Citroen's Sebastien Loeb has concluded day three of Rallye Monte Carlo still comfortably out front.
Loeb started the third leg with a 1 minute 37.2 seconds advantage and while he was only sixth in the opening test, he gained considerable time in SS12, after correctly opting to run with studs on all four tyres as snow, ice and rain made conditions tricky. This afternoon included just one test, and while the weather throw up no surprises, Seb still stretched his lead further. He will now go into the penultimate day of the event with a 2 minute 12.4 second cushion over his closest rival.
“It has been a very difficult day,” Loeb said. “It was difficult to get the tyre choice right this morning. However this afternoon this test [SS13] was like a normal tarmac stage. I took no risks and had no problems. I really wanted to go to Monte Carlo tomorrow.”
Dani Sordo meanwhile is now a seemingly comfortable second, after Petter Solberg lost a huge chunk of time in SS12. The MINI WRC Team man gained more time in SS13 too - and finishes the day 1 minute 6.8 seconds up on 'Hollywood'.
“I am happy with how it has gone today,” Sordo said. “In the first two stages the car felt good and I am happy now with the choice we took as we took a lot of time off Petter. In the first stage it was good as I had the right slick tyres. In the second, even though the studs would have been better, I know overall we took the right choice. We still need to stay focused as anything can happen on this rally. If the conditions are okay for the rest of the rally, it will be okay, but if it starts raining or snowing we have to be careful as in this rally it is very easy to make a mistake.”
Solberg was less pleased with his day and with Mikko Hirvonen setting the pace in SS12 and SS13, he is now fighting more for third, than second. Indeed having been almost 2 minutes up on Mikko last night, the Norwegian now finds that gap has been slashed to 23.8 seconds, a puncture near the end of SS13, after he over cut a corner, doing little to help his cause.
“Overall, it's been a good day,” said Solberg. “On the last stage, I made a mistake – I cut a corner very slightly and hit a rock with my front wheel. It was a shame because I was one second up on Loeb and four seconds up on Sordo at that point. I'm looking forward to the stages tomorrow and to fighting to preserve my podium position. That's got to be my goal now. The focus has changed after this morning from fighting Dani [Sordo] for second to holding onto third place. After a difficult day I'm relieved to be here.”
Further back, Evgeny Novikov is a lonely fifth, 45.2 seconds off that scrap for the final podium position and over 2 minutes up on his M-Sport Ford team-mate, Francois Delecour in sixth. The Russian has set some good times though, and was third quickest in both SS11 and SS13.
“Stage 13 was quite difficult. It was a very fast stage. We had the right tyre choice with the soft tyres so we could push. We got a good time so for sure I am happy. All is good and we will work hard to maintain this pace tomorrow.”
Delecour has also done well in his Fiesta RS WRC and the 49-year-old was even second quickest in the opening test of the day.