From the start in Moulinet, SS16 climbs to the top of the Col de Turini at 1606 metres on a wide road, littered with hairpin bends. A fast and technical descent leads to the finish in the village square of La Bollene.
How the action unfolded:
A fastest time for Sebastien Loeb on SS16 means that with just two more stages of Rallye Monte-Carlo to go, the Citroen DS3 driver holds a 1m39.9s lead over Sebastien Ogier and remains on course to take his seventh Monte victory later today.
The second of Saturday’s three passes through the Turini stage presented crews with a very different challenge to the first, when the extreme slush and snow took out three top 10 drivers. In contrast, SS16 was run in darkness, in patchy rain, and even though there was still plenty of slush about, there were also two clean lines of wet asphalt for most of the route.
The most effective approach was to keep the car in the lines and avoid the slush. However, before the drive back to Monaco for service, a deflated Loeb explained that it wasn’t exactly high-adrenaline stuff. “It’s really uninteresting to drive like this, but if you go out of the lines you are off the road,” he explained.
“So you just drive slowly, which isn’t very interesting for us or the spectators, but it’s like that. I put on a small display for the spectators at the top - but only because I lost control a bit…”
Ogier also adopted a safe strategy at the wheel of his Volkswagen Polo R. The Frenchman no doubt aware of the importance of getting to the finish on the team’s debut rally – especially after Jari-Matti Latvala crashed the other Polo on SS14. ”Not easy stages today, but we are driving very safe now. Nothing more to do I think,” explained Ogier.
Citroen DS3 driver Dani Sordo headed to service in third, 2m09.1 behind Ogier, after benefiting from Evgeny Novikov’s retirement on SS14. The Spaniard was third fastest through SS16, but admitted he had backed off after he saw split times from the cars behind. “When I saw I was okay I took it a little easier,” he said. “It’s been a really tough morning so I’m pleased to be here.”
Citroen Total Abu Dhabi Dhabi team driver Mikko Hirvonen holds fourth, having gained two places with the exits of Latvala and Novikov. “Pretty much a safe strategy now. I’ve got to get the car home safely,” he acknowledged. “I had one small moment, when we slipped onto the slush, but apart from that no problems.”
Almost three minutes behind Hirvonen, Citroen pilot Bryan Bouffier is fifth, having inherited the position from Mads Ostberg who strayed off the racing line 3km from the start. “I went wide and hit something with the right-hand rear wheel,” explained the Ford Fiesta RS driver. “I broke the wheel and the suspension. The brakes aren’t working well but I think we’ll get back to service.”
The incident cost Ostberg almost six minutes, dropping him 3m50.6s behind Bouffier. Martin Prokop is seventh 11m23.6s further back, with Sepp Wiegand (Skoda Fabia S2000), Olivier Burri (Peugeot 207 S2000) and Michal Kosciuszko (MINI John Cooper Works) rounding off the top ten.
A trio of stage wins for Sepp Wiegand kept him in the lead of WRC 2 with a healthy 8m25.8s advantage over Armin Kremer.
Despite the treacherous conditions of SS14, Wiegand began the day in dominating fashion, setting the seventh fastest time overall in his Skoda Fabia S2000. He repeated the feat on SS16 – despite a spin at the top of the Col.
“All is okay so far today but the Turini was so, so difficult. It was crazy,” said the German. “On the first pass I saw a lot of cars had gone off, then we caught and passed Kosciuszko. After that we slowed down to take it a bit safer.”
Subaru Impreza pilot Armin Kremer said he was relived to be in the rally at all after the ‘crazy’ conditions of SS14. He headed to service in Monaco with a 2m55.5s cushion over fellow Subaru driver Yuriy Protasov whose vision was hampered by a misting windscreen.
Fourth placed Rashid Al Ketbi (Skoda Fabia S2000) trails Protasov, with Ricardo Trivinio (Mitsubishi Lancer EVO X) the final runner in fifth.
Sebastien Chardonnet, the sole remaining WRC 3 entrant, completed the trio of stages without incident to remain of course for a maximum 10 points today. ‘Very difficult stages, lots of slippery ice. Now we just try to drive slowly and get to the finish,” said the Citroen DS3 R3T driver.