Sébastien Loeb returned to the FIA World Rally Championship in the best possible style when he was fastest in this evening’s shakedown at Rallye Monte-Carlo.
Loeb is the ‘Monte master’ with seven wins to his name over the unpredictable Alpine roads. Despite almost 15 months away from the WRC, the 40-year-old Frenchman was quickly back in the groove through the 3.52km Chateauvieux stage.
His first of five runs through the twisty, hairpin-lined test in a Citroen DS 3 was 0.4sec faster than team-mate Kris Meeke, and 1.1sec quicker than arch-rival Sébastien Ogier.
“It’s not a bad way to come back to WRC!” he said. “I immediately felt comfortable in the car but this won’t be an easy rally. The weather forecast looks tricky and so my low position in the road order could be an advantage or a disadvantage,” said Loeb.
Meeke also completed five passes through the test while Ogier restricted himself to the minimum three.
Fourth was Andreas Mikkelsen, the Norwegian just a tenth of a second behind Volkswagen team-mate Ogier’s Polo R. The Ford Fiesta RS cars of Robert Kubica and Elfyn Evans completed the top six.
The top 10 times were:
|1.||Sébastien Loeb||2min 21.0sec|
|2.||Kris Meeke||+ 0.4sec|
|3.||Sébastien Ogier||+ 1.1sec|
|4.||Andreas Mikkelsen||+ 1.2sec|
|5.||Robert Kubica||+ 1.3sec|
|6.||Elfyn Evans||+ 1.4sec|
|7.||Mads Østberg||+ 1.8sec|
|8.||Sebastien Chardonnet||+ 3.7sec|
|9=||Thierry Neuville||+ 3.9sec|
|9=||Dani Sordo||+ 3.9sec|