SS1: First blood to Ogier
Reigning champion takes early lead at Rallye Monte-Carlo
Gilbert, the reigning WRC Junior and WRC 3 champion, was driving his DS3 R5 for the first time in the WRC’s premier support category and he enjoyed a comfortable passage through Thursday night’s opening brace of stages.
He was just under 10s faster than asphalt expert Maurin after the opening two tests, while Germany’s Armin Kremer was a further 13.5s behind in his Skoda Fabia R5.
All eyes were on Britain’s Elfyn Evans during the first two tests as the M-Sport driver adjusted to life back in R5 machinery after losing his World Rally Car seat with Malcolm Wilson’s team at the turn of the year.
Evans suffered a nightmare first stage after he dropped 55s with a front-left puncture. “I felt it go down really fast, but I there were no hairpins or cuts on the stage before it happened,” he explained. “It was a strange one.”
But Evans put his disappointment to good use on the next test and promptly rose from eighth to fourth in the overnight classification with an astonishing stage time that was 20.4s faster than anyone else could manage. Evans was back in the game.
Quentin Giordano was happy to arrive at the end of the leg in fifth place. The Frenchman was finding the icy conditions a challenge in his DS3 R5, but he enjoyed a 3.2s lead over Jose Suarez, the winner of Peugeot’s Volant series in 2015 and now a member of the French manufacturers’ Peugeot Rally Academy in 2016.