Citroen eases ahead in the Vercors Mountains The opening day of the 2008 Monte Carlo Rally saw Citroen Sport dominate the sharp end of the leaderboard with the C4 WRCs of overnight leaders Sebastien Loeb/Daniel Elena who completed the first two...
Citroen eases ahead in the Vercors Mountains
The opening day of the 2008 Monte Carlo Rally saw Citroen Sport dominate the sharp end of the leaderboard with the C4 WRCs of overnight leaders Sebastien Loeb/Daniel Elena who completed the first two stages ahead of their Spanish team-mates Dani Sordo/Marc Marti.
The short first leg was run entirely in darkness and featured two stages in the Vercors Mountains to the east of host town Valence. The action kicked off with the 28.12km Saint Jean en Royans test which was followed by Col de Gaudissart (17.58km). In addition to competing at night, the crews had to cope with difficult conditions which included frequent damp portions, frost and even ice.
Running first on the road, defending champions Sebastien Loeb and Daniel Elena were second quickest on SS1, dropping 3.8s to their team-mates who emerged as the early leaders. The two C4 crews then traded positions on the following test, however, and the Frenchman returned to the evening's service halt with a 12.7s advantage over Dani, while their closest rival is already 44 seconds adrift.
Olivier Quesnel: "This is more or less a repeat of the way last year's Monte started, with Citroen Sport securing the first two fastest times on this evening's extremely fast stages. Our two crews have succeeded in pulling out a bit of a gap despite the delicate conditions and the first stage was particularly icy. Before the start, we decided to adopt an aggressive approach by putting just one spare wheel in our cars while our rivals chose to carry two, and that decision paid off. In no way do we consider that we've got this event sewn up, though. The weekend has only just begun and the profile of tomorrow's stages is very different, and the weather could change, too."
Sebastien Loeb: "There is always something special about the atmosphere you get on night stages and this evening's two tests were fantastic. The fact that there were so many spectators out only added to the pleasure. I didn't feel entirely comfortable on SS1 on which the damp portions were beginning to freeze. I had been warned about that by our ice-note crew and I was a little overcautious at times because I was expecting to come across frost or ice. I also thought the second stage would be relatively easier and we pushed harder on that one. We are now in the lead but we have no intention of letting that go to our heads. It's still very early days and we've got three more long legs to come. Our Pirelli tyres worked well but that wasn't really a surprise given the conditions. We'll see what their real potential is tomorrow."
Dani Sordo: "We went very well on the first stage which gave relatively good grip and I felt confident enough to push hard, although I hit a straw bale near the end which saw us lose a few seconds. On the other hand, the conditions on the second stage had changed after our ice-note crew had been through and I didn't really succeed in finding the ideal rhythm. On top of that, the drivers running ahead of us on the road had dragged snow onto the road by cutting certain corners and I preferred not to take any risks. There is still a very long way to go and it was important to have both Citroens on the provisional podium this evening."