Yurii Protasov kicked off his latest WRC2 campaign in style by building a handsome 36-second category lead at the end of day one on Rallye Monte-Carlo.
The Ukranian finished third in last year’s series, but came into the tricky first round looking to stamp his authority on the series. He didn’t disappoint.
Lorenzo Bertelli and his co-driver Mittia Dotta set the early pace after the first two stages, but they unwittingly gave Protasov and his navigator, Pavlo Cherepin a chance to challenge their lead on SS3.
Bertelli explained: “We had a small spin near the beginning of the stage in the snowy conditions. Our car didn’t suffer any damage, but I drove cautiously after that because I know there is no possibility to restart if you retire this year. I want to score some good points.”
Bertelli’s minor indiscretion allowed Protasov to gratefully turn his 37-second deficit into a welcome 18-second advantage at the head of the leaderboard. His Ford Fiesta R5 was the car to beat for the rest of the day.
Ireland’s Robert Barrable slotted into third place at the end of the SS3, but his challenge would eventually falter as a hydraulic fluid leak from his Fiesta’s gearbox hampered his car’s performance and his progress. He eventually finished the leg in fourth place.
Germany’s Armin Kremer also made his way past the cautious Bertelli on the wet fourth stage and he maintained his consistent pace to finish the day in second place. His and co-driver Klaus Wicha’s Ford Fiesta R5 ended the day 36.1 seconds behind Protasov.