Double world rally champion, Marcus Gronholm has given the new Peugeot 307 WRC the best possible start to its time in the WRC, by winning the first stage of the Rallye Monte Carlo, following the cancellation of SS1.

SS1 was cancelled by organisers due to safety concerns, too many spectators meaning it was impossible to run at race speeds, the action thus began with SS2 [20.18km].

As usual, the weather played a significant part on the first competitive test of the opening WRC event, Piegut - Urtis. Last used in 2000, the Alpine test which runs more than 1,100 metres above sea level, presented crews with a combination of freezing conditions, snow, ice and asphalt.

Following reports of falling snow, Subaru's Petter Solberg and Citroen's Carlos Sainz opted to run on a narrow studded snow tyre, while the remainder of the field chose a wider tyre option. Despite skidding off the road 2km in and suffering a stall on a hairpin, Solberg was fifth fastest, while Sainz was seventh.

"That was very difficult, Carlos and I went out on snow tyres, but there was a lot of ice on the roads," noted Solberg. "About 2km from the start, we went off the road on a very icy section and hit a fence post. Then, halfway in on the approach to a hairpin, the engine stalled under braking and we lost about 15 seconds before we could get it started again - so, it was quite a difficult and an eventful stage for us. It was not the best possible start, but no big problems."

Gronholm meanwhile was quickest to give the new 307 WRC its first stage win in its first attempt, with Ford's Markko Martin second and Citroen's Sebastien Loeb third.

Making his competitive debut for the 555 Subaru team, 23-year-old Mikko Hirvonen put in a steady performance at the wheel of his Impreza to finish twelfth fastest.

"It was pretty much what I expected," he said, "It's very slippery, but okay. It's a shame, but we made our tyre choice was for the two stages and our decision wasn't the best for the one snowy stage. But, I'm concentrating on keeping it steady and that's how I'm going to carry on."

After the finish, crews returned to the Tallard a?rodrome for the first scheduled service of the event. The action will resume at 1009 hours local time with SS3.



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