WRC

Monte Carlo: Leg two summary

Sebastien Loeb (Citroen) again dominated, stretching his lead to 1min 54.7sec. However, second-placed team-mate Francois Duval crashed into a telegraph pole near the end of stage 6. Co-driver Stephane Prevot was taken to hospital but released...

Sebastien Loeb (Citroen) again dominated, stretching his lead to 1min 54.7sec. However, second-placed team-mate Francois Duval crashed into a telegraph pole near the end of stage 6. Co-driver Stephane Prevot was taken to hospital but released with bruising to his leg. Their demise left an untroubled Marcus Gronholm (Peugeot) in second. Toni Gardemeister moved up to 3rd today after the demise of Duval, behind him, Petter Solberg (Subaru) is chasing hard. The Norwegian is only 9.2sec behind, yesterday's braking difficulties now solved. Gilles Panizzi (Mitsubishi) abandoned his car's new paddle-operated gearchange on the steering wheel in favour of the traditional gearlever. It seemed to work as the Frenchman climbed to sixth, setting one fastest time. Private entrant Didier Auriol retired from seventh with engine problems while Stephane Sarrazin (Subaru) understeered into a barrier 1km from the end of stage six and broke a steering arm. He was sidelined but, under new regulations, will return tomorrow with a time penalty added to his total for each stage missed. Armin Schwarz (Skoda) rolled out on stage seven, the German taken to hospital with bruising to his left shoulder. Team-mate Alex Bengue was impressive, winning two stages before breaking a wheel on the final test. He could not make repairs and had to stop. Like Sarrazin, he will restart tomorrow with a time penalty.

Citroen

Sebastien Loeb continued to lead today but things were soured for the Citroen team with the retirement of Francois Duval in the second Xsara. The young Belgian had been lying 2nd overall before crashing in the last section on special stage 6.

Sebastien Loeb / Daniel Elena: "It has been a very difficult and strange day, especially after Francois retired. In some ways there isn't so much pressure without him there but in others ways that makes it more difficult because, when you have a big lead, you don't know how hard to push. Tomorrow I'm just going to have to keep my concentration and focus on getting to the finish."

Francois Duval / Stephane Prevot: Retired (accident)

Subaru

Petter Solberg set a string of top five stage times today to end the Leg in fourth place overall. Refining his car's set-up and tyre choices throughout the day, his growing confidence was reflected in his increasingly competitive pace. He will start tomorrow's final Leg less than ten seconds outside the top three. Stephane Sarrazin's promising start with the team continued, with the Frenchman getting more familiar with his car and setting some competitive split times. Although his day came to a premature end when he broke a steering arm, he will re-start tomorrow under new FIA regulations intent on gaining more experience at the wheel of his Impreza WRC2004.

Petter Solberg / Phil Mills: "Well, today has been much better and I'm quite pleased actually with the performance. The car has been very good to drive on the stages, and the harder compound tyres have suited my driving very well. Loeb is a long way away, but we're getting closer to the people in front, so we will have to see what we can do tomorrow. It's going to be a very interesting last day I think, a good battle with Gardemeister and Panizzi, I'm looking forward to it."

Stephane Sazzazin/Patrick Pivato: "I'm disappointed because I had a good feeling with car, I was driving well and then a small mistake had such a big effect. I'm more sorry for the team than myself, because it's my first race and it could have been possible to get points. I'm lucky to have the re-start system, and tomorrow I will concentrate on learning more about my car and the set up to improve myself. Of course it's still very new, so I'm not pushing at 100 per cent just yet, but I want to be fast and the target is to push for improvement. We saw a good split after a few stages today, and I'm hoping to do the same tomorrow."

Ford

BP-Ford World Rally Team drivers Toni Gardemeister and Jakke Honkanen ended today's second leg of the Monte Carlo Rally in a podium position after a day of attrition in the mountains of southern France. Their Ford Focus RS World Rally Car lies third, and is closing on second-placed Marcus Gronholm, with one leg remaining on this first round of the FIA World Rally Championship. Team-mates Roman Kresta and Jan Tomanek also enjoyed a successful day in the team's other Focus RS, until they struck problems late this evening. The Czech duo climbed from 10th to seventh as the demanding asphalt roads in the mountains above the Côte d'Azur took a heavy toll on many of the leading drivers.

