Sébastien Ogier (Toyota), already the fastest driver in SS1 which opened this 90th Monte-Carlo Rally, did it again in the next one, the SS2 passing through the legendary Col de Turini, by setting another best time. The relative surprise came from the very efficient Sébastien Loeb, again second, but only 1.3 seconds behind Ogier in this 23.25 km long stage, between La Bollène-Vésubie and the village of Moulinet.
“It was good, even though I overheated my tyres a bit before mid-stage, on the climb to Col de Turini,” said Loeb, the undisputed leader of a nice quartet of Ford M-Sport drivers grouped together in the Top 7 of this SS2. In the meantime, the Hyundai drivers were faced with a series of various issues and fell further in the standings.
Back in the WRC after more than a year’s absence, since Rally Turkey in September 2020 in a Hyundai (3rd behind Evans and Neuville), Loeb could return to his hotel in Monaco with the satisfaction of a tricky but ultimately successful evening. He was the only one to follow, in two stages in a row, the infernal pace of Ogier, eight times victorious in the Principality.
Elfyn Evans sat third in the times in this second stage, 1.9 seconds behind Ogier, enough to remain 3rd also in the general classification, while Loeb showed the way to young hopeful Adrien Fourmaux, more and more at ease in his Ford Puma and 4th fastest in SS2, just 4.2 seconds behind Ogier: “It was a great pleasure to drive this car, especially in the downhill portion, thanks to all the extra power made available by the electric engine”, Fourmaux said, delighted with his evening.
Hyundai continued to disappoint, its three drivers facing “a series of problems”, admitted Ott Tänak, the 2019 world champion, who already encountered issues during the shakedown on Thursday morning. Thierry Neuville complained about his brakes and said he “didn’t trust the car”. As for Oliver Solberg, he could not hear the notes announced by his co-driver, Elliott Edmondson, which complicated his task.
Friday promises to be intense, fierce, long and complicated. There will be six special stages on the menu (SS3 to SS8), most of them in the Alpes-Maritimes department. We can rely on both Sebs, Ogier and Loeb, to make this 90th Monte-Carlo a truly historic edition. It is definitely starting well…