Marcus leads for Peugeot in Monte Carlo. Reigning World Champion Marcus Gronholm has continued his winning form on the first day of the Monte Carlo Rally. The Finn won three of the day's six stages to hold a 20-second lead over Citroen's...
Marcus leads for Peugeot in Monte Carlo.
Reigning World Champion Marcus Gronholm has continued his winning form on the first day of the Monte Carlo Rally. The Finn won three of the day's six stages to hold a 20-second lead over Citroen's Sebastien Loeb overnight.
Conditions in the morning started off cold, with plenty of snow and ice. Marcus used his cold weather knowledge to pull out a considerable lead by first service.
He maintained his advantage all day, despite a scare on stage five when he clouted a bridge parapet.
"I had it marked as a slippery corner in my notes," said Marcus. "I slowed down, but not enough as the car ran wide and hit the bridge with the left rear wheel. I was really scared that something had broken, but luckily everything was fine. I'm happy to be in front for now, but you never know what will happen in Monte Carlo. I hope we can keep on going like this."
Gronholm's team mate, 2001 World Champion Richard Burns finished the day fourth, having driven safely but rapidly all day. The Englishman had no problems at all throughout the opening leg, and is well-placed to attack on the two days of the rally that remain.
"Today has been fine," said Richard. "We deliberately decided to drive cautiously and stay out of trouble. So far that tactic has paid off, and we know that we can push harder in the places where we feel more confident. It's difficult to judge the right pace when the conditions are so variable."
Gilles Panizzi's traditional bad luck in Monte Carlo became worse after he struggled with set-up problems all day. The Frenchman made a bad tyre choice for the opening two stages, and was not able to find a good set-up afterwards. He ended the day 14th, but is confident that he can improve.
"It's difficult to say what the problem is," commented Gilles. "I just don't have a good feeling with the car. We will have to think hard about the things we can change and hopefully have a better day tomorrow."
Tomorrow the crews face a much shorter day, with just four stages and 114 competitive kilometres. The first car is scheduled to leave Parc Ferme at 0650, and returns to Monte Carlo at 1650.
The two Bozian-run customer specification Peugeot 206 WRCs enjoyed a successful opening day. Cedric Robert finished day one seventh overall, while Roman Kresta was just behind him in ninth on his Peugeot debut.
Many of the front-runners have already retired on the notoriously tough opening leg. Four-time Monte Carlo winner Tommi Makinen went off on stage five in his Subaru, as did his team mate Petter Solberg. Skoda's Toni Gardemeister succumbed to engine failure on stage two.