PEUGEOT 207 S2000 RUNNERS FINISH DAY 1 IN CLOSE FORMATION
The first of the centenary Rallye Monte-Carlo's three legs lived up every bit to its promise. The day was rich in drama and ended with no fewer than six 207 Super 2000s in the top 10, and Petter Solberg as the best- placed Peugeot driver.
A drama-packed day
The first leg turned out to be as complex as expected, and no fewer than 27 of the 110 original starters failed to reach the finish in Valence. Their ranks included the 207 Super 2000s of Neuville (Peugeot Belux) and Magalhaes (Peugeot Portugal) who were both eliminated by mistakes. Tyre choices also played a decisive role in the way the day unfolded.
Stephane Sarrazin early leader
Peugeot France's Stephane Sarrazin emerged as the early leader after posting the fastest time on SS1. "Things started to go downhill a little after that, though," reported the Frenchman. "The weather was relatively cold and all the 207 S2000 drivers opted for soft tyres which seemed to be the obvious choice. That didn't turn out to be the case, however." The Frenchman dropped almost 35 seconds on SS2 before later hitting trouble on each of his two visits to the Saint Bonnet le Froid loop (SS3 and SS4) when he suffered intercom failure and a broken seat-mounting. "It's difficult to do the Rallye Monte-Carlo without getting at least one tyre choice wrong. Today it was our turn, but there are still two long days to come. Our intention is to keep pushing when competitive action resumes tomorrow."
Petter Solberg best-placed Peugeot runner
Norway's Petter Solberg was sixth fastest on the first of the day's four stages before gradually upping his pace to complete the opening leg in third place. "I am very pleased with the way my day went," said the 2003 World Champion. "I nearly threw it all away on the first kilometre of the first stage when I clipped a rock and put my rear suspension slightly out of line. After that, my car had a tendency to go straight on and that was a problem all the way to the end of SS1."
"After that, I started to get used it and I managed to drive almost normally. What most affected my day were my tyre choices, but I've only got myself to blame for that because tyres are my call. There is still a very long way to go and I intend to give it my very best shot!"
A promising start for Guy Wilks
Guy Wilks completed the first day of his maiden competitive outing in the Peugeot UK-entered 207 S2000 in a solid fifth place, just behind Solberg and Sarrazin. He is chased in turn by Bryan Bouffier, Francois Delecour and Jean-Sebastien Vigion who are seventh, eight and ninth respectively. "I preferred not to take any risks today because my main target is the IRC more than victory on this event in particular. I feel confident and perfectly at home in the Peugeot and I am focused on reaching the finish." Bouffier (Peugeot France) was handicapped by a differential problem and trails the overnight leader Hanninen by more than a minute-and-a-half this evening, but is determined to make up for lost ground tomorrow.
Another Peugeot crew who put in a strong run today was Jeremi Ancian/Damien Mezy (207 RC Rallye) who are currently 18th overall and third in Group R.
Tomorrow's leg (Thursday January 20) is shorter than today's and features two visits to a loop of two stages in the Vercors Mountains. Peugeot still has 13 cars in contention capable of taking the fight to their rivals and fighting their way back up the leaderboard.