The third day of the Rallye Monte-Carlo takes the competitors from Valence to Monaco. Citroën Total World Rally Team did well on this morning’s two stages, held on roads in the Vercors.
Still out in front, Sébastien Loeb and Daniel Elena extended their lead to over two minutes, while Mikko Hirvonen and Jarmo Lehtinen made up ground on third position.
As on day one, tyre choice once again played a crucial role in the outcome of the morning’s stages. With snow forecast on the massif du Vercors, the DS3 WRCs headed off with four studded tyres and two supersoft slick tyres as spares.
Sébastien Loeb and Mikko Hirvonen both had a tough time on the Saint-Jean-en-Royans stage (SS11), losing 16s and 25s respectively to Petter Solberg. Mikko Hirvonen even lost his fourth place to Evgeny Novikov.
But the Citroëns struck back in emphatic fashion, lashing their competitors like the icy winds that blow through the Drôme. On SS12, Cimetière de Vassieux – Col de Gaudissart, the two DS3 WRCs claimed the top two positions. Mikko Hirvonen secured his first fastest stage time in a Citroën DS3 WRC, 3.7s ahead of Sébastien Loeb. After finishing some 1m46s behind Hirvonen, Petter Solberg’s lead over the Finn was cut to just 39.3s!
Sébastien Loeb: “When there was no snow or ice, the stages were so wet that those with slicks couldn’t use them. There was a lot of fog, so much so that we couldn’t see the icy patches. Given the conditions, the studded tyres really were the best choice. If the end of the rally is run in dry conditions, the situation will be less tricky for us.”
Mikko Hirvonen: “I am really happy to set my first fastest stage time with Citroën. The team made the right choice by analysing information from the early starters and the weather forecast from Météo France. Everything worked out well and I felt confident in the car with the four studded tyres fitted. It was very slippery, but the handling of the car was consistent. We have closed the gap to third position. I’m not going to take too many risks to catch Petter but there are still of lot of kilometres left to race…”
There is only one more stage scheduled for today: Montauban s/Ouvèze – Eygalayes (SS13), starting at 3.11pm. The cars will then head for Monaco where they will be placed directly in parc fermé. Meanwhile, the teams will move their facilities to the port of Monaco. The next service slot is scheduled for tomorrow, starting at 1.15pm.