Friday | 23 Jan 2015

Loeb opens with a stunner

Sébastien Loeb set a stunning fastest time through Friday’s opening special stage of Rallye Monte-Carlo’s second leg to more than double his overnight advantage.

stage Info: SS3

La Salle en Beaumont – Corps 1, 15.84km
After a fast and flowing opening 3km, the road winds up the Col de l’Holme with a rock face on one side of the road and huge drops on the other. Snow and ice can be expected here. It ends with an exposed descent to Corps. The stage has never been used in this format.

If drivers were hoping daylight would make life easier following last night’s two tests in darkness, then that theory was quickly dispelled. Several kilometres of ice and fog ensured a tricky start and studded tyres were the choice for all the top drivers.

Not that the conditions hampered Loeb. He blasted through the stage in his DS 3 a remarkable 15.0sec faster than fellow Frenchman Sébastien Ogier to extend his lead to 28.3sec.

“There was a lot of fog and in the fast sections you have to trust your notes 100 per cent. When you’re driving new stages, that’s not easy. There was mud in places but there were no mistakes. The time wasn’t too bad,” said Loeb, in what may turn out to be the season’s biggest understatement.

Ogier, 11 cars ahead of Loeb in the start order, sensed he would drop time in his Volkswagen Polo R. “It was OK, but I expect to lose time in this one. It will be quicker for the guys behind,” he said.

Elfyn Evans was third to climb to fourth overall, just a tenth of a second behind M-Sport team-mate Ott Tänak, who was sixth. “It didn’t feel too wild. We tried to be clean and tidy and the feeling was OK,” said the Welshman.

Jar-Matti Latvala slipped from an overnight third to fifth in his Polo R but the Finn was unconcerned. “I took it very steady. It’s a long rally and this was a demanding stage. There was no reason to take any kind of risk. I would rather lose on this stage because there are other nicer stages to come,” he said.

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