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Rally reactions: Rallye Monte Carlo - Day 1

24 January 2008


Sebastien Loeb [Citroen Total WRT]:

"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."


Daniel Sordo [Citroen Total WRT]:

"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 Citroëns on the provisional podium this evening."


Mikko Hirvonen [BP Ford Abu Dhabi WRT]:

"There was a lot of ice in the final 10km of the second stage and I had a couple of scares, so I took it steadily after that. I was worried about the damp patches and the black ice and had no confidence when it looked slippery, so I eased off too much. Although I may have lost the fight tonight, the main battle isn't over yet. Temperatures were -3ºC so it was hard to get heat into the Pirelli tyres but they worked well and I was pleased with them. There are three more days of rallying in daylight to come so that will be better and I will feel more confident. I'm sure I can go faster tomorrow when I have a clearer view of the conditions and can pick out the bad areas."


Chris Atkinson [Subaru WRT]:

"Today is not bad, I'm happy with fourth from today and the times weren't bad. It's been very tricky; at the top of the stage it was just ice, so I think everyone had a moment up there. We had a few small offs which lost us time but didn't damage the car as the road section was just wide enough. Fourth puts us in a good position for the next three days, and for sure there will be more changes to the leaderboard. I'd like to beat Mikko like last year, but fourth would be a good finish. The roads tomorrow are a lot narrower and have less grip then today, and it'll definitely get icy again overnight so the morning will be tough. We will make a few small changes but nothing too much – I'm happy with the car and we'll keep pushing for Mikko."


Francois Duval [Stobart VK M-Sport Ford WRT]:

"There was a section of ice on the first stage and we slid into a small wall luckily without much damage but we didn't know where the ice ended so I think I was driving too slowly for a while on that section. There was also a warning of some snow on stage 2 so we slowed down for that also. The car wasn't feeling exactly right for me tonight so we will make some changes in service for tomorrow's stages."


Petter Solberg [Subaru WRT]:

"I had a good feeling with the car this morning, and we were going well until we got caught by some ice and spun. But we can see how tricky this event can be, and we can take advantage of that over the next three days. I'm pleased with sixth as a starting point for this unpredictable rally, and am happy with the balance and feeling. We will make some adjustments overnight, especially as we learn more and more about the tyres, which are hard to get right on this surface where we have dry asphalt and then ice. We will keep pushing and just see. I'm not looking at the gap to Duval, we just keep pushing."


Gigi Galli [Stobart VK M-Sport Ford WRT]:

"Tonight was my first competitive stage in the car and generally it went OK. We drove in the middle of the road and I enjoyed the stages tonight even though they were tricky in places. We made some small mistakes on the first stage and slid wide on a patch of ice we didn't know about. Tonight's stages were very fast which was probably not the best for me but I am happy to be safely finished the first day."


Toni Gardemeister [Suzuki WRT]:

"We had a few small problems but despite this we've come to the end of the first day in the points. This is a brand new car and there is a lot of development still to come, but I'm happy. It's clear that the potential is all there, and I'm going to keep pushing tomorrow."


Khalid Al Qassimi [BP Ford Abu Dhabi WRT]:

“The first two stages this evening were very difficult, but that's all part of the programme. The first 17 km of stage one were dry and we set a steady pace. Then there was snow and ice for the rest of the stage, so we cruised to the finish. I stalled the engine at the start of the second stage and I think we lost around 15 seconds trying to get it going again. There was snow at some of the corners but the safety crew did a great job letting us know what to expect. Overall, I'm pleased with the times on the first two stages, especially as it is my first time here. It's a good start but of course, there is a very long way to go and three more days of competition, so I must concentrate and make sure we do not have any mistakes on the way.”

[Speaking after the shakedown] “This morning went well. We tried a few small changes to see what effect they would have but nothing too drastic. I'm just trying to get used to so much this weekend – the new car, new tyres, completely new conditions and of course, working with Michael [Orr, my co-driver] again. The Pirelli tyres seem to work well and I was deliberately sliding the car to try to learn the level of grip which they offer, both on clean asphalt as well as when it becomes dirtier, as it will if drivers ahead of me cut the corners.”


Per-Gunnar Andersson [Suzuki WRT]:

"It's been an eventful first day! The driveshaft broke after 14 kilometres, meaning that it was really difficult to find traction on the ice with just two-wheel drive. I'm actually quite surprised by our position: I thought that we would have dropped more time than we did."


Matthew Wilson [Stobart VK M-Sport Ford WRT]:

"We expected tonight to be difficult and it certainly was that. The ice seemed to catch most people out as a lot of it was not there when the safety crews went through earlier. We had a spin near the end of the first stage which cost us some time but apart from that it has been OK tonight. In the dry the tyres are working really well but in the wet and slippery stuff they are a bit more difficult."


Henning Solberg [Stobart VK M-Sport Ford WRT]:

"This was a very difficult start to a rally and it was especially difficult with patches of ice and I didn't have the best feeling with the car. We had a spin on the first stage and a stall on the start-line of the second so things didn't go perfectly for us tonight. The ice and slippery surface make it difficult to get a good feeling and confidence with the car but, OK, no big mistakes tonight."


Jari-Matti Latvala [BP Ford Abu Dhabi WRT]:

"Fifteen kilometres after the start we came through a tunnel into a fast right, fourth gear corner, but I went too deep into the bend and hit a rock with the front right wheel. The impact damaged the wheel rim and the tyre went flat immediately but I had to drive another 100m until I found a junction where I could stop. There wasn't enough power in the wheel nut gun to undo the nuts, so we had to use the wheel brace to loosen them before then taking them off with the gun."

"The tyres were good and I had excellent grip in the dry but when I slid on the ice it affected my confidence. It wasn't easy in the dark because it was hard to see where the ice was. Tomorrow I want to find a good rhythm, set good times and try to move back into the points for the team."





Notable retirements:

None.





Team principals:

Olivier Quesnel [Citroen Total WRT - team principal]:

"This is more or less a repeat of the way last year's Monte started, with Citroën 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."


Malcolm Wilson [BP Ford Abu Dhabi WRT - team director]:

"I'm surprised Mikko dropped so much time on the second stage but it's good he knows where and how. Jari-Matti learned the hard way about the new tyre rules, but now he understands that he has to think carefully about not cutting corners and what the consequences might be if he does."


Malcolm Wilson [Stobart VK M-Sport Ford WRT - team boss]:

"I'm glad all four cars and crews have made it back safely tonight. We needed a solid start to the event with no problems and that's what we have. Both nominated drivers are in the points and with this event the first in the new Focus for both guys, they have done well tonight."


Nobuhiro Tajima [Suzuki WRT - team boss]:

"I am very happy indeed with our performance so far: to be in a provisional points-scoring place in our first proper rally is a great achievement. It's only been 53 days since our final test event on Rally Great Britain last year: in the space of that short time we have put together a whole new driver line-up and expanded the team rapidly. I'd like to say a big 'thank you' to everyone for their hard work, which has put us in this very encouraging position at the start of our first rally. Step by step, we'll keep working to improve."


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