Friday | 23 Jan 2015

Tyre games hold the key

It’s a gorgeous sunny Friday afternoon in the Rallye Monte-Carlo service park in Gap, but conditions in the mountains to the north were equally as treacherous as this morning as drivers tackled the stages for a second time.

Stage info: SS6

La Salle en Beaumont – Corps 2, 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.

Tyre choice was varied as drivers sought to find the best grip in conditions that ranged from ice to mud, conscious that their choice had to suffice for the following two stages also.

Rally leader Sébastien Loeb opted for Michelin’s snow tyres for his DS 3 while second-placed Sébastien Ogier chose studs all round. The result? Loeb was faster by 3.6sec to stretch his lead to 6.6sec.

“I was really surprised by the conditions,” admitted Loeb. “I didn’t expect as much snow and ice,” said the Frenchman, who told Ogier at the stage start that he thought the Volkswagen Polo R driver’s studded option was the better choice.

For his part, Ogier didn’t want to give any secrets away to his rivals and refused to discuss his tyre plans. The mind games are in full swing….

Jari-Matti Latvala split Loeb and Ogier in the stage to retain third place in his Polo R, with Robert Kubica maintaining his strong pace with fourth fastest in his Ford Fiesta RS.

The big movers were Kris Meeke and Andreas Mikkelsen. Fifth fastest for Meeke promoted the Northern Irishman ahead of Elfyn Evans and Ott Tänak, while Mikkelsen also overhauled Evans, who lost time with a spin, to go sixth. Only 12sec cover the quartet.

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