World champion Sebastien Loeb (Citroen) extended his overnight advantage from 23.9sec to 25.2sec but there was more to the day than that. Team-mate Dani Sordo blitzed the long stage more than 16sec quicker than the Frenchman and ended the morning...
World champion Sebastien Loeb (Citroen) extended his overnight advantage from 23.9sec to 25.2sec but there was more to the day than that. Team-mate Dani Sordo blitzed the long stage more than 16sec quicker than the Frenchman and ended the morning just 6.6sec behind. However, Loeb repaid the compliment on the re-run this afternoon to claw back more than 17sec, despite missing a braking point and side-swiping a bridge. Each driver won three stages. Behind Gronholm, Chris Atkinson (Subaru) climbed to fourth, the Australian impressing on his first asphalt event in the team's 2006 car. Toni Gardemeister (Mitsubishi) moved up to sixth, but Petter Solberg (Subaru) lost time this morning on tyres that were too hard and slipped to ninth, before recovering to seventh. Manfred Stohl (Citroen) climbed to fifth but a broken front brake calliper on stage six left rear brakes only and he lost two minutes during the afternoon, sliding to 11th. Xevi Pons (Mitsubishi) retired in the opening stage with a broken gearbox.
BP-Ford World Rally Team remains on course for both a podium finish and a solid points haul after today's second leg of the Rallye Monte Carlo, first round of the FIA World Rally Championship. Marcus Gronholm and Timo Rautiainen were unchallenged for third in their Ford Focus RS World Rally Car while team-mates Mikko Hirvonen and Jarmo Lehtinen hold fifth in a similar car.
Marcus Gronholm/Timo Rautiainen: "The problem was that we didn't choose harder rubber before the rally because we thought the weather would be wetter and cooler. It wasn't an easy day and it was difficult to set the same pace as Loeb. But a podium would be OK for me because from the next rally onwards we will be quicker."
Mikko Hirvonen/Jarmo Lehtinen: "The set-up was much better this afternoon. I had more grip and the car was more precise. I came here wanting a top five finish and I am in that fight so I'm happy."
Thanks to a score of six one-two stage times from today's six stages, the Citroen C4 WRCs of Sebastien Loeb/Daniel Elena and Dani Sordo/Marc Marti continue to monopolise the top two positions at the end of the second leg of the 2007 Monte Carlo Rally. The day's menu of just over 150km of competitive action made it the longest leg of the season's curtain-raiser and a busy day that took notably in a few of the classic Ardèche stages that have helped forge the legend of the Monte Carlo. The Citroen Sport crews barely had time to digest the previous evening's appetizer than it was already time for them to start a hearty breakfast in the form of the morning's 46km Saint Pierreville-Antraigues stage which featured three mountain passes to cross and an awesome long downhill section. The two C4 WRC drivers opted for hard tyres but their choice wasn't ideally suited to the damp conditions. "The stage was damper than anticipated," explained Guy Frequelin. "Dani and Sebastien would have been better off with a slightly softer compound. Even so, they didn't take too many risks and coped well with what was a pretty complex situation." The two C4 drivers effectively kicked off Leg 2 just as they started the weekend: with the fastest and second fastest times, this time with Dani in front. And that was just for starters...
Sebastien Loeb/Daniel Elena: The next two stages -- Burzet and St. Martial -- provided them with a further opportunity to shine. Seb claimed SS4 with Dani finishing in his wake, while Dani was first past the post ahead of Seb again on SS5. "This morning, I drove like I did last year with the Xsara, except that I have since improved and the C4 WRC is an even faster car," explained the 2005 Junior World Champion. "The conditions in today's first stage were difficult, so I didn't want to push too hard because I didn't want to make any mistakes," added Sebastien back at the lunchtime service break"
Dani Sordo/Marc: "Marc and I had a trouble-free run," commented Dani. "I am keeping an eye on the times of those behind us with a view to consolidating my 2nd place which is important for Citroen Sport."