Toni Gardemeister/Jakke Honkanen: "It has been a good day and I'm becoming more comfortable with the car all the time. I'm learning from my mistakes and the car feels easy to drive. Tomorrow I'll try hard to keep Solberg behind me but it will not be easy. He has a lot more experience of his car than I do of mine."

Roman Kresta/Jan Tomanek: "Everything felt much better this morning. I felt much happier than yesterday and had more confidence. The roads were quite slippery in places. There were constant changes in surface from wet and slippery sections to dry and abrasive asphalt, and that was the most difficult part.

Peugeot

The second leg of the Monte Carlo Rally was disrupted by separate accidents involving Francois Duval (Citroen) and Armin Schwarz (Skoda) on the second and third stages of the day respectively. Duval went off just before the end of SS6 and blocked the road, forcing his team mate Sebastien Loeb to stop and therefore pick up a notional time. On the following stage Schwarz went off four kilometres from the finish and injured his shoulder. Yellow flags were shown to every competitor after Peugeot driver Markko Martin, and notional times were once more given to the remaining competitor's - including Peugeot's Marcus Gronholm.

Marcus Gronholm / Timo Rautiainen: "On the first seven kilometres of the opening stage the road was very icy, so I drove carefully. We've had a good day today although it has been extremely tricky with the various incidents that interrupted the leg: it was actually quite boring for us. But I am still very pleased to be in second place, which is my best-ever performance on the Monte Carlo Rally. My plan for tomorrow is just to keep going at this pace and finish on the podium. That would be a good way to start the year!"

Markko Martin/Michael Park: "I learnt a lot about the car and the tyres today but there is still a long way to go before I am completely comfortable. I was not entirely sure about my tyre choice in the morning, and in the afternoon I think my suspension set-up was too hard, as the car was very difficult to drive over the crests on SS9. I still need to familiarise myself with the dimensions of the 307WRC, so I thought that the best tactic was to drive safely in order to make sure of reaching the end of a tricky day."

Skoda

There were mixed fortunes for the Skoda Motorsport World Rally Team on today's second leg of the Monte Carlo Rally. Alex Bengue set two fastest times during the morning but on SS7 (Pont des Miolans) Armin Schwarz crashed out of the event.

Alex scored his first scratch time on SS6 when the stage was stopped following an accident involving Francois Duval. Alex was again at the head of the stage times for SS7 when it was interrupted to allow medical assistance following Armin's accident. He set third fastest time on SS8 to lie eighth overall but then broke a wheel near the end of tonight's final stage. He completed the stage but was unable to drive safely back to Monaco. He will restart tomorrow but with an additional time penalty.

Armin Schwarz/Klaus Wicha: "The accident happened at a hairpin right near the end of the stage. We hit a stone wall on the inside of the corner and the car rolled before dropping two or three metres down over the edge of the road. I am fine but Armin hurt his left shoulder and went to hospital for precautionary checks."

Alex Bengue/Caroline Escudero: "I made some small changes to stiffen the suspension this morning and the car was immediately much better balanced than yesterday. I could be really confident on the dry roads and that is why I was able to be so much quicker. We had some good luck because on SS6 I got two punctures but thanks to Michelin's ATS mousse I was still able to score my first two scratch times at WRC level."

Mitsubishi

The Mitsubishi Lancer WRC05 crew of Gilles and Herve Panizzi set the team's first fastest stage time this afternoon and have climbed into fifth position at the end of the second leg of Rallye Monte-Carlo, the opening round of the FIA World Rally Championship. The French pair started the day on a charge and had a trouble-free run through the longest leg of the event, setting a blistering time in the penultimate stage to claim the victory.

Harri Rovanpera/Risto Pietilainen: "We have had quite an okay day, a few small problems but nothing major. At the beginning of the last stage the car got away from me on some gravel in a corner and we went wide and hit a wall, just damaging the back-end. After that, I wasn't prepared to take any risks in the darkness. I'm learning a lot and looking to the future; I will bring the car to the finish tomorrow and maybe a result will be there too."

Gilles Panizzi/Herve Panizzi: I said yesterday that if we get a clean run, we can prove that Mitsubishi is back! I am so happy; that result was so necessary for everyone. Before our fastest time I was very content to be repeating our fourth fastest time; that was great and it really proved something. To have then achieved what we did this afternoon was something special for the team and I am more and more confident.

-wrc newsletter-

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Series WRC
Teams Citroën World Rally Team