A shakedown in the snow for starters!

The 2013 World Rally Championship got officially underway this morning on the plateau de Lautagne, in the hills around Valence. Against a snow-covered backdrop, the Rallye Monte-Carlo drivers had to contend with what were already very testing conditions.

Snow fell in the early hours, covering Valence and the surrounding area before the shakedown got underway. After a delayed start due to the difficult road conditions, the Citroën Racing drivers were able to complete their four mandatory runs.

Finishing second, fourth and seventh respectively, Sébastien Loeb, Mikko Hirvonen and Dani Sordo were able to test the handling of their DS3 WRCs fitted with studded Michelin Pilot Alpin tyres.

Quote, unquote

Sébastien Loeb (Citroën Total Abu Dhabi World Rally Team): “Well, that’s the first time we’ve had to put on studded tyres for the shakedown! During recce, we had some snow on Saint-Bonnet-le-Froid and Saint-Jean-en-Royans. But if there’s snow in Valence, then we can expect the stages through the Ardèche will also be totally covered in snow! We saw on the shakedown that being first out on the road can be a real disadvantage. So perhaps I’ll have to deal with that tomorrow…”

Mikko Hirvonen (Citroën Total Abu Dhabi World Rally Team): “A year after my debut with Citroën, it’s exciting to be here again with different ambitions. We’re starting the season with a very special rally. It is still snowing in Valence, conditions can change very quickly. You can end up facing all types of surface on a single stage. Obviously, being Finnish, I’m happy if there is snow. But the roads are so narrow that there is no room for error whatsoever. We’ll have to race intelligently.”

Dani Sordo (Abu Dhabi Citroën Total World Rally Team): “I’ve never seen so much snow at a Monte-Carlo rally! Usually, it’s the ‘rallye historique’ that gets these sorts of conditions, but this time, it’s us… It’s not particularly fun, because the changeable conditions make the roads very tricky. And it’s not like in Sweden, where the grip is consistent throughout the rally. Tyre choice looks like it will be complicated. We’ll also have to think about managing our tyres for all of the loops.”

The rest of the day will be more relaxing for the crews, who will be able to fine-tune their pace notes before the autograph-signing session due to be held at 6.30pm at the Valence service park. SS1 (Le Moulinon – Antraigues) is due to start tomorrow at 9am.

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