The “Monte Master” Sébastien Loeb lived up to his nickname last night as the 83rd edition of the Rallye Monte Carlo opened with two night stages. Loeb along with co-driver Daniel Elena set about chasing after another Monte Carlo victory and he certainly started well.
Crews faced difficult conditions on the 21.31km Entrevaux – Rouaine test, the opening stage of the event but the Frenchman destroyed his opposition to set a time of 15:53.5, 22 seconds faster than second placed Ott Tanak and over 30 seconds faster than double world champion Sebastian Ogier. At the end of the stage even he seemed surprised.
On the second test, between Norante and Digne-les-Bains, the conditions were different. As more mud and gravel were dragged onto the racing line by cars completing the stage ahead of him, Sébastien Loeb secured the third fastest time and went into the overnight halt leading the event by 13.3 seconds from Ogier.
“The first stage was really very icy.Without the split times, I didn’t know where I was in relation to other drivers, so I was surprised to see the gaps when we got to the finish. When you drive twenty kilometres on ice, you don’t have the impression of going fast, but we must have been quick! We really pushed on SS2 but the roads were very dirty. There was mud, gravel and grass on all of the corners.” said Loeb back in service.
It was also a good start for Northern Ireland’s Kris Meeke and his Irish co-driver Paul Nagle. The Citroen pair, who will be competing the whole season for the team finished the day sixth just under a minute off the lead. Meeke took fourth fastest on the opening test saying at the end of the stages that he really enjoyed the tricky conditions.
Ostberg finished the day ninth stating that he found it difficult to find a rhythm over the opening two stages.