Reigning world champion Sébastien Ogier was quickest out of the blocks on the 2017 Rallye Monte Carlo shakedown, yet it was Andreas Mikkelsen who caused the biggest stir.
On the 3.35km test around the rally’s base in Gap, Ogier began the new partnership with M-Sport by setting quickest times on the first two runs, his 2.18 times were six seconds faster than his closest WRC car rival.
The main surprise of the test was the man who headed the opposition, WRC2 competitor Andreas Mikkelsen.
The Norwegian, competing in a Skoda Fabia R5, which was giving around 100bhp to the champion’s Ford Fiesta WRC, was four seconds slower on the first run and six seconds slower on the second pass.
Both times were quicker than his WRC opposition with the nearest competitor being M-Sport’s Ott Tanak.
He was two seconds slower than Mikkelsen on the first pass but was only a tenth down on the second, but he was a whole six seconds slower than his team-mate on both passes.
Jari-Matti Latvala showed promise for Toyota by setting the fourth fastest time in the Yaris WRC, a second slower than Tanak with a 2.25.
In fact the time-sheets read like a re-run of last year’s event with all of Volkswagen 2016 drivers featuring at the top of the leaderboard.
Hyundai were up next with Hayden Paddon and Thierry Neuville securing fifth and sixth fastest times, only a few tenths off Latvala.
Dani Sordo rounded out the Korean manufacturer’s challenge in seventh, being split from his team-mates by Toyota’s Juho Hanninen.
Citroen seemed to taking things very steady, although it appeared that the new C3 WRCs might be struggling for traction on the test.
Stephane Lefebvre was three seconds quicker than team leader Kris Meeke, but his quickest time was 2.35, a whole 18 seconds slower than Ogier on the short run and a second slower than Craig Breen in the older model DS3 WRC.
In WRC2 the quickest man after the storming Mikkelsen was M-Sport’s Éric Camilli, the Frenchmen was five seconds down but half a second up on Skoda team-mate Jan Kopecky.
WRC2 also saw Giandomenico Basso and Andrea Crugnola both go off during their runs but luckily did not do much damage.
In the new WRC Trophy for older spec WRC cars the only competitor, Citroen runner Jourdan Serderidis, set the quickest time of 2.46, 11 seconds down on Breen in a similar car and behind many WRC2 competitors.
In WRC3, Renault’s Charles Martin was quickest by two seconds from Peugeot runner Raphael Astier with fellow Renault Cilo R3T driver Luca Panzani third quickest a further two seconds back.
The RGT Cup has four entries for this rally but Francois Delecour didn’t run during the shakedown. Romain Dumas was the fastest of the RGT cars with his Porsche 997 GT3 RS 4.0 ahead of Fabio Andolfi and Gabriele Noberasco in their Fiat 124 Abarth Rally cars.
The 2017 Rallye Monte Carlo starts tomorrow night with the ceremonial start in Monaco with two stages in the dark.
Follow the event with daily updates via The Checkered Flag.