Rocky finish slows Citroen’s Sébastien Loeb

After a sensational return to the World Rally Championship last night, Citroen’s Sebastien Loeb continued in a fine vein of form before a collision with a rock in adverse conditions led to a setback for the legendary Frenchman.

Loeb started the day in the same way he finished yesterday, leading the field. It was a 22secs lead following the first stage at the Rallye Monte-Carlo, but on the SS3 La Salle en Beaumont Corps 1 stage, Loeb carved a 15secs lead.

After a brief break, he starred at the start of the afternoon. The imperious Citroen racer edged Jari-Matti Latvala by 3.5secs at SS6, the La Salle en Beaumont Corps 2.

However, on the next two tests, the mud dragged onto the road and left the surface too slippery for Loeb, who was 14th in the running order.

Although he managed to hold off his rivals in the morning, Loeb hit a rock on SS8, Les Costes St Julien en Champsaur 2, and was unable to finish the leg.

“We had to give it a go,” said Loeb. “Given the conditions we had, we had to push in order not to lose too much time. I braked a little too early on an icy patch. The car slid wide and I hit a rock, which broke the suspension. We had to drive quickly, because the situation and the changing road conditions weren‘t particularly ideal for us. The roads were becoming incredibly dirty and we had to stay in touch. But we weren’t pushing too hard. It’s not like we were taking any massive risks when we went off.”

Team-mate Kris Meeke, despite becoming increasingly competitive throughout the leg, didn’t make it to the end of SS8. He damaged his car’s rear left-hand suspension after sliding into a ditch, whilst running in fourth position.

“In the middle of SS8, I slid wide on a fast left-hand corner,” said Meeke. “The car went sideways. I tried to steer into the skid to correct the trajectory, but we ended up in a ditch where we hit a small tree. We were unable to get away again because the rear suspension was broke. The car will be repaired tonight so we can rejoin under Rally 2 rules tomorrow.”

There was better news for the third and final Citroen DS3 WRC, with Mads Ostberg proving the pick of the team.

Thanks to making a good call of tyres choice for the second loop, Ostberg ended the day with a third fastest time. He moved up to fifth place in the overall standings, the highest of the three drivers.

“The conditions were very difficult,” said Ostberg. “It can be little bit frustrating, because sometimes I was braking before a corner where I didn’t need to slow down. I could do more, but my strategy is to concentrate on what I need to do. And I’m pretty happy with how I performed today.”