is right!”
“It was a real compromise of everything, but you have to come here to learn that and if you go to the ditch on the first day then you learn nothing. Sometimes I was maybe wanting to push a little bit harder, but I knew there was too much at risk.
“Even when I hit the kerb, I learned so much. It was literally at walking speed. I used the handbrake to rotate the car, but on the ice it slid too far. The wheel hit the kerb at a really low speed, but just at the wrong angle. We broke a bolt in the suspension and had to stop and make the repair ourselves. This doesn’t matter. I always said I wasn’t coming here for the race, I was coming here to learn and I learned so much!
“The problem is, I can’t wait another 12 months to come back – I want to go and do it all again now.”
Monster Energy moment of the rally?
“Definitely driving over the Col de Turini. Like every rally fan, for my whole life I watched cars coming over this incredible mountain road and to be there, to drive through that atmosphere with so many fans was just unbelievable. I’ll never forget this.”