Sébastien Ogier produces the second day’s star drive
Kris Meeke is out of the event
Four Peugeot 207 S2000s continue to feature in the top-eight at the end of the 2010 Rallye Monte-Carlo’s second day, but the names of the drivers in those cars have changed compared with this morning’s order. After figuring in second place overnight, Kris Meeke was the first driver to be caught out by one of the infinite number of changes in grip that make the ’Monte’ such a uniquely difficult event.
"I’m still kicking myself," lamented the defending IRC champion. "I didn’t get any farther than the first patch of ice which was on a small bridge, barely two kilometres after the start of today’s opening stage. I was aware of the spot, but it seemed to me to be less slippery than I had been expecting. I got it wrong and hit the wall. My car tipped off the road, and that was that."
With the Ulsterman out of the event, Peugeot’s main hope became Sébastien Ogier who went on to claim three of the day’s six stages. He was notably quickest both times round the awesome Saint Bonnet le Froid loop which was completely snowy, and lined by thousands of spectators. The 2009 winner’s run enabled him to climb from fifth to third place by the end of play this evening.
"That was one of the trickiest and most stressful days of my career," reported the rising French star. "The grip just kept changing all the time, and I came close to going off maybe 10 times. But each time I managed to keep it on the road. I’ve gained two places today and succeeded in shaving some 40 per cent off my deficit to the current leader. As I said yesterday, I still have a chance of winning this…"
Stéphane Sarrazin cannot share that optimism, however. After picking up a puncture on Wednesday, the Frenchman dropped more than two minutes today following an off on the penultimate corner of the Saint Bonnet stage.
"Although my car was in one piece, it was tangled up in fencing. Thankfully, the spectators were able to get me back on the road and on my way again! The best way to thank them for that will be to do all I can to climb back up the order, but it’s perhaps time to start building in a bit of a margin for error now…"
Despite his setback, the French driver succeeded in moving up one place compared with his overnight slot. He is now fifth, tailed by the Peugeot of Franz Wittmann.
"It’s been very slippery, but my 207 S2000 is nicely balanced and very easy to drive. I’m having great fun," enthused the young Austrian.
The other Peugeot in tonight’s top-10 is the 207 S2000 of Bruno Magalhaes, who is eighth.
"I have to say that I was a bit fazed by the constantly changing conditions, but I chose not to take too many risks. I am here to learn, after all, and also to score my first points in the IRC, which is my main objective this year."
Tomorrow’s programme will see survivors leave Valence en route to Monaco. On their way, they will contest the celebrated Col de Perty stage, a long-time Monte classic. Then, on Friday evening, they will head back into the mountains for two attempts at the Nuit du Turini loop which will settle the fight once and for all.