Wednesday | 28 Jan 2015

Monte-Carlo driver report: Part 1

We analyse how the top drivers coped at last weekend’s Rallye Monte-Carlo in the first of a two-part summary.

Sébastien Ogier (Volkswagen Polo R)
Hugely entertaining battle for the lead during the first two legs with Sébastien Loeb. Once he had seen off his fellow countryman, Ogier delivered a masterclass in how to manage Monte from the front. Controlled his pace to ensure no risks, gauging his speed purely on instinct with no split times to rely on. Surrendered a minute to Jari-Matti Latvala in the penultimate leg while doing so, but the win was never in doubt.

Kris Meeke (DS 3)
Looked good for fourth place until a mistake in Friday’s final test ended with the Northern Irishman stranded mid-stage with broken rear suspension. Returned to claim maximum points in Sunday’s Power Stage. Indeed, three wins from the final four tests indicated the speed was there, but 10th overall was not the start to the season that he had hoped for.

Elfyn Evans (Ford Fiesta RS)
Evans promised to up his pace in his second full season and he delivered here. Well to the fore of the big battle for fourth on Friday morning, but slipped back in the afternoon after becoming frustrated with his studded tyres. Bounced back to fifth, but swiped a wall in SS11 and limped through the following Sisteron with suspension damage. He dropped two minutes and found himself back in seventh.

Thierry Neuville (Hyundai i20)
On the back foot from the start after Hyundai’s disastrous 2014 Monte left the Korean squad with little data to fall back on. Sat at the bottom end of the top 10 leaderboard for the first two legs, but the Belgian climbed the order and started the final day a handful of seconds behind fifth-placed team-mate Dani Sordo. It all came down to the final Power Stage when he edged ahead of the Spaniard by 0.8sec.

Andreas Mikkelsen (Volkswagen Polo R)
Jumped from sixth to third in Friday’s last stage and that was pretty much that. His podium never came under threat, but in such circumstances it would have been easy to take his eye off the ball and make a mistake on the hazardous roads. At times, he appeared quite perplexed by the inconsistent conditions, but netting a podium while learning so much about Monte represented a good start to the year.

Robert Kubica (Ford Fiesta RS)
First night electrical problems after a brush with a tree, followed by a Friday afternoon off and a rally-ending crash at the finish of Sunday’s Col de Turini stage when his brakes disappeared, spoiled any chance of a good result. But his pace inbetween was sensational. The Pole won three stages on Friday when the Ogier / Loeb battle was at its height, and another on Saturday. Good entertainment all round! 

Lorenzo Bertelli (Ford Fiesta RS)
There can’t be few tougher rallies on which to drive a World Rally Car for the first time than Monte-Carlo. Bertelli survived the first night in 14th and climbed to 11th on Friday, but then parked his Fiesta RS off the road for an hour in SS10. Opened the road on Sunday as a result and eventually classified 68th.

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