Sébastien Ogier remains in the lead of the opening round of the 2015 FIA World Rally Championship at Rallye Monte-Carlo despite losing time to team-mate Jari-Matti Latvala on the third day.
The opening stage from Prunieres to Embrun was cancelled before any cars even took to the 19.93km route due to safety reasons. Organisers had to make the call after spectators overcrowded the final kilometres, making it impossible to run safely.
SS10 – Lardier et Valenca – Faye is the longest stage on the rally taking place over a total of 51.70km of challenging roads and it was Robert Kubica who was setting the split-times alight at the halfway stage, the Pole showing no signs of holding back despite going off-stage twice yesterday.
Ogier it seemed, was struggling, team-mate Latvala was nearly 31 seconds faster than the reigning world champion, with a gap of just over 42 seconds between the two heading in to the stage there was everything to play for.
Kubica would continue his pace throughout the stage and finish with an impressive time of 30:41.9, this would not be beaten by anyone and it was Kris Meeke who would get the closest, but even then he was 33 seconds behind.
“Nothing special just driving” – Kubica on his SS10 winning pace
Next on the time sheet was Sébastien Loeb who, like team-mate Meeke, was looking to make up lost time from the SS8 incidents that saw their Citroen’s limp home to the stage finish. Despite taking the third fastest stage time it seems that Loeb wasn’t pushing as hard as previously. “I had to be very cautious in the ice. The motivation is not the
same as yesterday.” he later said.
Finishing the stage in ninth place Ogier admitted that he was taking it more cautiously on the icy sections. The slower pace from the defending champion would see him lose nearly 40 seconds to Latvala who took sixth fastest. “I don’t understand how Ogier is so much slower. I spun in there and was afraid I had lost a minute or so.” said the Finn.
“A few times I wished I was Fred Flintstone so I could get my feet down for some more grip!” – Mads Ostberg
Andreas Mikkelsen would finish the stage as the fastest Volkswagen Motorsport driver as he finished 22.9 seconds behind Loeb and just 4.7 seconds ahead of Dani Sordo. The Hyundai Motorsport driver was lucky to finish the stage, “I caught Prokop, got a bit distracted and went off. I think the car is okay.” he said. Martin Prokop would later reveal that he lost confidence early on in the stage.
The road conditions caught a few drivers out on this stage, Sébastien Chardonnet was an early victim to the ice, “I was driving quite carefully, but I tried to push a little more and we went straight on at a corner and down off the road. The spectators helped us back on. Not so much damage.” he revealed. Chardonnet would finish the stage but with a time that was over half hour slower than Kubica.
Lorenzo Bertelli also suffered problems at the same corner as Chardonnet but would take the Italian a lot longer to finish the stage, as he crossed the finish line he was over an hour off of the pace of Kubica.
Ott Tanak suffered an off-road excursion and was thankful to the spectators who helped him back on to the road, the hard charging Estonian lost nearly 18 minutes. The M-Sport team would put in a stunning performance to turn the car around in the service area with a new clutch and gearbox ready for SS11.
Compared to the 51.70km SS10 the 19.93km of SS11 was a walk in the park and Kubica would set a benchmark time of 10:44.2. It wouldn’t be long before Loeb powered through and eclipsed the Pole’s time by nearly 2 seconds. Latvala would finish the stage in third place and close another 2 seconds on Ogier who took the fifth fastest time of the stage.
The only reported by the front-runners were Elfyn Evans who suffered damaged left-rear suspension and Sordo who faced issues with a loose steering column.
With 36.85km to run in SS12 it wasn’t until the last third of the stage that things started going wrong, within minutes both Meeke and Ogier spun, both losing time. Loeb would also lose time on this part of the test, dropping over a minute as he took caution.
Meeke would be the stage winner, ending the day 8.5 seconds faster that Kubica with a time of 24:32.9. “We tried the crossover combination of 2 studded and 2 super softs. I had a spin and lost 10 or 12 seconds I could have been faster!”
Kubica rounded out possibly his best day in WRC finishing second on stage with the impressive Thierry Neuville getting a top 3 stage finish.
