Both StÃ©phane Sarrazin and Chris Atkinson had a trouble-free run through Leg two of Rallye Monte Carlo to end the day in fifth and sixth respectively. All of the day's five run stages were won by SÃ©bastien Loeb, but Sarrazin was the ...
Both Stéphane Sarrazin and Chris Atkinson had a trouble-free run through Leg two of Rallye Monte Carlo to end the day in fifth and sixth respectively. All of the day's five run stages were won by Sébastien Loeb, but Sarrazin was the closest challenger when the Subaru driver finished just two seconds behind him in SS8. Sarrazin finished every stage in the top ten to move from seventh to fifth, with his team-mate Atkinson in sixth. Subaru's youngest driver continued his aim of gaining more experience on asphalt, often matching the pace of more experienced drivers.
SS7: 0753 Sigale - Bif. D10 / D110
Fastest Time: Loeb (Kronos) 16:50.4
SS8: 0906 St Antonin - Toudon
Fastest Time: Loeb (Kronos) 14:41.2
After a 10 minute service, Leg two started with the 22km Sigale pass, the only stage of the rally to be used just once. After a very fast start crews passed through the town of Eiglun onto the most photogenic section of the rally with cars running along a knife edge of a mountain road through several tunnels. The ice that had characterised Leg one's morning stages was not as prominent at the start of Leg two and all drivers elected for a slick tyre over winter studded rubber, with the exception of Henning Solberg. The Norwegian struggled with a lack of grip and lost over two minutes to stage winner Sébastien Loeb, who admitted he was driving more cautiously after his Leg one accident. Loeb was over 15secs quicker than overnight rally leader Gronholm, whose team-mate Mikko Hirvonen tackled the stage using manual gearshift after a clutch sensor problem on the road section to the pass. Chris Atkinson had a clean run as he continued his objective to gain more experience on asphalt.
Loeb secured his second stage win of the day on the classic Monte Carlo stage from St Antonin to Toudon, but he was closely matched by fellow Frenchman Stéphane Sarrazin in his Subaru Impreza WRC2006. Sarrazin was just two seconds slower through the fastest stage of the event and closed the gap to sixth place by 18secs. Gilles Panizzi's handling problems in the Skoda continued and François Duval leapfrogged him for fifth overall. Gronholm, with the third fastest stage time, continued to extend his lead over Gardemeister and Stohl. Gigi Galli's privately-entered Mitsubishi developed gearbox problems through the stage and he dropped over five minutes to Loeb.
SS9: 1019 La Tour Sur Tinee - Utelle
Fastest Time: Loeb (Kronos) 15:41.5
SS10: 1430 St Antonin - Toudon
Fastest Time: Loeb (Kronos) 14:21.2
SS9, north west of the host city, was another 2006 addition to the rally and featured several uphill hairpins in the first 11km before descending through a series of 90 degree corners to the finish. Galli's earlier gearbox problem proved terminal and the Italian did not start the speed test, but Loeb was once again quickest, six seconds ahead of Gronholm and Sarrazin. The Subaru driver moved into fifth overall when Panizzi lost further time and Duval crashed his Skoda when he drifted wide at a left hand corner. The Belgian eventually rejoined, but retired from the Leg with damage to the rear right. Stohl jumped to second ahead of Gardemeister, who lost over 40secs with a slick compound he reported too hard for the conditions. Chris Atkinson had two small spins and lost around 30secs, but remained in fourth overall ahead of Sarrazin. After the stage finish crews headed back to Monte Carlo for a 30 minute service.
After a 30 minute service halt in Monte Carlo crews made their way west for the repeat of the St Antonin - Toudon stage. Many drivers had elected for a softer tyre compound in anticipation of the formidable Col de Turini section at the close of the Leg, but found the going tough on the slippery surface. Loeb, however, had chosen a harder tyre and made it four stage wins out of four to vault Sarrazin and Atkinson into fourth overall. Subaru's Chris Atkinson lost some time through the stage as he struggled with soft tyres and dropped to sixth behind team-mate Sarrazin. Defending JWRC champion Dani Sordo, making his WRC debut, came through the time control second fastest behind Loeb. After the end of the stage crews drove straight to SS12 after the cancellation of SS11 due to traffic congestion.
SS11: 1543 La Tour Sur Tinee - Utelle
SS12: 1638 La Bollene Vesubie - Sospel
Fastest Time: Loeb (Kronos) 24:03.1
SS11 was cancelled at the request of the local police due to traffic congestion in the area. Crews passed straight to SS12.
After SS10 crews drove straight to the longest stage of the rally from La Bollene Vesubie to Sospel, which featured the most famous section of the championship, Col de Turini, with its notorious snow-capped peak. Henning Solberg dropped down the overall classification after a spin and engine problems lost him over six minutes. The Norwegian later stopped on the road section. Others also had a rough run, including Xavier Pons who spun three times in the stage and Hirvonen who brushed the front right of the car when he spun at the top of the Col. Loeb completed a clean sweep of Leg two stage wins to consolidate fourth position and move to just over 30secs off the final podium position, while Toni Gardemeister scored his best stage result of the rally with second to move into third ahead of Austrian Stohl. Sarrazin was just 0.3secs slower than Gardemeister on the Subaru Impreza WRC2006's debut, while team-mate Atkinson had a cautious run to end the Leg in sixth overall.
SWRT PERFORMANCE DIRECTOR, DAVID LAPWORTH: "Both of our drivers have had a good day. We've had some more classic Monte Carlo conditions and that means you have some stages to which the tyres are perfectly suited and you get good times, and some others where the opposite is true. You just have to hope that overall you chose the best compromise. Stéphane set some very impressive times today, especially on the snow - not bad for someone who has gained most of his experience on race tracks! Chris is learning all the time. Although he might feel he's being over cautious, from the team's point of view it's much better that he learned that he drove a little bit too slowly, than to learn that he went just a little bit too fast!"
STEPHANE SARRAZIN: "We did some good times and I'm very happy with the car, it feels very strong. Today our tyre choice was spot on, so it's a good average. I'm sure a lot is down to confidence, all the time I'm learning more about the new car with the mechanical diffs and so on and I have had to adapt my driving style to cope. Of course for tomorrow I will try to catch up the cars ahead but I'll try to push without going crazy - something like the level I was pushing at today."
CHRIS ATKINSON: "It's been quite a challenge for us today. We knew we would drop a few places anyway but we've lost a bit more time than we wanted. We had a few slow spins in the morning and then this afternoon we were massively too cautious on the Turini stage. I've never done that stage before and everyone was warning us about how tricky it was. In the end I took it too carefully and threw away some time. Tomorrow I think we can go at a much faster pace than we did today, that's for sure, but we still want to finish the rally, that's the main thing."
NEWS FROM PIRELLI
MARIO ISOLA, PIRELLI COMPETIZIONI RALLY MANAGER: "I'm very happy with today's choice of tyres. The road surfaces were mostly frosty and slippery, very variable, but our new 'level 9' compound, specially developed for these conditions, worked very well. Stéphane did the best splits on one of the most difficult stages, Col de Turini, and found a big improvement in traction and braking and his feeling with the car. We decided to fit the same type of tyre on the two cars, with some cuts on the tread to help the increasing temperature of the compound and finally this was the right solution on today's stages, both in the morning and in the afternoon."
The third and final Leg of Rallye Monte Carlo comprises six stages covering 116.30 competitive kilometres to the north of the Principality. Crews will run two loops of three stages separated by a mid-morning service in Monte Carlo. The Leg will include a further two passes though La Bollene Vesubie - Sospel with its famous Col de Turini section before the official finish in front of the palace at 1525.