4 Stages, 94.36 km
Bryan Bouffier has leapt from seventh place to leading the 2011 Rally Monte Carlo on Day 2, after heavy snow hit the two afternoon stages. Juho Hanninen, who had extended his lead from the opening day to 51.5 seconds by midday service, was amongst those who did not predict the slippery conditions and had to take on the stages on unsuitable tyres.
SS5: St Jean en Royans-Font d'Urle (23.05 km)
Skoda Motorsport driver Hanninen entered the day with a 44.5 second lead over fellow Skoda driver Freddy Loix.
Hanninen won the opening stage of the day by two tenths of a second from Petter Solberg, with Loix losing 7.3 seconds and finishing the stage seventh. This dropped Loix into the clutches of Solberg in the overall standings, with just 3.7 seconds now separating the pair.
Jan Kopecky finished the stage third fastest to jump ahead of Guy Wilks into fifth overall, with a fourth fastest time allowing Bouffier to also close up on Wilks in their three-way battle.
SS6: Vassieux-Col de Gaudissart (24.13 km)
Loix lost second place to Solberg on Stage 6, after briefly going off the road. “I had a small off, not in a dangerous place, but I lost at least five to six seconds,” said the Belgian.
Bouffier won the stage to close to within two tenths of a second of Wilks' sixth place overall, and just 0.6 seconds behind fifth-placed Kopecky. Hanninen finished third fastest, four seconds behind Solberg to hold a 51.5 second lead over the Norwegian at midday service.
SS7: St Jean en Royans-Font d'Urle (23.05 km)
Despite the afternoon's stages just being a repeat of those run this morning, it would not turn out to be as simple as it looked on paper. With snow falling in the region the crews had to make a decision over which tyres to fit on their cars.
With teams unable to accurately predict what the exact conditions would be on the stages when the drivers tackled them, the leading pair of Hanninen and Solberg opted to take intermediate tyres. However, they did not offer sufficient grip on what turned out to be a treacherous surface. The pair both lost nearly two minutes to stage winner Bouffier, who had fitted snow tyres. Bouffier was able to take the rally lead, with Hanninen and Solberg dropping to fourth and seventh respectively.
Francois Delecour went for studded tyres on his Peugeot, even though the beginning of the stage was clear of snow. It paid off in the end for him though, finishing second fastest, 18.3 seconds down on Bouffier. This was enough to move him up from eighth, ahead of Solberg and Kopecky into sixth.
Wilks ran with winter tyres, so was able to set the third fastest time, moving up to fifth overall. Stephane Sarrazin and Loix were fourth and fifth fastest on the stage, leaving them second and third overall.
SS8: Vassieux-Col de Gaudissart (24.13 km)
The snow had fallen even heavier on Stage 8 than on the previous one. This played into Delecour's hands, using his studded tyres to win the stage by 27.1 seconds from Bouffier, moving the 1994 winner up to second behind his compatriot and fellow Frenchman at the day's end.
The other drivers were carrying two additional tyres in their cars, and were able to change these before the stage if it suited. Bouffier was able to use a combination of studded tyres and stud-free winter tyres to finish second quickest, despite spinning, giving him a 28.7 second lead over Delecour overall.
Production Cup leader Florian Gonon finished a surprise third on the stage, lifting the Swiss Subaru driver to 13th overall. Wilks was the quickest of those using just stud-free winter tyres, finishing fourth quickest and moving him up to fourth overall behind Loix and ahead of Sarrazin. The trio were able to limit the damage to their rallies by using their winter tyres, though all are between one and two minutes behind Bouffier overall.
The same could not be said for Hanninen and Solberg, who are now sixth and seventh overall. Having been able to fit two winter tyres alongside intermediates, Hanninen lost a further 2m46 on SS8 while Solberg spun twice and finished 3m13 down.
Nicolas Vouilloz was sixth fastest on the stage, moving him up to eighth overall, while Toni Gardemeister has moved up to tenth, behind Kopecky who lost a further seven minutes on SS8. Giandomenico Basso is eleventh, ahead of Alex Caffi. The former Grand Prix driver was seventh fastest of the S2000 runners on SS8.
Overall standings after eight stages:
1. Bryan Bouffier (Peugeot) 2h14m38.8s
2. Francois Delecour (Peugeot) + 28.0s
3. Freddy Loix (Skoda) + 1m05.5s
4. Guy Wilks (Peugeot) + 1m20.5s
5. Stephane Sarrazin (Peugeot) + 1m41.1s
6. Juho Hanninen (Skoda) + 2m35.7s
7. Petter Solberg (Peugeot) + 3m49.1s
8. Nicolas Vouilloz (Skoda) + 5m31.0s
9. Jan Kopecky (Skoda) + 7m51.7s
10. Toni Gardemeister (Peugeot) + 7m52.7s