24 Jan 08
He took it easy to begin with, but by the end of day one it looks like business as usual for defending world champion Sebastien Loeb who holds the lead of the rally by 12 seconds.
Emerging totally unscathed from a challenging couple of night stages, Loeb said he was feeling as comfortable with his pace now as he had been in 2007 - shortly before he took Monte win number four.
And while many drivers talked about the challenge of getting used to Pirelli’s new tyres, Loeb seems to have got up to speed alarmingly quickly. At the end of day service the Frenchman admitted that they were just what he had hoped for: “In the conditions they were the perfect tyres,” he said. The compound and tread were just right for those stages. If I had a choice, I would have still chosen them.”
From this evening’s evidence Loeb’s closest challenger - at least on asphalt - will be his team-mate Dani Sordo. The Spaniard has never won a WRC rally before, but even on a dirty road with a couple of headlights out his speed on the second stage suggests he might not have to wait too long.
Ford’s Mikko Hirvonen returned to service understandably disappointed at the situation. “If Sebastian carries on like this on asphalt it will get quite boring,” he said.
But it certainly isn’t all over yet. WRC drivers are fond of saying ‘there’s still a long way to go’, and on this rally they’re absolutely right. Thanks to the peculiarities of the Monte Carlo schedule, it may be the end of day one - but there are still another three remaining.