Sébastien Ogier – Julien Ingrassia and Esapekka Lappi – Janne Ferm made a promising start on this evening’s opening two stages, ending the first leg second and fourth overall respectively, despite the very tricky conditions.
Beginning a Rallye Monte-Carlo by running at night is never a bed of roses and all the more so when faced with two brand new, partially icy stages. In these testing conditions, Sébastien Ogier-Julien Ingrassia and Esapekka Lappi-Janne Ferm, Citroën Total World Rally Team’s two crews, decided to play it safe by taking four Michelin studded tyres and two super soft compound slicks.
Five-time winner of the event and having finished first here last year, Sébastien Ogier knows just how important it is to keep a cool head on such a rally. Third fastest on the opening stage and second fastest on the next, the local favourite immediately moved among the frontrunners and reached service in Gap in second position, just 9.1s behind the leader.
Less accustomed to these roads, Esapekka Lappi gradually picked up the pace. Seventh on SS1, having undoubtedly attempted to look after his studs too much, he then upped his game on SS2, setting the fifth fastest time. He ended this short opening leg in fourth position, 45.2s back.
Day two will see the crews fight it out over a competitive distance of 125.12 kilometres (on six stages), particularly on the equally new stages of Valdrome – Sigottier (20.04km) and Curbans – Piegut (18.47km). Following the snow that fell yesterday morning in the Gap region, these stages may throw up a few surprises…
Pierre Budar, Citroën Racing Team Principal
“Obviously, it’s been a positive start for us. Both our crews went about things in the right way, adopting a considered, intelligent approach. Because it’s never easy starting at night, with a combination of studded tyres and slicks, which makes driving pretty difficult. However, they managed to avoid the pitfalls and we are now going to try and keep up the momentum tomorrow.”
Sébastien Ogier, Citroën Total WRT driver
“For my first two stages in the C3 WRC, clearly I’m pleased with the outcome, especially in these conditions. Perhaps I was bit too cautious on the first stage, but it’s difficult to really go for it when you are driving a new car competitively for the first time. But I certainly produced a decent time with the studded tyres on the second stage. I think that I made an intelligent start to the rally.”
Esapekka Lappi, Citroën Total WRT driver
“It was easy to make a mistake on tonight’s opening two stages, especially on SS1. I probably thought about that prospect a little too much and ended up being too cautious. We played it safe on the set-up as well. It was perhaps a little too soft. However, the confidence gradually came on SS2 and although there are already big gaps between the crews, I’m right in the mix, especially as there’s still a long way to go and plenty of things can happen yet!”
STANDINGS AFTER DAY 1
1. Tänak / Järveoja (Toyota Yaris WRC) 26:33.0
2. Ogier / Ingrassia (Citroën C3 WRC) +9.1
3. Neuville / Gilsoul (Hyundai i20 WRC) +14.3
4. Lappi / Ferm (Citroën C3 WRC) +45.2
5. Latvala / Anttila (Toyota Yaris WRC) +46.4
6. Evans / Martin (Ford Fiesta WRC) +48.2
7. Meeke / Marshall (Toyota Yaris WRC) +53.8
8. Loeb / Elena (Hyundai i20 WRC) + 55.2
9. Mikkelsen / Jaeger-Amland (Hyundai i20 WRC) +59.6
10. Tidemand / Floene (Ford Fiesta WRC) +1:41.1