SEBASTIEN OGIER, BFGOODRICH DRIVERS TEAM, TAKES CONTROL
The BFGoodrich Drivers Team's Sebastien Ogier has emerged from the second day of the 2009 Rallye Monte-Carlo on top of the provisional leaderboard. The 25-year-old French youngster completed Thursday's action with a cushion of more than half a minute over Belgium's Freddy Loix (Peugeot/BFGoodrich), while early pace-setter Juho Hanninen from Finland (Skoda/BFGoodrich) is third, 54.8 seconds behind the new leader. Five stages remain - including the celebrated 'Nuit du Turini' night-time finale before the finish.
The BFGoodrich Drivers Team's 2009 campaign couldn't have got off to a better start, since the man behind the wheel of the BFGoodrich-liveried Peugeot 207 S2000 tops this evening's overall standings with just one day of the world's most famous rally to complete.
After ending Wednesday's action in fourth place, Sebastien Ogier tackled the first attempt at today's loop of three stages in France's Ardèche Mountains with his Peugeot 207 S2000 equipped with studded g-Force Winter snow tyres. Given the amount of snow and ice that was reported to be covering the stages, there weren't really any alternatives.
The treacherous early conditions caught out a good number of front-runners, including defending IRC champion Nicolas Vouilloz and his Peugeot/BFGoodrich team-mate Stephane Sarrazin. But Sebastien Ogier put in a remarkably polished, mature run to claim the fourth best time on SS4, which he followed up with the third fastest performance on SS5, despite having to struggle with a broken gearshift lever!
After making makeshift repairs on the ensuing road section, the BFGoodrich Drivers Team driver succeeded in reaching the lunchtime service halt in Valence in second place as competitors started to weigh up the different tyre options for the repeat visit to the same stages. The situation had become much more complex than it had been earlier in the day, with ice-note crews reporting that all the ice and snow had now melted and that the conditions were mostly wet. BFGoodrich's technical staff reacted by promptly 're-cutting' the tread patterns of a set of g- Force Profiler M01 rain tyres.
Another quick, consistent display from Sebastien Ogier enabled the French youngster to defend second place on the loop's first two tests, before eventually inheriting the overall lead when Juho Hanninen dropped time after clipping a rock on the last test of the day. Sebastien Ogier (Peugeot/BFGoodrich): "I'm naturally delighted to be leading this evening, but I have no intention of letting myself get carried away. There's still a very long way to go and this is a particularly difficult event where everything can change in an instant. Since the start, we have tried to keep to a safe pace, and we haven't made any mistakes so far. Our only problem has been a broken gearshift lever on SS5. Thanks to the help of BFGoodrich's stage observers and technician, we made the right tyre choice for this afternoon's loop by opting for the g-Force Profiler M01 rain tyre"
Jacques Morelli (BFGoodrich's IRC Programme Manager): "This is a blue letter day for BFGoodrich and the BFGoodrich Drivers Team operation. For the very first time, the BFGoodrich Drivers Team Peugeot 207 S2000 is leading a rally and Sebastien has put in an outstanding run so far, both in terms of his driving and his tyre choices."
Marc Van Dalen (Team Manager, Kronos Racing): "The cocktail of ice, snow and rain we have seen so far has made the 2009 Rallye Monte-Carlo extremely difficult. Unlike recent years, not one of the stages contested so far has been entirely dry but Sebastien has put in a faultless, well-paced run despite the inherent challenge of the event and his lack of experience."