WRC Rallye Monte Carlo: Loeb heralds return by topping shakedown

The returning Sebastien Loeb sensationally sets the pace during shakedown for the 2015 World Rally Championship opener in Monte Carlo.
Sebastien Loeb didn't take long to make his presence felt in the World Rally Championship once again as he topped shakedown ahead of the 2015 opener, the Monte Carlo Rally.

The nine-time champion will make his first WRC appearance for 15 months during a one-off outing with Citroen in Monte Carlo as he looks to build on an unprecedented seven wins on the event.

Quickly getting reacquainted with the Citroen DS3 around the 3.52km Chateauvieux stage, Loeb was 0.4secs quicker than team-mate Kris Meeke, while defending champion and last year's Monte Carlo winner Sebastien Ogier was third, 1.1secs behind his fellow Frenchman.

“I got the feeling back,” said Loeb. “It's a little bit different, as I haven't driven on roads like these for a long time. But I'm really happy to be here and to see everyone from the rallying world again.

"Monte-Carlo is a home event for Daniel [Elena – my co-driver] and the stages are in France. We're here to enjoy ourselves. It's difficult to tell what will happen once the rally gets underway; it'll all depend on the conditions!”

“The shakedown went well for Julien [Ingrassia – my co-driver] and me,” Ogier added. “The new Polo R WRC not only looks good, it also feels great on the road. But one thing's for sure: the conditions at this 'Monte' won't be easy. With temperatures around freezing it will be difficult to predict where there will be ice and snow, and where the asphalt will still be clear. The ice spies will play an important role once again.

“There are also lots of new special stages that I'm not familiar with at this year's Rally Monte Carlo. The fact that Sebastien Loeb is returning for this rally naturally makes it even more exciting for the many fans – but no doubt there are plenty of other drivers who want to fight for the win in these unpredictable conditions.”

Behind, Andrea Mikkelsen and Robert Kubica rounded out the top five, the latter preparing to drive a Pirelli-shod Ford Fiesta this weekend, while Elfyn Evans, Mads Ostberg, Sebastien Chardonnet, Theirry Neuville and Dani Sordo completed the top ten.

“Rally Monte Carlo is one of the most difficult rallies, and definitely the perfect opener for the WRC season,” Mikkelsen noted. “Unfortunately I don't have the best track record here. In 2011 I retired after only a few metres on the first special stage, and last year I finished seventh. But I feel ready for this year.

“The shakedown was good for putting a few kilometres on the clock and testing a few tyre combinations. But it wasn't really that representative of the 'Monte'.

“With all the mud it was more like the Rally Great Britain. However, it will also be difficult to predict the conditions accurately in the coming days, since they change very quickly. For example, during the 'recce', the 51-kilometre stage was covered in snow on the first pass, but was bare asphalt on the second pass. So it will be interesting.”

2015 Rallye Monte Carlo - Shakedown results (Top 18):

1. Sebastien Loeb Citroen Total Abu Dhabi WRT DS3 WRC 2m 21.0s M
2. Kris Meeke Citroen Total Abu Dhabi WRT DS3 WRC 2m 21.4s M
3. Sebastien Ogier Volkswagen Motorsport Polo R WRC 2m 22.1s M
4. Andreas Mikkelsen Volkswagen Motorsport II Polo R WRC 2m 22.2s M
5. Robert Kubica RK WRT Ford Fiesta RS WRC 2m 22.3s M
6. Elfyn Evans M-Sport WRT Ford Fiesta RS WRC 2m 22.4s M
7. Mads Ostberg Citroen Total Abu Dhabi WRT DS3 WRC 2m 22.8s M
8. Sebastien Chardonnet Citroen DS3 WRC 2m 22.8s M
9. Thierry Neuville Hyundai Motorsport i20 WRC 2m 24.9s M
=. Dani Sordo Hyundai Motorsport i20 WRC 2m 24.9s M

11. Jari-Matti Latvala Volkswagen Motorsport Polo R WRC 2m 25.2s M
12. Ott Tanak M-Sport WRT Ford Fiesta RS WRC 2m 26.2s M
13. Yuriy Protasov D-Max Racing Citroen DS3 WRC 2m 28.1
14. Henning Solberg M-Sport WRT Ford Fiesta RS WRC 2m 29.2s
15. Bryan Bouffier M-Sport WRT Ford Fiesta RS WRC 2m 30.1s
16. Stephane Lefebvre PH Sport Citroen DS3 R5 2m 35.7s
17. Lorenzo Bertelli FWRT SRL Ford Fiesta RS WRC 2m 36.0s M
18. Martin Prokop Jipocar Czech National Team Ford Fiesta RS WRC 2m 37.0s M

Related Pictures

Click on relevant pic to enlarge
Sebastien Loeb (FRA) Daniel Elena (FRA), Citroen DS3 WRC, Citroen Total Abu Dhabi WRT
Sebastien Loeb (FRA) Daniel Elena (FRA), Citroen DS3 WRC, Citroen Total Abu Dhabi WRT
Sebastien Loeb (FRA) Daniel Elena (FRA), Citroen DS3 WRC, Citroen Total Abu Dhabi WRT

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