Ott Tänak’s hopes of securing second place at Rallye Monte-Carlo appeared to be over after engine problems delayed his Ford Fiesta in Sunday morning’s opening two speed tests.
Stage info: SS14/15
SS14: Luceram - Col St Roch 1, 5.50km
Col St Roch has been driven many times in the rally’s history, but this version is a first. It’s a short sprint that climbs all the way from the start in Luceram. It’s littered with hairpins throughout and the second part is much more abrasive than the initial section.
SS15: La Bollene Vesubie - Peira Cava 1, 21.36km
The rally’s signature stage features the climb to the 1604m summit of the Col de Turini, one of the championship's iconic locations. The opening 15km is a classic Monte climb on a medium to wide road with numerous hairpins to interrupt the flow. After the summit the road becomes faster, and probably more icy, on the treacherous descent to the finish in Peïra-Cava.
M-Sport held first and second after Saturday’s penultimate leg, with Sébastien Ogier heading Tänak by 47.1sec with just four special stages remaining in the mountains above Monaco.
However, Tänak limped through the opening test from Luceram to St Roch with his Fiesta’s engine running on just two cylinders. The Estonian worked furiously to make repairs before the following stage over the legendary Col de Turini.
He started the test five minutes late, incurring a 50sec penalty, and dropped almost 90sec as he limped through the 21.36kms. He slipped behind Jari-Matti Latvala into third and is 46.6sec ahead of Dani Sordo in fourth.
Asked how serious the problem was, Tänak said: “We will get to the end but……”
Ogier was third and fourth through the two stages and the Frenchman’s advantage over Latvala’s Toyota Yaris was 2min 27.8sec. “We’ll try to cruise to the end. No risks on the driving and I’m trying to be soft with the car,” he said.
Latvala eased through both tests in similar mode, wary of overheating his super soft Michelin tyres. “I knew that if this stage was full dry it would be hard for the tyres. I tried to be gentle on them and did everything to save them. I didn’t even use the handbrake!” he explained.
Sordo was fastest through the opener in his Hyundai i20 Coupe by 1.1sec from Latvala. Stéphane Lefebvre, who spun his Citroën C3 in that stage, was quickest in the Turini test by 1.5sec from Sordo.
SS16, the second pass through Luceram - Col St Roch has been cancelled for safety reasons due to the number of spectators. Just the final live TV Power Stage over the Turini remains before the Monaco finish.