Loeb further consolidates lead
17 January 2013
Citroen's Sebastien Loeb has increased his advantage on Rallye Monte Carlo to 1 minute 35 seconds at the close of day two.
Loeb more or less maintained his overnight lead this morning, but this afternoon on the repeat loop he stretched it out a bit more, winning SS8 and SS10, while he was third in SS9, and again quicker than his closest rival, Volkswagen's Sebastien Ogier. As a result Loeb now heads back to service in Valence with another 17.1 seconds added to his cushion.
“I said yesterday that there were still three long days to go; well, now there are only two left!" Loeb remarked. "We couldn't have hoped for things to go better today on such a tricky course. We could have lost a lot of time if we had made a mistake, but we managed to avoid that.”
Ogier meanwhile was also pleased, and given Loeb is only due to do four events this season, second would still be a very good result for the championship, especially as this is VW's first event with the Polo R WRC.
“Today's conditions on the 'Monte' were even more difficult than yesterday. The fact that once again won the first stage of the day in so much wind, ice and drifting snow was another welcome surprise. Although we took a cautious approach, we still had a spin in a left-hander on the second stage of the day. Despite that, the rally has been perfect for us so far," Ogier stated. "It will be even more perfect when we reach the finish on Saturday evening. Until then I will be concentrating solely on myself.”
Dani Sordo is next up in his Citroen DS3 WRC and locked in a good fight for third with Qatar M-Sport WRT man Evgeny Novikov. The two are split by just 15.2 seconds at the end of SS10, although the gap had been as little as 7.6 seconds following the first loop this morning.
"I am never happy, especially when there are two drivers way ahead of me," Sordo noted. "But we have still had a good day, going quickly without making any mistakes.”
“It has been a very good day for us. There were some quite interesting conditions on the stages and it was very slippery, but there are still two days to go. It's a long rally and we will fight on for sure. This is Rallye Monte-Carlo and to go well here you have to be confident and enjoy driving the stages. Now, I am on a mission. I am really enjoying the stages and looking forward to tomorrow – there is no question that I will be fighting for third position in the days to come,” added Novikov, who was quickest in SS6 and SS7 this morning, and second in SS9 this afternoon.
Behind, Mikko Hirvonen was not at all happy and while he did manage the fourth quickest time in SS8 – his best of the day – he was back down the order and only ninth and sixth in SS9 and SS10: “It has been really difficult,” the Finn stated. “It is not so often I feel so bad. Finishing the day in fifth position is frustrating. I am still short on confidence and that is stopping me from having the same pace as the leading guys.”
Fellow countryman and former Ford team-mate, Jari-Matti Latvala wasn't a happy bunny either, and lies sixth overnight. He also had a day to forget and even the third fastest time in SS10 didn't improve his spirits much: “I tried a softer car set-up on the first three special stages of the day. Unfortunately that resulted in some edgy and inaccurate handling," explained the VW pilot. "On top of that, we picked up a puncture on the very first stage this morning after hitting a stone that we were unable to avoid at a very narrow point on the route. In doing so I stalled the engine briefly. That explains the lost time. After that we found a better rhythm. I have had an idea how we can adapt the set-up to better suit my driving style tomorrow.”
Of the rest, Juho Hanninen comes in seventh, and somewhat buoyed after setting the top time this afternoon in SS9, followed by Bryan Bouffier, Mads Ostberg and Martin Prokop. Ostberg was another of those that wasn't feeling very chipper.
“Today started quite well. We were able to increase the speed in some areas, but in others we have definitely not been able to do that. On the snowy sections where there is a tarmac line I am still struggling a lot. I tried some different approaches, but it seems that whatever I do I just lose more time," he lamented.
“On the snow and clean tarmac we have improved a lot, but there is still a lot of work to do overall. I think now it's all about trying some different things to see if the feeling improves on the sections we're finding difficult. We'll change a few things in service tonight and hopefully we can move forward tomorrow. This is a long and difficult rally and I think that we must take the fact that we are still here as a positive.”
In the support categories, Sepp Weigand now leads WRC2 by over 5 minutes from Armin Kremer, while Sebastien Chardonnet is set for WRC3 victory providing he can just get to the finish. His only rival, Renaud Poutot, went out on the second loop.
Rallye Monte Carlo now continues on Friday with three stages on the bill and a total competitive distance of 92 kilometres.
SS11, St Jean en Royans (33.19 km), is due to start at 09.08 hours local time [08.08 hours British time].
Rallye Monte Carlo: Overall standings after Stage 10 (Top 10):
1. Sebastien Loeb Citroen Total Abu Dhabi WRT DS3 WRC 3h 16m 29.1s M
2. Sebastien Ogier Volkswagen Motorsport Polo R WRC +1m 35.0s M
3. Dani Sordo Abu Dhabi Citroen Total WRT DS3 WRC +2m 38.0s T
4. Evgeny Novikov Qatar M-Sport WRT Ford Fiesta RS WRC +2m 53.2s M
5. Mikko Hirvonen Citroen Total Abu Dhabi WRT DS3 WRC +3m 22.7s M
6. Jari-Matti Latvala Volkswagen Motorsport Polo R WRC +3m 43.2s M
7. Juho Hanninen Qatar WRT Ford Fiesta RS WRC +4m 11.3s T
8. Bryan Bouffier Citroen DS3 WRC +5m 45.8s
9. Mads Ostberg Qatar M-Sport WRT Ford Fiesta RS WRC +5m 49.5s M
10. Martin Prokop Czech National Team Ford Fiesta RS WRC +14m 15.6s
11. Sepp Weigand Skoda Fabia S2000 +18m 54.5s WRC2
12. Olivier Burri Peugeot 207 S2000 +21m 08.5s P
13. Armin Kremer Subaru Impreza +24m 06.1 WRC2
14. Michal Kosciousko Lotos Team WRC MINI John Cooper Works WRC +24m 40.1s T
WRC2 standings after Stage 10 (Top 3):
1. Sepp Weigand Skoda Fabia S2000 3h 35m 23.6s WRC2
2. Armin Kremer Subaru Impreza +5m 11.6s WRC2
3. Yuriy Protasov Subaru Impreza +6m 35.5s WRC2
WRC3 standings after Stage 10:
1. Sebastien Chardonnet Citroen DS3 R3T 3h 47m 16.2s WRC3
SS4. Thierry Neuville Qatar WRT Ford Fiesta RS WRC Went off T
SS9. Renaud Poutot Citroen DS3 R3T Mechanical WRC3
SS10. Julien Marin Ford Fiesta RS WRC Accident
all times unofficial