16 January 2013
Loeb concludes day one on top
Sebastien Loeb ends SS4 with a 1 minute 20.3 second advantage over Sebastien Ogier; Mikko Hirvonen lies third, 26.4 seconds back, followed by Dani Sordo and Jari-Matti Latvala; Thierry Neuville was the day's major scalp...
Sebastien Loeb does lead Rallye Monte Carlo at the end of the opening day, having increased his cushion to over a minute following the afternoon loop, which was marred by timing problems.
Loeb began by setting the second best time this morning, 3.7 seconds off his former team-mate, Sebastien Ogier. However he then moved to the fore in SS2, setting the top time - 10.4 seconds up on Ogier. This afternoon he again set the pace in his Citroen DS3 WRC, winning SS3 and SS4, to stretch his advantage from 6.7 seconds to 1 minute 20.3 at the close of the first day. It was a dominant performance, just a shame that timing issues on SS3 meant that the overall classification wasn't clear until sometime after SS4 had finished.
“I wasn't measuring my pace at all this afternoon, because with the official timing system not working, I couldn't change my rhythm in accordance with that of the other drivers. So I pushed hard throughout. It paid off and we now have a healthy lead. But it's only the start. There are still three long days to go,” Loeb said.
Ogier meanwhile began the event with a bang by giving Volkswagen its very first stage win with the Polo R WRC and on its very first competitive stage. He was then second in SS2, before slipping back on the repeat loop, when he was 'only' fifth in SS3 and fourth in SS4.
“A good start to the 'Monte', and one I am more than happy with. However, that was just the first day, which does not mean an awful lot. The rally still has a long way to go, and we still have some tough days ahead of us,” Ogier stated. “The Polo R WRC feels good and I am obviously pleased with my special stage win this morning. I just drove my own rhythm without really pushing too hard, and was really surprised when I looked at the times.
“It is extremely difficult to drive in these conditions though, and the tyre selection is even more important than usual. For this reason, I must say a big thank you to the gravel crew, with whom I have been working for the first time. That was worth its weight in gold: the 'Monte' is at its best out there, as it is totally unpredictable.”
Mikko Hirvonen is next up and on course for the final spot on the podium, albeit almost 30 seconds further back. The Finn struggled this morning and was fourth in SS1 and only eighth in SS2. He found a bit more consistency this afternoon however, and finished the day on a high with the second best time in SS4.
“It wasn't the best of starts for us. I was too cautious when the road surface changed this morning, but it's not been too bad on the second loop. It just shows how strange this rally can be!” Hirvonen remarked. “We have got ourselves back into a good position now and we need to keep going like this. It won't be easy, but I am going to try to keep a good rhythm, go a bit quicker and keep out of trouble. Maybe we can catch Ogier…”
Further back, Dani Sordo has slipped behind his Citroen Total Abu Dhabi WRT colleague, despite starting stronger. Indeed he was quicker in three of the days four tests, but a poor time in the second-run through Burzet-St Martial saw him concede more than 30 seconds and lose a place on the leaderboard.
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