On the overall times Ogier heads in to the final day with a 42.8 second lead over team-mate Latvala, Mikkelsen remains in third place. With 51.98km left to run on Sunday over three stages it is looking good for the Volkswagen Motorsport team, but this is the Rallye Monte-Carlo and with the conditions as changeable as they have been anything could happen.
|1||Sébastien Ogier||Volkswagen Motorsport||Volkswagen Polo R||3:00:39.9|
|2||Jari-Matti Latvala||Volkswagen Motorsport||Volkswagen Polo R||3:01:22.7||+42.8|
|3||Andreas Mikkelsen||Volkswagen Motorsport||Volkswagen Polo R||3:02:29.7||+1:07.0|
|4||Mads Ostberg||Citroen Total Abu Dhabi WRT||Citroen DS3||3:03:22.7||+53.0|
|5||Dani Sordo||Hyundai Motorsport||Hyundai i20||3:03:56.0||+33.3|
|6||Theirry Neuville||Hyundai Motorsport||Hyundai i20||3:04:00.7||+4.7|
|7||Elfyn Evans||M-Sport World Rally Team||Ford Fiesta RS WRC||3:05:31.6||+1:30.9|
|8||Martin Prokop||Jipocar Czech National Team||Ford Fiesta RS WRC||3:08:57.4||+3:25.8|
|9||Sébastien Loeb||Citroen Total Abu Dhabi WRT||Citroen DS3||3:09:42.1||+44.7|
|10||Kris Meeke||Citroen Total Abu Dhabi WRT||Citroen DS3||3:10:45.9||+1:03.8|
*Top 10 times
|1||Robert Kubica||RK WRC||Ford Fiesta RS WRC||30:41.9|
|2||Kris Meeke||Citroen Total Abu Dhabi WRT||Citroen DS3||31:15.3||+33.4|
|3||Sébastien Loeb||Citroen Total Abu Dhabi WRT||Citroen DS3||31:23.1||+7.8|
|4||Andreas Mikkelsen||Volkswagen Motorsport||Volkswagen Polo R||31:46.0||+22.9|
|5||Dani Sordo||Hyundai Motorsport||Hyundai i20||31:50.7||+4.7|
|6||Jari-Matti Latvala||Volkswagen Motorsport||Volkswagen Polo R||31:50.9||+0.2|
|7||Elfyn Evans||M-Sport World Rally Team||Ford Fiesta RS WRC||31:52.1||+1.2|
|8||Mads Ostberg||Citroen Total Abu Dhabi WRT||Citroen DS3||31:56.6||+4.5|
|9||Sébastien Ogier||Volkswagen Motorsport||Volkswagen Polo R||32:31.4||+34.8|
|10||Theirry Neuville||Hyundai Motorsport||Hyundai i20||32:40.0||+8.6|
*Top 10 stage times
|1||Sébastien Loeb||Citroen Total Abu Dhabi WRT||Citroen DS3||10:42.4|
|2||Robert Kubica||RK WRC||Ford Fiesta RS WRC||10:44.2||+1.8|
|3||Jari-Matti Latvala||Volkswagen Motorsport||Volkswagen Polo R||10:47.7||+3.5|
|4||Kris Meeke||Citroen Total Abu Dhabi WRT||Citroen DS3||10:48.0||+0.3|
|5||Sébastien Ogier||Volkswagen Motorsport||Volkswagen Polo R||10:49.8||+1.8|
|6||Mads Ostberg||Citroen Total Abu Dhabi WRT||Citroen DS3||10:50.0||+0.2|
|7||Andreas Mikkelsen||Volkswagen Motorsport||Volkswagen Polo R||10:51.5||+1.5|
|8||Dani Sordo||Hyundai Motorsport||Hyundai i20||10:52.0||+0.5|
|9||Theirry Neuville||Hyundai Motorsport||Hyundai i20||10:59.4||+7.4|
|10||Ott Tånak||M-Sport World Rally Team||Ford Fiesta RS WRC||11:01.1||+1.7|
*Top 10 stage times
|1||Kris Meeke||Citroen Total Abu Dhabi WRT||Citroen DS3||24:32.9|
|2||Robert Kubica||RK WRC||Ford Fiesta RS WRC||24:41.4||+8.5|
|3||Theirry Neuville||Hyundai Motorsport||Hyundai i20||24:44.0||+2.6|
|4||Jari-Matti Latvala||Volkswagen Motorsport||Volkswagen Polo R||24:51.3||+7.3|
|5||Dani Sordo||Hyundai Motorsport||Hyundai i20||25:02.9||+11.6|
|6||Ott Tånak||M-Sport World Rally Team||Ford Fiesta RS WRC||25:09.2||+6.3|
|7||Andreas Mikkelsen||Volkswagen Motorsport||Volkswagen Polo R||25:10.0||+0.8|
|8||Sébastien Ogier||Volkswagen Motorsport||Volkswagen Polo R||25:11.3||+1.3|
|9||Sébastien Loeb||Citroen Total Abu Dhabi WRT||Citroen DS3||25:21.2||+9.9|
|10||Mads Ostberg||Citroen Total Abu Dhabi WRT||Citroen DS3||25:25.8||+4.6|
*Top 10 stage times