19 January, 2002 - Today's continuation of the Rallye Monte Carlo produced a classic Alpine battle between Citroen's reigning Super 1600 Champion, Sebastien Loeb and the 555 Subaru World Rally Team's latest driver signing Tommi Makinen. In cold...
19 January, 2002 - Today's continuation of the Rallye Monte Carlo produced a classic Alpine battle between Citroen's reigning Super 1600 Champion, Sebastien Loeb and the 555 Subaru World Rally Team's latest driver signing Tommi Makinen.
In cold but largely snow-free conditions the pair played a high-speed game of cat and mouse on the second leg's five stages and pulled clear of the rest of the field. Loeb started with a 36-second advantage over Makinen and managed to extend this to 46 seconds after two stages. But the Finn regained some of the advantage over the middle two tests, set three fastest stage times and ahead of tomorrow's final leg trails Loeb by just 26 seconds.
Tommi's Subaru team-mate Petter Solberg started the day at a blistering pace and set the fastest time on SS6, but a spin on the next cost him two places and dropped him to eighth overall. The 27-year-old mounted a determined recovery and ended the day back in sixth, having overtaken current world champion Richard Burns in the process.
"The new stage in the dark (SS10) was not so easy, I don't really know why, but the final stage was much better. There's still a long distance tomorrow and the long Turini stage is very important. Sebastien is driving very well but we have a good chance to do something. There is still some hope and with the way the car is working at the moment my target is to try to win. For sure, tomorrow's speed is going to be very, very fast."
"Everything is perfect at the moment. It's been a good day and I'm very happy. It seems it's going to be a very positive year for us on tarmac and I'm looking forward to tomorrow, especially to do the Turini stage in the proper direction. I've felt a good rhythm with the car, you can push really hard if you want to, but in the dark I don't have full confidence yet to get on the throttle and really push. But the car and the Pirelli tyres are all working tremendously. It s a great feeling.
SS6 10:08 Pont de Clans-Villars Sur Var ((12.08km))
In a change to the WRC regulations for 2002, the top 15 drivers on Legs two and three start in reverse order, hence Markko Martin was first through the day's opening stage - the shortest of the rally. Weather conditions were bright and dry and although the temperature was sub-zero in the mountains all drivers elected to use slick tyres. The reversed order created plenty of tension as progressively faster times were posted, but no one was able to beat the time set by 555 Subaru World Rally Team driver Petter Solberg. The Norwegian finished 4.6 seconds ahead of the next quickest driver, his Subaru team-mate Tommi Makinen. Colin McRae was third, while overnight leader Sebastien Loeb kept the top-spot by finishing fourth.
Fastest Time : Solberg (Subaru) 9:44.5
SSS7 10:51 Puget-Theniers-Toudon ((26.76km))
Sections of gravel and black ice on SS7 caught out many drivers who were repeating this stage after it was first run last night. Carlos Sainz and Petter Solberg were two of the drivers to lose time with spins although luckily both were able to get back to their service areas in Monaco for repair work. Petter lost around 1 min 30 sec's when his car slid on gravel and clipped a rock-face, he was able to continue but without power steering for the rest of the stage he dropped from 6th to 8th overall. Elsewhere, Roman Kresta retired when he drove his Skoda Octavia into a bridge 3kms from the start line and Peugeot's Harri Rovanpera withdrew 3kms from the end with a broken steering arm. Sebastien Loeb won the stage in his Citroen by a margin of 4.8 seconds from Marcus Gronholm who was second. Tommi Makinen was fourth quickest through the stage and kept the 555 Subaru World Rally Team in second place overall.
Fastest Time : Loeb (Citroen) 17:30.7
SS8 13:49 Coaraze-Loda ((23.05km))
The second stage-win of the day for the 555 Subaru World Rally Team, but this time it was four-time world champion Tommi Makinen who was fastest. The result was Tommi's first stage win with the Subaru Impreza WRC for his new team. Sebastien Loeb was six seconds behind in second place, with Carlos Sainz third and Colin McRae fifth. Petter Solberg's car was back to full strength following the accident on the previous stage. In the service area Subaru technicians replaced the suspension on the front left-hand corner together with a complete steering rack. The amount of work required meant he was two minutes late leaving service and collected a 20 second penalty, but the recovery job started immediately and his performance on the stage moved him closer to seventh overall.
Fastest Time : Makinen (Subaru) 15:56.6
SS9 14:32 La Bollene-Turini-Sospel ((32.42km))
Thanks to a second consecutive stage win from Tommi Makinen, Sebastien Loeb's position at the top of the leaderboard was starting to look less secure. The Citroen driver was 46 seconds ahead after SS7, but just two stages later Makinen had clawed back 20 seconds of his advantage. Making it a Subaru 1, 2, Petter Solberg was second quickest and moved ahead of Delecour to take seventh overall, the next target in his sights was the sixth place of ex-team mate Richard Burns
Fastest Time : Makinen (Subaru) 15:58.6
SS10 19:19 Coaraze-Loda ((23.05km))
Colin McRae's chances of catching Tommi Makinen suffered a setback before the stage when he was given a 10-second penalty for leaving service late after a gearbox change. On the stage Loeb was once again in control and scored his second win of the day. Makinen was second quickest with Panizzi third. Good news for Solberg, as he knocked ex-team mate Richard Burns from sixth place and moved back into the provisional points scoring position he was in before his accident.
Fastest Time : Loeb (Citroen) 16:08.02
SS11 20:06 La Bollene-Turini ((11.70km))
Another win for Makinen, with Loeb second and Solberg third. More bad luck for Colin McRae though. To begin with, a split in his car's exhaust pipe directed fumes directly into the cockpit, but things got worse when his engine lost a cylinder at the top of the Col du Turini. The Scot finished almost a minute behind Makinen and dropped from third to fifth overall. A painful stage too for new Skoda signing Toni Gardemeister. Organisers explained that he had poked his eye with his finger while attempting to remove the sweat form his forehead. He was eighth fastest.
Fastest Time : Makinen (Subaru) 16:21.4
The final leg of the Rallye Monte Carlo starts when the remaining crews leave Monaco parc ferme at 0733hrs. Once again the leg will start with a 45-minute service, after which the cars will head up into the mountains to contest the final four stages. Just 99 competitive kilometres remain before the winning car crosses the ramp back in Monte Carlo at 1500hrs.