There may have been precious little snow, but there was certainly plenty of water for the Citroën Total Abu Dhabi World Rally Team crews on day two of Rallye Monte-Carlo, between Gap and Monaco.
Third overall this evening, Kris Meeke and Paul Nagle are well-placed to claim their first-ever podium finish in the World Rally Championship.
The headaches caused by the weather during this year’s Monte-Carlo continued today. What with intermittent showers, standing water, mud and the threat of snow, tyre choice was invariably far from straightforward. However, the Citroën Total Abu Dhabi World Rally Team went for the right option on each occasion. In such conditions, the proposed route from Gap to Monaco, with a remote service in Digne-les-Bains, gave the competitors precious little time to relax.
With the tarmac roads especially slippery on all the stages, Kris Meeke and Mads Østberg had to negotiate some very tricky conditions throughout the day, conditions which ended the challenge of several of their rivals. In the second half of the day, by which time the gaps were clearly established, the two Citroën DS3 WRC crews were able to start to manage their respective positions.
There are four stages left to contest tomorrow, including two runs over the Col du Turini, before the race finishes late on Saturday evening in Monaco…
Kris Meeke: “If I had to choose between the snow and the changes in grip that we had to manage today, I think I’d have to say I prefer the snow! There was absolutely no grip on the worn tarmac roads. When the conditions are like that, it’s so easy to make a mistake. I preferred to control my pace in some sections. This rally is still very tough. We are progressing in line with the plan we drew up before the start. We need to concentrate on the job in hand – we now have a position to defend.”
Mads Østberg: “Perhaps I was too cautious this morning when the roads were very slippery. But I avoided making any mistakes. I feel that we improved a lot between the first and second runs. On Sisteron – Thoard, I really wanted to push. I had to force myself to stay calm. In any case, it’s Kris that is just in front of me and there’s no point in me trying to chase him down. Third and fourth would be a good overall result for the entire team.“
Yves Matton (Citroën Racing Team Principal): “Tyre choice wasn’t easy all day, but we managed to go for the right option on each occasion. The water, mud and smooth tarmac made the stages very tricky. For Kris and Mads, neither of whom has a huge amount of experience at this rally in the WRC, they were especially tough conditions. Their performances are therefore all the more pleasing. Mads has shown a great deal of maturity, because tarmac is not really his favourite surface.
And Kris has followed the plan to the letter: he hasn‘t taken too many risks but has set a good pace. They need to continue to build up experience in the Citroën DS3 WRC. Once they feel at ease, they will be able to express themselves fully and show off their talent. Kris is only 47 seconds adrift of second place and a lot can still happen on the Col du Turini!”
How the action unfolded
SS7 – Vitrolles – Faye 1 (49.03km) – Sébastien Ogier won the stage to move into second position overall, behind Bryan Bouffier. Kris Meeke defended his third position by going faster than Robert Kubica. Mads Østberg set the eighth fastest time.
SS8 – Selonnet – Breziers (22.68km) – Like Ogier, Mads Østberg was forced to run into a muddy field after the end of the stage to avoid the other crews at the stop control. Fortunately, there was no damage caused to his Citroën DS3 WRC. Bryan Bouffier went fastest, ahead of Ogier, Kubica and Meeke.
SS9 – Vitrolles – Faye 2 (49.03km) – A minor off for Bryan Bouffier, who relinquished first place to Sébastien Ogier. Kris Meeke remained third as Robert Kubica was forced to retire after going off the road. With the second fastest time on the rally’s longest stage, Mads Østberg grabbed fourth place in the overall standings.
SS10 – Sisteron – Thoard (36.85km) – Sébastien Ogier extended his lead at the front. Kris Meeke and Mads Østberg held their respective positions before heading for Digne-les-Bains.
SS11 – Clumanc – Lambruisse (20.77km) – The day’s final stage was contested in the dark. Jari-Matti Latvala won the stage. Kris Meeke consolidated his position with the third fastest time. Mads Østberg drove cautiously to claim the seventh fastest time, but ended the day over three minutes ahead of his nearest rival.
Standings after Day 2
1. Sébastien Ogier / Julien Ingrassia (Volkswagen Polo R WRC) 3:14:51.3
2. Bryan Bouffier / Xavier Panseri (Ford Fiesta RS WRC) +51.1
3. Kris Meeke / Paul Nagle (Citroën DS3 WRC) +1:38.6
4. Mads Østberg / Jonas Andersson (Citroën DS3 WRC) +2:48.9
5. Jari-Matti Latvala / Miikka Anttila (Volkswagen Polo R WRC) +6:04.4
6. Elfyn Evans / Daniel Barritt (Ford Fiesta RS WRC) +6:14.5
7. Mikko Hirvonen / Jarmo Lehtinen (Ford Fiesta RS WRC) +6:43.7
8. Andreas Mikkelsen / Mikko Markkula (Volkswagen Polo R WRC) +10:16.9
9. Jaroslav Melicharek / Erik Melicharek (Ford Fiesta RS WRC) +16:00.8
10. Matteo Gamba / Nicola Arena (Peugeot 207 Super 2000) +20:01.4
Sébastien Ogier, 5 – Robert Kubica, Bryan Bouffier and Jari-Matti Latvala, 2.
SS1 and SS2: Robert Kubica
SS3 to SS8: Bryan Bouffier
SS9 to SS11: Sébastien Ogier