Loeb kicks off Monte in style

World champion Sebastien Loeb kicked off the 2005 World Rally Championship as he ended last year's - in front. The Frenchman heads a Citroen one-two on the opening Ilonse-Pierlas stage of the Monte Carlo Rally

Loeb kicks off Monte in style

Loebs's time through the section was 17m18.6s, 11.3s faster than his new team-mate Francois Duval. But hot on their heels are the two Pirelli-shod Peugeot 307s of Markko Martin and Marcus Gronholm.

Loeb predicted before the event started that tyres could play a major part in the outcome of the Monte, and although the Michelins which he uses have been dominant in recent years, Pirelli appears to have made up some ground on the asphalt surface.

Behind Duval, his former Ford team-mate Martin also has a new car to contend with in the 307. But the Estonian appears to have come to grips with it quickly and is leading the chase for the Citroens.

Martin's replacement at Ford, Toni Gardemeister, is fifth after the first stage, 22s behind the leaders in his Focus WRC, but ahead of former world champion and Subaru team leader Petter Solberg by nearly two seconds.

Factory Subaru newboy Stephane Sarrazin trails his Norweigen team-mate by 8s ahead of privateer Bozian Peugeot 206 WRC driver Didier Auriol who knows one or two things about the Monte, and indeed winning world championships.

Works Skoda driver Alex Bengue and Mitusbishi's Gilles Panizzi rounded out the top ten.

No major incidents have been reported and all the factory cars made it to the checkpoint after the first stage.

Sebastien Loeb (Citroen Xsara), 17m18.6s
Francois Duval (Citroen Xsara), 17m29.9s
Markko Martin (Peugeot 307), 17m32.4s
Marcus Gronholm (Peugeot 307), 17m32.9s
Toni Gardemeister (Ford Focus), 17m40.8s
Petter Solberg (Subaru Impreza), 17m42.6s
Stephane Sarrazin (Subaru Impreza), 17m50.8s
Didier Auriol (Peugeot 206), 17m52.1s
Alexandre Bengue (Skoda Fabia), 18m00s
Gilles Panizzi (Mitsubishi Lancer), 18m05.1s


Harri Rovanpera (Mitsubishi Lancer), 18m10.3s
Roman Kresta (Ford Focus), 18m13.5s
Armin Schwarz (Skoda Fabia), 19m04.4s
Antony Warmbold (Ford Focus), 19m25.2s

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