This is an uphill challenge all the way, starting from just outside the village of Labatie D’Andaure at 500 metres above sea level and finishing at Lalouvesc at an altitude of 1086 metres. The opening five kilometres are on a wide, fast and flowing road, which climbs gently up the side of a valley. From there, until the halfway point, the road narrows and becomes more twisty and technical. After that it’s a much steeper climb on a twisty road that snakes its way through woodland to Lalouvesc.
How the action unfolded:
Having started Rallye Monte-Carlo with a fastest time on Wednesday’s opening stage, Sebastien Ogier did the same this morning, taking the second stage victory for the new Polo R on the 19km snow-covered SS5.
Ford Fiesta RS driver Evgeny Novikov was second fastest, 2.9sec slower than Ogier, with rally leader Sebastien Loeb 5.4sec off Ogier’s pace in his Citroen DS3.
Weather conditions in the Valence service park were clear and crisp with a temperature of -3 degrees Celsius as teams carried out the pre-stage 20-minute service. Sixty-four kilometres away at the start of SS5 however the temperature had plunged to -10 degrees.
In contrast to the mixed dry and ice-covered stages of day one, SS5 was more consistent, with seventy percent of the stage covered in packed snow. The studded winter tyre was the preferred choice, with many drivers electing to ration their supply of 20 by reusing some of the ones they had used on day one.
“That’s a great start,” said Ogier. “Very good conditions. Very slippy but fun to drive.”
Novikov, whose car was shod with a full set of brand new studded tyres, felt a more aggressive driving style had paid off. “I was a bit too careful yesterday so today I decided to push a bit harder on the snow where I feel comfortable - I’m happy with this time,” he said.
With a rally lead of 1m14.9s, Sebastien Loeb, was happy with his driving but concerned about his start position of first on the road. “These are proper Monte-Carlo conditions,” he said. “The end was full of snow, it was bright and sunny so really nice to drive. I’m not sure its good to be first of the road in the morning but we’ll see.”
Loeb’s team-mate Dani Sordo was fourth fastest, with Mads Ostberg rounding off the top five times.
Finns Mikko Hirvonen (Citroen) and Jari-Matti Latvala (Volkswagen) were eighth and ninth fastest respectively, and both were unhappy with their driving. “I don’t know what the problem is but I just don’t have the speed here,” said Hirvonen. “It must be me because the car is fine.”
Latvala, who clipped a roadside pole on the stage, said: “I’m struggling on the snow and can’t get the feeling. I’m not going very well and that’s not good.”