SS16: Loeb the master of slush
Sebastiens Loeb and Ogier secure out front but Ostberg hits trouble
A fastest time for Sebastien Loeb on SS16 means that with just two more stages of Rallye Monte-Carlo to go, the Citroen DS3 driver holds a 1m39.9s lead over Sebastien Ogier and remains on course to take his seventh Monte victory later today.
The second of Saturday’s three passes through the Turini stage presented crews with a very different challenge to the first, when the extreme slush and snow took out three top 10 drivers. In contrast, SS16 was run in darkness, in patchy rain, and even though there was still plenty of slush about, there were also two clean lines of wet asphalt for most of the route.
The most effective approach was to keep the car in the lines and avoid the slush. However, before the drive back to Monaco for service, a deflated Loeb explained that it wasn’t exactly high-adrenaline stuff. “It’s really uninteresting to drive like this, but if you go out of the lines you are off the road,” he explained.
“So you just drive slowly, which isn’t very interesting for us or the spectators, but it’s like that. I put on a small display for the spectators at the top - but only because I lost control a bit…”
Ogier also adopted a safe strategy at the wheel of his Volkswagen Polo R. The Frenchman no doubt aware of the importance of getting to the finish on the team’s debut rally – especially after Jari-Matti Latvala crashed the other Polo on SS14. ”Not easy stages today, but we are driving very safe now. Nothing more to do I think,” explained Ogier.
Citroen DS3 driver Dani Sordo headed to service in third, 2m09.1 behind Ogier, after benefiting from Evgeny Novikov’s retirement on SS14. The Spaniard was third fastest through SS16, but admitted he had backed off after he saw split times from the cars behind. “When I saw I was okay I took it a little easier,” he said. “It’s been a really tough morning so I’m pleased to be here.”
Citroen Total Abu Dhabi Dhabi team driver Mikko Hirvonen holds fourth, having gained two places with the exits of Latvala and Novikov. “Pretty much a safe strategy now. I’ve got to get the car home safely,” he acknowledged. “I had one small moment, when we slipped onto the slush, but apart from that no problems.”
Almost three minutes behind Hirvonen, Citroen pilot Bryan Bouffier is fifth, having inherited the position from Mads Ostberg who strayed off the racing line 3km from the start. “I went wide and hit something with the right-hand rear wheel,” explained the Ford Fiesta RS driver. “I broke the wheel and the suspension. The brakes aren’t working well but I think we’ll get back to service.”
The incident cost Ostberg almost six minutes, dropping him 3m50.6s behind Bouffier. Martin Prokop is seventh 11m23.6s further back, with Sepp Wiegand (Skoda Fabia S2000), Olivier Burri (Peugeot 207 S2000) and Michal Kosciuszko (MINI John Cooper Works) rounding off the top ten.
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