WRC 2015: Rallye Monte-Carlo – Day 2 Report – VW in control


What a difference a day makes… yesterday following two night stages Sébastien Loeb was the hero, but today was a reminder of how quickly things could change as he finished the day 10 minutes down on new leader Sébastien Ogier.

Long before the incident that saw Loeb damage the suspension on his Citroen DS3, Ogier was on pace and closing down the gap from the opening stages.

For SS3 the competitors faced a mix of snow, ice and thick fog which made tyre choice hard, Robert Kubica was left to reflect on this as he finished the stage admitting that this his crew had advised there was only 4km of ice, but in reality there was 10km.

Ogier was the next big name through and finished the stage with a time good enough to top the standing, this time would only be eclipsed by Loeb. Speaking after the stage the reigning champion said he expected to lose time on the stage as the drivers further down the running would be able to benefit from a clearer road.

Photo: Hyundai Motorsport
Photo: Hyundai Motorsport

Team-mate Jari-Matti Latvala took a cautious approach to the stage and as a result finished 27.7 seconds slower that his VW counterpart. “No reason to take any kind of risk. There are good stages to come.” he said at the end of the stage.

Andreas Mikkelsen who is taking part in this rally using the 2014 spec VW Polo R had a solid run despite the challenge of the fog and ice and sat in second place for some time until the M-Sport Fiesta RS WRC of Elfyn Evans knocked him down to third (and then to fourth when Loeb topped the times).

Moving on to the 25.81km SS4 it was Kubica who switched on the pace to top the time sheet, finishing ahead of Ogier by 3 seconds, an impressive feat by the Polish driver who is running his own WRC team this year with the Ford Fiesta RS WRC.

The conditions were challenging once again but the bulk of the front runners made it through without little problem. Yurii Protasov lost time when he was forced to stop to change a punctured tyre on his Citroen DS3.

“I hardly recognise the road after the recce, the notes from the gravel crew are hard to use”Thierry Neuville on the challenging conditions.

Kubica would once again stun his rivals on SS5 as he took the stage win, despite struggling with grip on the ice. For Ogier it was time to start playing things tactfully; Finishing the stage second fastest he crossed the line with a bumper full of snow, asked if he had been off he responded: “No, we tried to make some cuts and put some snow on the road for the guys behind. We have a disadvantage with this road position, so now we try to turn this to our advantage.”

Unfortunately for Latvala he was next on the stage and suffered a little as a result of his team-mates tactics, despite the snow he would record a time good enough for third place.

“You have to be happy for every stage you get through here! Try to go straight and you end up going sideways!”Mads Ostberg

Evans suffered a brief moment of concern near the start of the stage when he clipped a bank but thankfully was able to continue without much harm done.

Photo: Citroen Racing
Photo: Citroen Racing

The conditions were starting to get the better of the nine-time champion Loeb as he lost 22 seconds to Ogier on SS5, bringing the overall gap down to just 3 seconds. “Very, very muddy and I have to take big, big risks to drive like this.” he said.

With the morning complete the crews took a short break before heading out to take on the three stages once again for the afternoon.

Loeb hit back for SS6 as he blitzed the timesheets despite not using studded tyres, Latvala chose a mixture of winter/studded tyres and out-performed team-mate Ogier who finished the stage and refused to speak to the awaiting media.

Entering SS7 Loeb held a 6.6 second advantage over rival Ogier but a small spin would cost him time, finishing the stage in fifth place, 15.9 seconds down to stage winner Kubica. Ogier finished second fastest while Kris Meeke lead home the Citroen team to third on the stage.

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SS8 was the part of the rally where things were about to change for the Citroen team, first Meeke would suffer as his Citroen run wide and hit an unseen rock in the snow. The onboard video of the incident showed the car spinning around and amidst swearing co-driver Paul Nagle can be heard saying “That’s us out”.

A similar fate was due for Loeb as his Citroen clipped a rock on a bank, ripping the rear left wheel away from the suspension. Loeb would limp home but both he and team-mate Meeke would drop 10 minutes.

