Le Mans 24 Hours racer Stephane Sarrazin, another driver to drop time in the snow of Thursday, scored four stage wins to complete the final test in third for Peugeot France after his mechanics changed a faulty gearbox in 15 minutes when it got stuck in fourth gear a handful of kilometres into stage 11. The delay dropped him to fifth with two stages remaining before his late charge netted what appeared to be the final podium spot.
But because Sarrazin is unlikely to contest any more IRC events this season in order to concentrate on his other motorsport commitments, he 'elected' - or rather Peugeot instructed him - to take a time penalty before the final control to promote Guy Wilks to third and help the Peugeot UK drivers title bid.
Wilks, who is embarking on a full IRC campaign for Peugeot UK in 2011, drove without error in his 207. He lost ground on Friday morning when an intercom fault made it difficult for the Briton to hear co-driver Phil Pugh's pacenotes. He also reported a few concerns with his rear suspension settings, which he said affected the handling of his car, while his decision to use soft compound tyres for the final brace of stages failed to deliver the pace he craved.
“It was hard work on that last stage because we had a soft tyre that wasn't right for the conditions,” Wilks said. “But we pushed like hell and made no big mistakes. It's a good result first time in the car.”
Francois Delecour belied his 48 years and lack of recent international experience, to start day three in second overall in his privateer 207. The 1994 Monte-Carlo winner was languishing in eighth when he made an inspired tyre choice for stage seven by selecting studded tyres. He vaulted up the leaderboard and was quickest of all on stage eight. However, Delecour's fears that he wouldn't be able to hold on for a podium in his older-specification car were realised when he began to slip back, his efforts not helped by an engine power glitch on the final night.
Former world champion Petter Solberg
had moved into second place on his IRC debut heading to the snow-hit loop of stages on Thursday. But his decision to use intermediate tyres backfired spectacularly and he slipped to a distant seventh before alternator failure stopped his Peugeot 13 kilometres from the finish in Monaco.
Nicolas Vouilloz, competing on his first rally for 12 months, fought back from having to change a punctured front-right tyre on stage one to land seventh overall in a Skoda France-backed Fabia. Vouilloz, the IRC champion in 2007, gave a glimpse of what might have been with the quickest run through the first Col de Turini stage.
Toni Gardemeister also lost ground with a puncture on day one but recovered to take tenth for Astra Racing after overcoming a sticking throttle. Giandomenico Basso, a four-time IRC event winner, overtook the Finn on the final evening on his first appearance in a 207 by winning stage 11.
Ex-Formula One driver Alex Caffi impressed on his Monte-Carlo debut to finish 11th with M-Sport Ford Fiesta driver Julien Maurin 12th. IRC Production Cup winner Florian Gonon took 13th in his Subaru Impreza WRX with Pierre Campana making up a deficit of nearly two minutes to win the IRC 2WD Cup after he was delayed by a puncture on Thursday morning. Mark Wallenwein achieved his aim of finishing his first Rallye Monte Carlo, taking 21st for Skoda Auto Deutschland.
Several drivers failed to make it beyond day one including Proton Motorsports drivers P-G Andersson and Chris Atkinson. Andersson crashed on stage two while an electrical failure curtailed Atkinson's bid 700 metres from the start of the opening test.