Sebastien Loeb heads the pack at the close of the opening day of Rallye Monte Carlo, after Jari-Matti Latvala rolled in SS4 and threw away a 30.1 second advantage.
Loeb began by setting the pace this morning in SS1, when he was 1 second up on Dani Sordo's MINI. However in SS2, Jari-Matti Latvala leapt from fourth to first, beating Loeb by 52.7 seconds, after an inspired tyre choice, prompted following discussions with his new Ford team-mate, Petter Solberg.
Latvala then maintained his 30-odd second advantage over Loeb in SS3, before disaster struck in the final test of the day, the repeat-run through the 30.48km Burzet - St Martial test, when the Finn failed to hear a pacenote and rolled his Fiesta RS WRC around 10 kilometres in. Although Latvala and co-driver, Miikka Antilla both escaped unharmed they were unable to continue. Furthermore with no Rally 2 on this event (the new name for the SupeRally), they won't be able to rejoin the fold on Thursday either.
Loeb is thus now comfortably out front in his Citroen Total WRT DS3 WRC car, more than a minute up Sordo and seemingly well placed at this early stage.
Sordo meanwhile had a largely positive day and despite hitting a bridge in SS2 and damaging the suspension on his John Cooper Works WRC car, he finishes 'best of the rest', having posted three top-four stage times.
Petter Solberg is next up and now the sole representative for the Ford World Rally Team. The Norwegian began with the fifth best time in SS1 this morning, before then going second in SS2, third in SS3 and fourth in SS4. He heads back to the service in Valence just 1 second adrift of P2.
Next up is Sebastian Ogier - a super impressive performance from the young Frenchman, especially given he is running in a S2000 car. The Volkswagen Motorsport man got the maximum from his Skoda Fabia and remarkably was third in SS2 this morning - 21.4 seconds up on Loeb!
Evgeny Novikov rounds out the top five, just 5.4 seconds behind, even though he had a scare when he hit a bank in SS2 in his M-Sport Ford WRT Fiesta RS WRC.
Mikko Hirvonen had a pretty disappointing start to his first event with Citroen and concluded the leg down in sixth, already 2.5 minutes off Loeb in the sister works DS3. Mikko began well with the third best time in SS1. However after that it was all downhill, with times towards the wrong end of the top ten in SS2 and SS3. He was only 11th in SS4.