While things were falling apart for Loeb and Meeke it was also going wrong for Kubica, a double crash would see extensive damage caused to the front left-hand corner of his Fiesta RS WRC plus a puncture. “We had a massive moment at high speed. We went off, and thanks to the spectators we got back, then later at a junction we went off again, slid on the snow, hit a tree and punctured the tyre. We drove 10km like that.”

With things falling apart for the other competitors, Ogier was in control and finished the day with a lead of 1:45.4 over team-mate Latvala. Mikkelsen rounded out a good day for Volkswagen Motorsport as he brought home his Polo R WRC in third place overall, 49.4 seconds behind Latvala.

Day 2 - Overall

1 Sébastien Ogier Volkswagen Motorsport Volkswagen Polo R 1:52:07.4
2 Jari-Matti Latvala Volkswagen Motorsport Volkswagen Polo R 1:53:52.8 +1:45.4
3 Andreas Mikkelsen Volkswagen Motorsport Volkswagen Polo R 1:54:42.2 +49.4
4 Ott Tänak M-Sport World Rally Team Ford Fiesta RS WRC 1:54:51.8 +9.6
5 Mads Ostberg Citroen Total Abu Dhabi WRT Citroen DS3 1:55:10.3 +18.5
6 Elfyn Evans M-Sport World Rally Team Ford Fiesta RS WRC 1:55:22.6 +12.3
7 Theirry Neuville Hyundai Motorsport Hyundai i20 1:55:37.3 +14.7
8 Dani Sordo Hyundai Motorsport Hyundai i20 1:56:10.4 +33.1
9 Martin Prokop Jipocar Czech National Team Ford Fiesta RS WRC 1:57:07.0 +56.6
10 Henning Solberg Ford Fiesta RS WRC 1:58:46.3 +1:39.3

*Top 10 times

SS3

1 Sébastien Loeb Citroen Total Abu Dhabi WRT Citroen DS3 10:23.9
2 Sébastien Ogier Volkswagen Motorsport Volkswagen Polo R 10:38.9 +15.0
3 Elfyn Evans M-Sport World Rally Team Ford Fiesta RS WRC 10:46.6 +7.7

*Top 3 stage times

SS4

1 Robert Kubica RK WRC Ford Fiesta RS WRC 15:27.0
2 Sébastien Ogier Volkswagen Motorsport Volkswagen Polo R 15:30.0 +3.0
3 Jari-Matti Latvala Volkswagen Motorsport Volkswagen Polo R 15:32.3 +2.3

*Top 3 stage times

SS5

1 Robert Kubica RK WRC Ford Fiesta RS WRC 15:13.2
2 Sébastien Ogier Volkswagen Motorsport Volkswagen Polo R 15:14.0 +0.8
3 Jari-Matti Latvala Volkswagen Motorsport Volkswagen Polo R 15:28.9 +14.9

*Top 3 stage times

SS6

1 Sébastien Loeb Citroen Total Abu Dhabi WRT Citroen DS3 10:26.1
2 Jari-Matti Latvala Volkswagen Motorsport Volkswagen Polo R 10:29.6 +3.5
3 Sébastien Ogier Volkswagen Motorsport Volkswagen Polo R 10:29.7 +0.1

*Top 3 stage times

SS7

1 Robert Kubica RK WRC Ford Fiesta RS WRC 14:36.1
2 Sébastien Ogier Volkswagen Motorsport Volkswagen Polo R 14:37.4 +1.3
3 Kris Meeke Citroen Total Abu Dhabi WRT Citroen DS3 14:49.5 12.1

*Top 3 stage times

SS8

1 Sébastien Ogier Volkswagen Motorsport Volkswagen Polo R 15:15.9
2 Sébastien Chardonnet Citroen DS3 15:30.6 +14.7
3 Mads Ostberg Citroen Total Abu Dhabi WRT Citroen DS3 15:35.0 +4.4

*Top 3 stage times