The first two days of the Monte Carlo Rally have come and gone, and thus far the event has seen a number of attrition related factors that have taken out many of the IRC front runners. One thing that has remained the same is the 42 sec. lead that is enjoyed by Mikko Hirvonen.
Day-1: The opening day at Monte Carlo was action packed and the M-Sport Fiesta S2000 thrived on the slick and treacherous surface. The Fiesta entered by M-Sport and piloted by Ford’s WRC ace was quickest through the opening stage while fellow WRC driver Sebastian Ogier also set quick times all day. The Frenchman however did suffer a major setback when an idiot spectator through a bunch of snow on the driving surface causing the Peugeot 207 to suffer from wheel damage. The incident infuriated Ogier as he had run competitive to Hirvonen all day but lost 1m30s and moved him out of the hunt for overall victory. 2009 IRC champ Kris Meeke ran a conservative program all day and finished second after Stephan Sarrazin suffered a puncture on the fourth stage. The factory Skoda team that saw great success last year ended the first day solidly in third and fourth. Renault F1 pilot Robert Kubica failed to start the rally after his engine expired on the prologue to the event…hopefully not indicative of how that operation will be run this year! The action was intense all day which set up for what would truly be a great second day of competition.
Top ten after the first day:
1 Mikko Hirvonen/Jarmo Lehtinen Ford Fiesta S2000 1h34m01.8s
2 Kris Meeke/Paul Nagle Peugeot 207 S2000 +41.9s
3 Juho Hanninen/Mikko Markkula Skoda Fabia S2000 +1m04.4s
4 Nicolas Vouilloz/Benjamin Veillas Skoda Fabia S2000 +1m20.3s
5 Sebastien Ogier/Julien Ingrassia Peugeot 207 S2000 +1m51.1s
6 Bruno Magalhaes/Carlos Magalhaes Peugeot 207 S2000 +2m28.1s
7 Toni Gardemeister/Tomi Tuominen Abarth Grande Punto S2000 +2m43.2s
8 Stephane Sarrazin/Jacques Julien Renucci Peugeot 207 S2000 +3m15.8s
9 Franz Wittmann/Klaus Wicha Peugeot 207 S2000 +3m44.1s
Day-2: The second leg of competition has recently ended for the 78th running of the Monte Carlo Rally. Mikko Hirvonen still maintains a 47.7s lead overall but ran into a couple issues in the Fiesta S2000. First was the puncture he suffered in SS6. Luckily the puncture happened near the end of the stage and the Finn was able to get across the line with minimal time loss. Then patches of black ice on the road began to challenge the new Fiesta as Hirvonen had actually opted to run a dry setup in the afternoon stages of the race. The surface was slippery but the Fiesta came across the line with a healthy overall lead. Defending IRC champion Kris Meeke had much larger problems to deal with as he slid the Peugeot 207 off the road and hitting a bridge wall. The accident has seen the British driver retire from the event all together; not the way he was hoping to start his title defense. The accident promoted Juho Hanninen and the first of the factory Skodas to the second step of the podium. Frenchman Sebastian Ogier put on another rally clinic today as he started today’s contest in the fifth spot. Ogier won three stages and climbed into third place after Meeke’s retirement.
Top ten of the event overall after day 2:
1 Mikko Hirvonen/Jarmo Lehtinen Ford Fiesta S2000 3h12m44.0s
2 Juho Hanninen/Mikko Markkula Skoda Fabia S2000 +47.7s
3 Sebastien Ogier/Julien Ingrassia Peugeot 207 S2000 +1m10.3s
4 Nicolas Vouilloz/Benjamin Veillas Skoda Fabia S2000 +1m34.3s
5 Stephane Sarrazin/Jacques Julien Renucci Peugeot 207 S2000 +6m06.0s
6 Franz Wittmann/Klaus Wicha Peugeot 207 S2000 +6m53.8s
7 Guy Wilks/Phil Pugh Skoda Fabia S2000 +7m07.3s
8 Bruno Magalhaes/Carlos Magalhaes Peugeot 207 S2000 +7m12.8s
9 Jan Kopecky/Petr Stary Skoda Fabia S2000 +7m24.4s
10 Toni Gardemeister/Tomi Tuominen Abarth Grande Punto S2000 +9m13.0s