24 Jan 08
SS9/SS12: Labatie-d'Andaure - Lalouvesc.
The sun rises at about eight o'clock, so on Saturday morning the first cars will start this one in darkness. The route starts out nice and flowing, and because of the rough nature of the asphalt you can trust the grip level and find a good rhythm. For Mikko and me it's one of the most enjoyable sections of the whole rally. Then, compared to last year, we have a new 3km section - it's narrow and twisty, but nothing too special. Then we're back in the old road and it's bumpy and broken asphalt to the end. We really enjoyed this one last year, and if it goes well it can be a good confidence booster for the rest of the day.
SS10/SS13: Saint-Bonnet-le-Froid - Saint-Bonnet-le-Froid.
A traditional Monte Carlo route which starts at the cross-country ski centre in the village. This one is not one of my favourites. There are so many long straights and short corners that, for me, it's a little bit too fast. If it's completely dry it's not difficult to drive - you just go just flat out - but if it's slippery or icy it can be very tough. Of course if we have full snow then it will be a different story.
SS11/SS14: Lamastre - Gilhoc - Alboussiere.
This one is a medium altitude stage which, for 2008, has a new 10km section at the end. Up to that point, the road is quite abrasive, fast and flowing and one of the most enjoyable parts of the rally. This stage features lots of shiny 'black-top' bitumen which is extremely slippery when wet. During our pre-event test we found that the grip level of the new tyres was very unpredictable on the black-top, so we'll have to be very precise with the pace notes. Then, after the village of Gilhoc, we're onto a new fast and flowing section to the finish. The surface looks abrasive, but I think there's more black-top here than anywhere else.