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Loeb closing on Monte Carlo success

18 January 2013

Citroen's Sebastien Loeb has concluded day three of Rallye Monte Carlo by taking another stage win and extending his lead to 1min 47.4secs.

Loeb began Friday's action with a commanding advantage, but despite that he was quickest through the first test, SS11, and then after the 'mid-day' service, continued to push. Indeed while he settled for fifth in SS12, he was back on it in SS13 in his DS3 WRC car, 8.7 seconds faster than anyone else, as he powered to his second stage win of the day – and his seventh of the event. Now only Saturday's action stands between him and his 77th career WRC victory, as the rally moves from Valence to Monte Carlo.

"I enjoyed it less this afternoon than this morning," Loeb noted. "On the first stage [SS12], the snow had melted in places so we didn't have the same grip on both sides of the car! The Sisteron stage [SS13] was totally dry and I would have preferred to have been on four slicks to push really hard. But overall, we made the right choice. So, now we're in Monaco, there's only one day left to go, but it won't be any easier than the first three. If it rains or snows on the Col du Turini, then there'll undoubtedly be some surprises!”

Behind, Sebastien Ogier is on course for second on Volkswagen's very first outing in the sport with the Polo R WRC. Ogier set the second best time in SS11, before going fourth in SS12 and third in SS13.

"The conditions on the special stages at the Rally Monte Carlo were once again even more demanding today than on the previous days," Ogier said. "Today was the first time I have ever driven the opening stage of the day. On the second stage you constantly had to deal with changing surfaces. And the fast downhill sections on 'Sisteron' were also tricky. I didn't take any risks at all, but unfortunately lost a bit of time in a hairpin. Tyre selection was not particularly easy today."

Evgeny Novikov meanwhile is now up to third, having moved ahead of Dani Sordo in SS12, when the Spaniard had another spin. Novikov was second quickest in St Nazaire le Desert, just 2.1 seconds off his Qatar M-Sport WRT team-mate, Mads Ostberg, who set the pace. That left Sordo 8.6 seconds back on the overall leaderboard, until the Spaniard made up time in SS13 and closed to within 1.7 seconds.

"Today has been a good day and of course I am very happy with the position at the moment. Tomorrow we have another five stages so we will have to see what the weather will be, but for the moment we are happy," Novikov stated. "I think it is better for me if it is fully dry or full snow. We still have some difficulties in the mixed conditions, but it is not so bad. We are gaining a lot of experience and that is the most important thing."

"I made another mistake on SS12 and that was enough for Evgeny to get past," Sordo added. "The gap between us is tiny however so I'm going to fight hard to get past him again tomorrow."

Further back, Jari-Matti Latvala was another on the move, and with Mikko Hirvonen struggling in the final test of the day, the two former Ford men swapped places. Latvala now holds P5, 14.2 seconds ahead.

"The change to the set-up of the car paid off for me today," Latvala commented. "Now I have finally found the trust I need to have in the car and am getting good feedback from my Polo R WRC, which had been missing previously. As I have never really done particularly well at the 'Monte' in the past, my goal was, and remains, to reach the end of the rally safely. Only that way can we gain more experience, score points, and achieve a positive result at this rally. It would not be in our interest to lose patience. I am happy with the way the day panned out for us."

"The first two stages didn't go too badly, but Sisteron was an ordeal," Hirvonen admitted. "I had no pace and no confidence with the mix of tyres. I must at least try to get past Jari-Matti again tomorrow."

Of the rest, Juho Hanninen, Mads Ostberg and Bryan Bouffier lie seventh, eighth and ninth, with Martin Prokop set to pick up the final drivers' point in tenth.

"We made some more changes to the car in service and that worked a lot better for me this afternoon. We had a stage win [SS12] which was really good – it felt like everything just came together for us on that stage. To be honest I think we just calmed down and started again – that's where the confidence has come from," Ostberg explained.

"We had a lot of discussions with our engineer last night so we knew what to do and understood what was necessary to go faster. Instantly it worked, and that was a good thing for sure. I think we had a really good run on the last stage as well but we were on the wrong tyres. I have certainly learnt a lot more about driving on tarmac with snow tyres and I think we are progressing well in all areas. Hopefully we can continue to improve tomorrow."

In WRC2, Sepp Weigand remains out front and in P11 overall, with WRC3 class leader, Sebastien Chardonnet 17th. Chardonnet is the only remaining runner in WRC3, after his only rival retired on Thursday.

Rallye Monte Carlo now concludes on Saturday with five stages on the bill based near Monaco. The total day four competitive distance is 108.52km.

SS14, Moulinet-La Bollene Vesubie 1, kicks off the final leg, starting at 15.08 hours local time [14.08 hours UK time].



Rallye Monte Carlo: Overall standings after Stage 13 (Top 10):

1. Sebastien Loeb Citroen Total Abu Dhabi WRT DS3 WRC 4h 16m 41.9s M
2. Sebastien Ogier Volkswagen Motorsport Polo R WRC +1m 47.4s M
3. Evgeny Novikov Qatar M-Sport WRT Ford Fiesta RS WRC +3m 19.9s M
4. Dani Sordo Abu Dhabi Citroen Total WRT DS3 WRC +3m 21.6s T
5. Jari-Matti Latvala Volkswagen Motorsport Polo R WRC +4m 04.9s M
6. Mikko Hirvonen Citroen Total Abu Dhabi WRT DS3 WRC +4m 19.1s M
7. Juho Hanninen Qatar WRT Ford Fiesta RS WRC +5m 15.5s T
8. Mads Ostberg Qatar M-Sport WRT Ford Fiesta RS WRC +6m 18.2s M
9. Bryan Bouffier Citroen DS3 WRC +8m 20.7s
10. Martin Prokop Czech National Team Ford Fiesta RS WRC +18m 48.8s

Others

11. Sepp Weigand Skoda Fabia S2000 +24m 39.2s WRC2
12. Olivier Burri Peugeot 207 S2000 +28m 13.4s P
13. Michal Kosciousko Lotos Team WRC MINI John Cooper Works WRC +29m 22.4s T
14. Armin Kremer Subaru Impreza +29m 27.5 WRC2
17. Sebastien Chardonnet Citroen DS3 R3T +37m 55.5s WRC3


WRC2 standings after Stage 13 (Top 3):

1. Sepp Weigand Skoda Fabia S2000 4h 41m 21.1s WRC2
2. Armin Kremer Subaru Impreza +4m 48.3s WRC2
3. Yuriy Protasov Subaru Impreza +7m 34.4s WRC2


WRC3 standings after Stage 13:

1. Sebastien Chardonnet Citroen DS3 R3T 4h 54m 37.4s WRC3


Notable retirements:

SS4. Thierry Neuville Qatar WRT Ford Fiesta RS WRC Went off T
SS9. Renaud Poutot Citroen DS3 R3T Mechanical WRC3
SS10. Julien Marin Ford Fiesta RS WRC Accident


all times unofficial


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