DIFFICULT TO BREAK THE ICE!
85th Rallye Automobile Monte-Carlo (18-22 January 2017) – Day 2
The specialists all agree, this year is a "proper Monte-Carlo", featuring the full range of difficulties that can arise at this event. The Citroën Total Abu Dhabi WRT has not escaped unscathed – far from it! Today, it was Kris Meeke's turn to run into trouble, the Ulsterman having to retire after going off on SS4. Both Citroën C3 WRCs will nonetheless continue with their race tomorrow, as they go in search of Manufacturers' World Championship points.
This second leg featured two loops of three stages, held in the Hautes-Alpes department. With two thirds of the stages covered in ice and snow, all of the crews decided to opt for Michelin Pilot Alpin A4L/R1 studded tyres.
* The night was decidedly brief for the Citroën Racing mechanics, who worked hard to ensure that Stéphane Lefebvre and Gabin Moreau could return to action today. On Thursday evening, the no.8 C3 WRC crew had to stop on SS2 when their clutch failed after they had attempted to get out of a snow-covered ditch.
* Fifth after the short opening leg, Kris Meeke and Paul Nagle moved into second place after the day's first stage, SS3. However, the crew went off the road on the next stage after sliding on a sheet of ice. With their suspension broken, they were unable to go any further.
* Never having encountered conditions like this before, Stéphane Lefebvre improved steadily as he completed more stages. Most notably, he set the fourth fastest time on SS5 and moved ahead of around fifty competitors during the course of the day. He ended the leg twelfth overall.
* Despite the tricky conditions, Craig Breen and Scott Martin produced a fine performance in their previous generation WRC. They seized fifth place from Dani Sordo on SS7, before then dropping back down a place after taking a bit of scenic route on the day's final stage.
* After this long leg, day three will take the competitors from Gap to Monaco. En route, the crews will have to complete five stages covering a total of 121.39km.
YVES MATTON, CITROËN RACING TEAM PRINCIPAL: "It's difficult to take any positives from today’s leg, with both our cars rejoining under Rally2 rules. Insofar as Kris was aiming to win the rally, he had to push. In fact, he was in second position when he went off. Fortunately, the car is virtually unscathed and he'll be back in action tomorrow, this time to add to his experience. Otherwise, our two crews will be trying to score as many Manufacturers' World Championship points as possible."
KRIS MEEKE: "The conditions were difficult, as is often the case in Monte-Carlo. Some corners were covered with a layer of sheet ice and it was difficult to judge the level of grip. I got caught out on a left-hand corner. The car drifted towards the outside and the right-hand side of the car hit a bank. With the front suspension arm broken, we couldn't go any further. It was disappointing for me and for the team. This is obviously not the sort of start we were hoping to make. Clearly, we can no longer aim for a good result, but we'll keep going tomorrow to try and learn more about the C3 WRC."
STÉPHANE LEFEBVRE: "We started our race in earnest today. I was struggling a little bit to get to grips with the car in these conditions, which I have never experienced before. As we completed more stages, we learned a lot. I now have to find a bit more consistency and speed to reduce the gap to the leading drivers. To do that, I think I need to make better use of the studded tyres."
CRAIG BREEN: "I'm pleased. To be honest, I didn't think I would be so close to the 2017 cars! We lost fifth place after a minor off, but it doesn't matter. I've never felt so confident at this rally and we set some good times in what were very tricky conditions. We're eager to keep up our good form tomorrow."
STANDINGS AFTER DAY 2
1. Neuville / Gilsoul (Hyundai i20 WRC) 02:05:24.6
2. Ogier / Ingrassia (Ford Fiesta WRC) +45.1
3. Tanak / Jarveoja (Ford Fiesta WRC) +45.4
4. Latvala / Anttila (Toyota Yaris WRC) +2:09.7
5. Sordo / Martin (Hyundai i20 WRC) +2:57.8
6. Breen / Martin (DS 3 WRC) +3:04.1
12. Lefebvre / Moreau (Citroën C3 WRC) +11:13.2
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