Duval tops Monte shakedown

Citroen's new signing Francois Duval confirmed his world champion team-mate Sebastien Loeb's worst fears by unofficially going quickest on the Monte Carlo Rally shakedown on Thursday, prior to the opening round of the World Rally Championship

Duval tops Monte shakedown

Loeb predicted to Autosport this week that he believed Duval could be his main rival for victory in the French Alps-based event, and the Belgian former Ford driver chasing his first WRC victory, certainly wasted no time in getting down to business in his new surroundings.

The 7km Fospel shakedown stage was clear of snow with drivers reporting only two small patches of ice.

Double world champion Marcus Gronholm in the Pirelli-shod Peugeot 307 was second fastest, ahead of Loeb, while new Ford signing Toni Gardemeister was fourth quickest less than two seconds off the ultimate pace.

Gilles Panizzi showed he could be a factor on his favourite surface in the brand new Mitsubishi Lancer by going fifth quickest ahead of Subaru star Petter Solberg and Ford's other new boy Roman Kresta.

Armin Schwarz's factory Skoda Fabia was eighth ahead of new Peugeot signing Markko Martin and former F1 driver and now works Subaru man Stephane Sarrazin. Ford's third driver on the event, Anthony Warmbold was 11th while privateer and former world champion Didier Auriol (Peugeot) and Mitsubishi's Harri Rovanpera were next up.

There was some confusion over the timings and organisers didn't issue a complete official list. Also tyres used by drivers on the shakedown stage are now counted as part of their allocation for the event, so many were conserving their rubber as much as possible.

Francois Duval (Citroen), 5m53.8s
Marcus Gronholm (Peugeot), 5m54.4s
Sebastien Loeb (Citroen), 5m55.1s
Toni Gardemeister (Ford), 5m55.3s
Gilles Panizzi (Mitsubishi), 5m57.9s
Petter Solberg (Subaru), 6m00.0s
Roman Kresta (Ford), 6m01.0s
Armin Schwarz (Skoda), 6m01.1s
Markko Martin (Peugeot), 6m05.4s
Stephane Sarrazin (Subaru), 6m05.4s

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