Thursday | 28 Jan 2016

Monte driver report: part 2

In the second part of our driver report, we analyse how the top drivers fared on the season opening Rallye Monte-Carlo.

Dani Sordo (Hyundai i20)
Result: 6th
Monte-Carlo was a roller coaster event for Sordo, one of two drivers to be entrusted with Hyundai's all-new i20. Pre-event indications were positive when he went third-quickest at shakedown, but once the rally proper began Sordo was deeply uncomfortable in a car he felt was moving about more than it should. Confidence gone, he and the team experimented with different set-ups to try and improve the balance. It took until Stage 12 on Saturday afternoon before they got it right, and he delivered a third-quickest time. From then he was on a roll. He was second-fastest on SS13 - the first stage he said he enjoyed - and did the same on SS14 and the Power Stage, which netted him two bonus points.

Hayden Paddon (Hyundai i20)
Result: 25th
This was Paddon's first attempt at Rallye Monte-Carlo and his main objective was to build experience for future years. So it was a surprise to see him fourth quickest, and fifth overall, after the second stage. However his inexperience showed on Friday's opener when he became the first victim of the sheet ice corner that would later catch out Robert Kubica, Eric Camilli and Elfyn Evans. Out with broken suspension, he restarted on Saturday and treated the rest of the event as a high-speed recce.

Jari-Matti Latvala (Volkswagen Polo R)
Result: Retired
Latvala planned to get his championship bid off to a solid start with a top-five on the Monte - so to end up with a no-score while his chief rival Sébastien Ogier took a maximum 28 points is about as bad as it gets. He showed bags of maturity early on, and did well not to get drawn into a fight as Ogier and Kris Meeke streaked ahead. He was lucky to escape an off on SS2 that damaged his car and then settled in third behind the battling duo ahead. But it was game over after SS11 when his Polo R slid into a ditch and emerged with broken suspension.

Eric Camilli (Ford Fiesta RS)
Result: Retired
Short and sweet is how M-Sport boss Malcolm Wilson summed up Camilli's championship debut in a World Rally Car, and we'd agree with that. The young Frenchman was hampered by a downshifting problem on SS2, but having got to grips with his new Fiesta RS and the tricky conditions he surprised with a fifth-fastest time on SS4. Unfortunately that was as good as it got for Camilli, who slithered off in stage five at Paddon corner and hit a tree at about 20kph. Roll cage damage meant his rally was over. "A schoolboy error," said Wilson. "He won't make that mistake again."

Stéphane Lefebvre (DS 3)
Result: 5th
Fifth on his Monte debut in a World Rally Car was an impressive result for Lefebvre, who took victory in the WRC 2 class in 2015. Alongside new co-driver Gabin Moreau, Lefebvre wisely took time to build his speed, and showed his best form on the final day with third-fastest on the penultimate stage from La Bollene Vesubie. Such was his confidence that he tried his luck on the Power Stage too - and ended just 23/1000ths behind Andreas Mikkelsen's third place. A positive performance that will no doubt have gone down well with his potential employers Citroën Racing.

Robert Kubica (Ford Fiesta RS)
Result: Retired
Eighth fastest on both of Thursday's night stages, Kubica's promising start ended six kilometres into the third stage of the event on Friday morning. And as if sliding off an icy road and hitting a tree wasn't bad enough, his car was then punted into a ditch by Elfyn Evans' Fiesta - which went wide at the same point. We're not sure when we'll see Kubica on a WRC rally next, but surely he won't want to finish things like this...

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