Yesterday’s brief warm-up was today succeeded by a real leg, featuring six stages held on roads around Gap. With sub-zero temperatures in the morning, most of the WRC crews opted to go with studded tyres for the first loop. Different options were taken after the midday service. Mads Østberg and Sébastien Loeb took advantage of this to fit snow tyres, without studs, in the afternoon, unlike most of their rivals. On La Salle en Beaumont – Corps (SS3 and SS6), Sébastien Loeb was simply unbeatable. First thing in the morning and at the start of the afternoon, the Citroën Total Abu Dhabi World Rally Team driver was quickest on both runs on the stage.
However, on the next two tests, the mud dragged onto the road as the crews came through the stages left the surface too slippery for Loeb, who was fourteenth in the running order. And although he managed to hold off his rivals in the morning, Sébastien Loeb hit a rock on SS8 and was unable to finish the leg.
Despite becoming increasingly competitive throughout the leg, Kris Meeke 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.
Thanks to making a good call of tyres choice for the second loop, Mads Østberg ended the day with a third fastest time. He moved up to fifth place in the overall standings.
In the WRC 2 category, Stéphane Lefebvre held onto first position in a DS 3 R5. In the FIA Junior WRC, Quentin Gilbert remained in front, ahead of Ole Christian Veiby and Terry Folb in their DS 3 R3-MAXs.
Tomorrow’s leg will take the crews from Gap to Monaco. The actions starts at 8.10am with two stages, including the 51.70 kilometre monster of Lardier et Vaneca – Faye, with the midday service at 12.34pm. The crews then head towards Monaco, taking in Pruniers – Embrun and Sisteron – Thoard. The cars will be driven into Parc Ferme in the Principality from 6.58pm onwards.
Yves Matton (Citroën Racing Team Principal): “Sébastien slid and hit a concrete block on the final stage. The impact broke part of the suspension. He will be able to rejoin tomorrow under Rally 2 rules. It was a gamble of sorts to enter him at Monte-Carlo and I have to say he surprised us again with his performances. Seb and Citroën Racing have been daring in terms of this challenge, but also in the race. With a less than ideal road position, he had to make some bold decisions so that he could continue to defend his chances of winning. It was a good fight and it just goes to show that our 2015 DS 3 WRC is a well-designed car. It’s a very positive point for our technical team! He’ll be able to showcase his immense talents tomorrow.”
Sébastien Loeb: “We had to give it a go! 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.”
STANDINGS AFTER DAY 2
1. Sébastien Ogier / Julien Ingrassia (Volkswagen Polo R WRC) 1:52:07.4
2. Jari-Matti Latvala / Miikka Anttila (Volkswagen Polo R WRC) +1:45.4
3. Andreas Mikkelsen / Ola Floene (Volkswagen Polo R WRC) +2:34.8
4. Ott Tanak / Raigo Molder (Ford Fiesta RS WRC) +2:44.4
5. Mads Østberg / Jonas Andersson (DS 3 WRC) +3:02.9
6. Elfyn Evans / Daniel Barritt (Ford Fiesta RS WRC) +3:15.2
7. Thierry Neuville / Nicolas Gilsoul (Hyundai i20 WRC) +3:29.9
8. Dani Sordo / Marc Marti (Hyundai i20 WRC) +4:03.0
9. Martin Prokop / Jan Tomanek (Ford Fiesta RS WRC) +4:59.6
10. Henning Solberg / Ilka Minor (Ford Fiesta RS WRC) +6:38.9
Sébastien Loeb and Robert Kubica, 3 – Sébastien Ogier, 2.
SS1 to SS6: Sébastien Loeb
SS7 and SS8: Sébastien Ogier