After two special stages of the Rallye Monte Carlo, Franz Wittmann/Klaus Wicha in the Peugeot 207 S2000 lie in ninth place in the overall ranking At the top there is a hard fight between vice-World Champion Mikko Hirvonen and last year's winner...
After two special stages of the Rallye Monte Carlo, Franz Wittmann/Klaus Wicha in the Peugeot 207 S2000 lie in ninth place in the overall ranking
At the top there is a hard fight between vice-World Champion Mikko Hirvonen and last year's winner Sebastien Ogier
The 78th Monte Carlo Rallye, first run to this year's Intercontinental Rally Challenge (IRC), commenced today in Valence. Among the competitors was the only German-speaking team of Franz Wittmann, his German co-driver Klaus Wicha of the Interwetten Racing Team, in a Peugeot 207 S2000 deployed by Romo Motorsporttechnik. Before the field of 59 teams, among them nineteen S2000 cars overall, was let off the organisers announced two important changes.
For today four stages without service and only the possibility of a tyre change had been planned but due to safety reasons the teams were now alotted an opportunity for a 20-minute-service after two special stages. Also, the starting order was changed once more. Franz Wittmann/Klaus Wicha, who, as seventh of yesterday's prologue, would have taken up the rally as fourth car, were ranked back to 11th place since the FIA priority drivers started ahead in toppled order.
The most important question today concerned the weather conditions. Rain set in in the morning which heightened the danger that this very rain would turn to snow and cause a snowy surface on the SS 1 in Burzet on the passages located higher up. And so it happened, at least partly, after 12 of the overall 27 kilometres. The tyres, on the other hand, had to be adapted to SS 2 in St. Pierreville over a length of 45 kilometres - at this point it was already known that the course would be wet but snow-free and therefore cut slicks would be the best choice. Thus the teams had to play a game of tyre poker.
On the first two stages the Interwetten driver chose intermediates to be on the safe side. On SS 1 he finished ninth, 50,5 seconds behind Mikko Hirvonen. The vice-World Champion won about four tenth ahead of Finn Juho Hanninen. Third place went to last year's IRC Champion Kris Meek who lost almost 20 seconds. On the second long stage over 45 kilometres in St. Pierreville Wittmann once more came in ninth, this time 1:16 minutes behind the top. Fastest time was reached by last year's winner Sebastien Ogier, 9,2 seconds ahead of Mikko Hirvonen.
Wittmann: "I think that my start into the rally was quite satisfying. Of course, I could also have chosen slicks but the risk of slipping off the road right at the beginning of the rally was simply too big. Now I stand a good chance of improving on my times from the morning if the weather doesn't change drastically."