Citroen's Sebastien Loeb continued to set the standard this morning on Rallye Monte Carlo, taking his sixth stage win of the event in SS11.
Loeb completed the 33.19 kilometre run through St Jean en Royans in 20 minutes 17.9 seconds to edge out the Volkswagen Polo R WRC of Sebastien Ogier, who was best of the rest, by 1.5 seconds. Competitors now head back to service in Valence for the final time. After that two more stages lay in wait, before the action shifts to Monaco on Saturday for the final day. Loeb now leads Ogier by 1 minute 36.3 seconds.
“Incredible. The nicest stage of the rally so far,” Loeb told the official WRC site. “There was more than 20km of full white snow, sunshine and snow banks. I wasn't in a situation where I needed to push too hard and I didn't take any risks. I was careful in the fast downhill and I'm here without any mistakes.”
Behind the top two, Dani Sordo remains third overall, although the Spaniard didn't have a good start to the day, and lost time with a spin. Consequently he was only eighth quickest and that allowed Evgeny Novikov to close up. Indeed the Russian posted the fourth best time and slashed the gap to Sordo from 15.2 seconds last night to 7.4 seconds post-SS11.
“This was a very nice stage – very slippery with very tricky conditions," Novikov said. "We weren't pushing to the maximum on this stage but for sure we will still fight to improve our position. Now we just need to make sure we have a clean run this afternoon and safeguard our tyres for tomorrow.”
Mikko Hirvonen meanwhile is still fifth and still struggling, followed by Jari-Matti Latvala, Juho Hanninen, Mads Ostberg and Bryan Bouffier in positions 6 through to 9. Bouffier was fortunate to complete SS11 after he went off the road. Luckily for him there were enough spectators around to help him continue, although he still lost a minute and P8 on the leaderboard to Ostberg, who was third fastest.
“I was quite pleased with the opening stage," Ostberg stated. "I think we are definitely learning on tarmac and then when we got to the snow section towards the end I was able to set some quite good split times.
“We have improved a few things from yesterday and we know a little bit clearer now what we need to do to improve the driving. I need to alter the way I brake into the corners when there is a Tarmac line through the snow, so we'll keep practising that and work on building up our experience.”
Martin Prokop rounds out the provisional points' scorers, with WRC2 and WRC3 class leaders Sepp Weigand and Sebastien Chardonnet back in P11 and P17 respectively.
As mentioned, two more stages now remain before the action shifts to Monaco. SS12, St Nazaire le Desert (22.11 km), is due to start at 13.21 hours local time [12.21 hours UK time], with SS13, Sisteron-Thoard (36.70km), following at 15.26 hours local time [14.26 hours UK time].
Rallye Monte Carlo: Overall standings after Stage 11 (Top 10):
1. Sebastien Loeb
Citroen Total Abu Dhabi WRT DS3 WRC 3h 36m 47.0s
2. Sebastien Ogier
Volkswagen Motorsport Polo R WRC +1m 36.3s
3. Dani Sordo
Abu Dhabi Citroen Total WRT DS3 WRC +2m 55.6s
4. Evgeny Novikov
Qatar M-Sport WRT Ford Fiesta RS WRC +3m 03.0s
5. Mikko Hirvonen
Citroen Total Abu Dhabi WRT DS3 WRC +3m 36.4s
6. Jari-Matti Latvala
Volkswagen Motorsport Polo R WRC +3m 53.3s
7. Juho Hanninen
Qatar WRT Ford Fiesta RS WRC +4m 23.3s
8. Mads Ostberg
Qatar M-Sport WRT Ford Fiesta RS WRC +5m 52.8s
9. Bryan Bouffier
Citroen DS3 WRC +7m 36.7s
10. Martin Prokop
Czech National Team Ford Fiesta RS WRC +15m 51.2s
11. Sepp Weigand
Skoda Fabia S2000 +20m 37.0s
12. Olivier Burri
Peugeot 207 S2000 +23m 44.3s
13. Armin Kremer
Subaru Impreza +24m 49.1
14. Michal Kosciousko
Lotos Team WRC MINI John Cooper Works WRC +26m 14.7s
WRC2 standings after Stage 11 (Top 3):
1. Sepp Weigand
Skoda Fabia S2000 3h 57m 24.0s
2. Armin Kremer
Subaru Impreza +4m 12.1s
3. Yuriy Protasov
Subaru Impreza +7m 07.0s
WRC3 standings after Stage 11:
1. Sebastien Chardonnet
Citroen DS3 R3T 4h 10m 05.2s
SS4. Thierry Neuville
Qatar WRT Ford Fiesta RS WRC Went off
SS9. Renaud Poutot
Citroen DS3 R3T Mechanical
SS10. Julien Marin
Ford Fiesta RS WRC Accident
all times unofficial