Sébastien Loeb (Ford) continues building on his momentum at the 90th Monte-Carlo Rally. After the lunch break at Puget-Théniers, the 9-time world champion and 7-time winner in Monaco set his 4th best time in a row, while the two best Toyota drivers, Elfyn Evans and Sébastien Ogier, held up well and limited the damage, on increasingly dry roads.
Unlike this Friday morning which allowed him to take the lead in style, Loeb was on equal terms with most of his rivals to start the afternoon and the second loop of three stages. Everyone, except Ott Tänak (4 soft, 1 super-soft), left Puget-Théniers with 4 soft tyres and one another soft in the trunk, in the event of a puncture or premature wear.
“I’m at the limit, it was a perfect stage, everything is going well so far so I’m continuing like this”, declared a very calm, super-focused Loeb, after crossing the finish line of SS6 (18 km), the second run between Roure and Beuil, not far from the ski resort of Valberg, at the end of SS7.
The most successful driver in the history of the WRC (79 victories) also added a new record to his collection on Friday: Loeb is now the oldest driver to have ever led a WRC event, beating the record held for a long time by legendary Swede Bjorn Waldegard, in the last century.
Behind Loeb and the Toyotas, Gus Greensmith provided further proof that the Ford Puma Hybrid is a really good rally car, by setting the 4th fastest time in this SS6, ahead of all the Hyundai drivers who had finished the morning well. Enough to stay in 7th place but getting a little closer to Thierry Neuville, 4th at 49.1 seconds behind Loeb, Craig Breen, 5th at 54.2 seconds, and Ott Tänak, the 2019 world champion, 6th at 56 seconds and therefore only five seconds ahead of Greensmith.
“We’re going to have a great fight,” said Greensmith, who did trials for Manchester City as a young goalkeeper, before shifting to rally. Two other runs are planned for Friday afternoon, from Guillaumes to Valberg (SS7, 13 km) then from Val-de-Chalvagne to Entrevaux (SS8, 17 km). With a question on the minds of all fans, and of Malcolm Wilson, the boss of M-Sport: will Loeb hold on and start as the leader, on Saturday morning, for the penultimate day of the 90th Monte-Carlo Rally?