After the first full day of competition, the Subaru World Rally Team is still on track to achieve its aim of two points finishes on Rallye Monte Carlo. Chris Atkinson and Glenn Macneall made a storming start to the day and vaulted from an overnight sixth place to fourth. The duo maintained that position throughout the rest of the day. Despite losing some time on the opening stage of the leg, Petter Solberg and Phil Mills had a positive run and were back up to seventh by the time the cars returned to Valence at the end of the day.
Petter Solberg/Phil Mills: "Actually it has been a very good day. I'm quite pleased with many of the stage times I've been able to do. I think we are closer to the pace of the Fords than I'd expected we would be, although clearly we have a lot of work to do to catch the Citroens. I didn't get everything right on the first stage, I still have a little to learn about the way the tyres work, but I'm feeling very positive about our potential, especially when we get these tyres on the new car. For tomorrow and Sunday I will do everything I can to get a good result and I still think it is possible for me to get fifth place on this rally."
Chris Atkinson/Glen MacNeall: "I'm very happy to be fourth tonight. It's a nice place to be. On the last two stages of the leg it was dark, we had difficulties defining the levels of grip and decided to be more cautious. Our target for this event was sixth position and we didn't really expect to be this high after the second leg. Certainly tomorrow is going to be tough, because there's a lot of good guys behind us and they will be pushing hard, but we will try to hold the position."
OMV Kronos Citroen
For now the OMV Kronos Citroen World Rally Team has to be content with eleventh place at the "Rallye Automobile Monte Carlo", the first run to the FIA World Rally Championship 2007. After Manfred Stohl and Ilka Minor had moved up from seventh to fifth place in the morning, the brakes went on strike during the sixth special stage. Thus the OMV duo lost valuable time. Which also means that the race to catch up will start anew on Saturday.
Manfred Stohl/Ilka Minor: "I was really lucky to reach the finish of the leg at all. It still is a bother that we are now so far behind since we had been able to keep up with our opponents up to 20 kilometres into this long SS. Now it will be extremely difficult to catch up the time lost. But we are still competing which means that everything is possible. It is paramount that we can repair the damage at the service. For then we would be able to continue our get-to-know program with the Citroen as planned."
Stobart M-Sport Ford
The Stobart VK M-Sport Ford team has come back fighting in leg 2 with Finnish crew Jari-Matti Latvala and co-driver Miikka Anttila sitting on two WRC manufacturer points as they finish the day in ninth position. Both Mathew Wilson and Henning Solberg showed improved confidence finishing the day with no major problems.
Jari-Matti Latvala/Miikka Anttila: "Ahh, that was great. This is the first time I can smile after a stage and I am starting to really find my confidence now so it feels fantastic! The rhythm I have is much better now and I liked the stages on dry tarmac because the conditions are not as slippery. Gravel is easy because you know the limit but on tarmac it is very narrow so you have to be careful because there is not so much room for error. I am very pleased to be in the points for the team and hopefully I can go one position better tomorrow and add a championship point to my name, which is my goal for this rally."
Henning Solberg/Cato Menkerud: "The first stages this morning were very slippery I just need some more time in the car to adjust. It went a bit better on the other final stages the road was dry and I found it much easier to drive the car. Tyre choice today was fine, the car is good and the feeling is coming. It is starting to feel better but we lost the brakes at the end there and I had to push twice on them before every corner."
Matthew Wilson/Michael Orr: "The car feels really good in long corners and I'm finding myself changing up a gear a lot earlier than what I normally do. The stages are very technical and there are some narrow sections where you need to be really careful and concentrate on keeping it neat. There's a bit of gravel about but now the roads dried up its really fast, a few more G-forces that time through! I couldn't see much on the last stage because of the light bumper pod and lost a lot of time but its better to take it cautiously and finish the rally rather than crash into something."