Four Peugeots lying in waiting
After the first leg
The first leg of the 2010 Rallye Monte-Carlo has ended with four Peugeot 207 Super 2000s in the top-eight, with defending IRC champion Kris Meeke admitting to being surprised to have emerged as high as second place.
"I was expecting today’s leg to be the most difficult of the rally," observed the Ulsterman. "I had never been to this part of the Ardèche region before, and I had no previous knowledge of either the Burzet or Saint Pierreville-Antraigues which are both classic Monte Carlo stages. There was lingering snow during recce, but that’s all gone now, so my notes really weren’t perfect. I therefore decided to avoid talking any risks. I kept to my word, although the way the day unfolded means that I now find myself in a position I would never have imagined before the start. That’s good news for the rest of the rally…"
For much of the day, Peugeot’s best-placed representatives were Sébastien Ogier and Stéphane Sarrazin. The two Frenchmen figured second and third respectively at one point, but were then knocked down the order by two separate strokes of ill-luck. Ogier dropped two minutes after clouting a snow bank on his second attempt at the Burzet test, while Sarrazin was forced to stop and change a punctured tyre shortly afterwards.
Ogier recovered to post a flying time on the day’s last test (SS4) which enabled him to salvage overnight fifth. "I’m in a much better position after the opening day than I was on last year’s event," recalls the 2009 Monte winner. "The gaps on this event have less significance than they do on other rallies. OK, I’ve lost a bit of ground, but I’m still in with a chance of winning…" The troubles of his fellow Peugeot runners helped Monte rookie Bruno Magalhaes end the day in sixth place after a particularly consistent drive.
The 2010 Rallye Monte-Carlo has only just begun, and Thursday’s action will include the challenging Saint Bonnet le Froid stage which has a habit of springing a few surprises. Friday’s programme will see competitors head southeast towards Monaco, before the outcome is settled for good by the celebrated Nuit du Turini night-time run.