Belfast Telegraph

Solberg and Patterson relishing quest for Monte Carlo glory

By Sammy Hamill

It may no longer be part of the World championship but the Monte Carlo Rally has always stood out above all others — and never more so that in its 100th year.

Dropped from the 2009 series to make room for Rally Ireland, the WRC promoters are desperate to have it back but the organising team from Monaco cannot forget the snub and now prefer to stick with the Intercontinental Challenge championship where they are free to run to their own format — and enjoy unprecedented TV coverage.

It means no Sebastien Loeb, no Mikko Hirvonen — and indeed no Kris Meeke — when the rally begins from Valence in the French Alps tomorrow morning but that does not mean there is any less interest.

Quite the reverse in fact. With seven-times World champion Loeb, a five-times Monte winner, barred from his favourite event by his Citroen team, the door is open to any one of a dozen or more drivers to claim a coveted victory in the rally’s centenary year.

Among them is former World champion Petter Solberg who will be making a one-off appearance for Peugeot along with his Ulster co-driver Chris Patterson.

It will be their first time in an S2000 Peugeot 207 but they will still be among the favourites.

There will also be two Irish drivers in the 100-strong line-up, former Tarmac champion Eamonn Boland and UK Evo Challenge winner Daniel Barry, both driving Mitsubishi Lancers.

Meanwhile, Dominic McNeill took fourth place in Saturday’s New Year Stages Rally, his WRC Ford Escort edging out John McGaffin’s Subaru on a tie-break.

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