Loeb surprised to be leading Monte Carlo Rally on WRC return

Sebastien Loeb says he is surprised to be leading the Monte Carlo Rally following a successful return to the World Rally Championship with M-Sport Ford.

Loeb surprised to be leading Monte Carlo Rally on WRC return

The nine-time champion quickly acclimatised to the WRC’s new hybrid era aided by a strong debut performance from the much anticipated M-Sport-built Ford Puma.

Loeb won four of Friday's six stages to transform an overnight 6.7s deficit to reigning world champion Sebastien Ogier into a 9.9s lead heading into Saturday. The duo that share 15 Monte Carlo wins between them have the luxury of being able to push harder, given they are only contesting partial campaigns.

Heading into the afternoon Loeb and new co-driver Isabelle Galmiche held a 15.8s lead before Ogier issued a response on the final two stages.

The 47-year-old Frenchman could have added another stage win to his tally had it not been for a hybrid issue with his Puma on stage 7.

Loeb’s impressive WRC return has been made all the more impressive given his restricted time in the Puma and a busy schedule, having flown straight to Monte Carlo from finishing second at the Dakar Rally earlier this month.

“I didn’t expect that [to be leading], for sure I was hoping for a good rhythm with this car, and I had a good feeling in the test, but to know what speed I would have I didn’t know,” said Loeb, who is gunning for an eighth Monte Carlo victory.

“For sure I’m really happy and I was able to set some best times, with four to begin the day and then I had a little problem with the hybrid, and the last one Ogier was really fast. We are still leading the rally at the moment so I’m happy.”

Loeb dropped 4.5s on the final stage of the day as Ogier claimed his third stage win of the event to reignite the tussle between the WRC’s greatest ever drivers.

“I think I did a good stage and the time was a bit slower than him [Sebastien] but I think also he tried to push hard," he added.

“It is good fight, at the moment we are in front but not a big gap.

“I think tomorrow will be tough with some snow at [the] Sisteron [stage] but the tyre choice will be important and to find a good rhythm also.”

Ogier not giving up on battle with Loeb in “clearly faster” Ford

Sébastien Ogier, Benjamin Veillas, Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT Toyota GR Yaris Rally1

Sébastien Ogier, Benjamin Veillas, Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT Toyota GR Yaris Rally1

Photo by: Toyota Racing

Eight-time world champion Ogier is refusing to give up on the battle for victory despite admitting that Loeb’s Ford is the fastest of the three new Rally1 cars.

The 38-year-old managed to whittle away at Loeb’s lead after a stronger afternoon, but the Thursday leader was playing catch up after losing 15.8s to his fellow countryman on stage 5.

“It has been an okay day I think, except for one stage this morning,” Ogier told Autosport.

“I think we have been doing a good job with [new co-driver] Benjamin [Veillas], but this 15s lost in one stage was a little bit hard to take, it was the most challenging stage of the day with some frost and ice.

“I was driving a little bit too safe as well, it was too much time lost, but other than that it has been a good day.

“We have some ideas to try to work on the car tonight to find some more pace for tomorrow.

“We’ll see, it is really clear that the Ford is faster," he added, when asked if he can overhaul Loeb. “We need to see. I’m not giving up I will try my best to put pressure on.”

A first full day of competition in the Rally1 cars has highlighted areas for Toyota to work on to improve its GR Yaris.

Ogier believes fine tuning the balance and traction is the most notable issue at this stage.

“I think we have learned little bit more about the hybrid and how the car is reacting,” he added.

“The balance for the moment is still a bit of an issue for us the traction is still missing a bit. We have so many ideas, hopefully tomorrow will be better.

shares
comments

Related video

WRC Monte Carlo: Loeb leads as Ogier fights back in the afternoon
Previous article

WRC Monte Carlo: Loeb leads as Ogier fights back in the afternoon

Next article

Hyundai working to fix 'scary' Rally1 WRC car after Monte Carlo issues

Hyundai working to fix 'scary' Rally1 WRC car after Monte Carlo issues
How trailblazer Kalle Rovanpera has ripped up the WRC record book Plus

How trailblazer Kalle Rovanpera has ripped up the WRC record book

At the tender age of 22, Kalle Rovanpera is redefining what’s possible to achieve in rallying and inspiring a new legion of fans as a result. The newly-crowned World Rally Championship title-winner and his peers reflect on his ability and the start of his success in the top tier

WRC
Nov 26, 2022
How Hyundai and Neuville gatecrashed Toyota's homecoming party Plus

How Hyundai and Neuville gatecrashed Toyota's homecoming party

Thierry Neuville signed off the 2022 World Rally Championship season with his second win of the season in Japan after Toyota rival Elfyn Evans suffered a late puncture. With Sebastien Ogier and Kalle Rovanpera also delayed by punctures and incidents, it opened the door for Neuville and Ott Tanak to record Hyundai's second 1-2 of the season in Toyota's own backyard

WRC
Nov 14, 2022
The message a WRC stalwart sent which its new king couldn’t answer Plus

The message a WRC stalwart sent which its new king couldn’t answer

Sebastien Ogier might be the outgoing World Rally champion, but it didn’t stop him reminding everyone of the skills that made him an eight-time world champion. As victory at Rally Spain led Toyota’s charge to a titles clean sweep, it did pose a question to newly-crowned champion Kalle Rovanpera which he could not answer

WRC
Oct 24, 2022
Autosport gets to grips as a WRC co-driver Plus

Autosport gets to grips as a WRC co-driver

The majority of headlines may focus on the exploits of drivers in the World Rally Championship, but the challenges facing their co-drivers are no less demanding. Autosport got in the passenger seat with Toyota Gazoo Racing to find out just what it takes to succeed

WRC
Oct 6, 2022
How Rally New Zealand encapsulated record-breaking Rovanpera’s WRC title charge Plus

How Rally New Zealand encapsulated record-breaking Rovanpera’s WRC title charge

Kalle Rovanpera’s coronation as the new World Rally Championship king had been a long time coming, only to be postponed by hiccups in Belgium and Greece. But at Rally New Zealand the “Full Send” Finn demonstrated exactly how he's been able to rewrite the rallying record book as he stormed to victory to become the youngest ever world champion

WRC
Oct 3, 2022
How a Toyota lifeline reignited Lappi's WRC career Plus

How a Toyota lifeline reignited Lappi's WRC career

Motorsport can be brutal at times. One moment a driver can be the next big thing, but it can spiral in the other direction so quickly. Thankfully, sometimes drivers receive second chances. And Esapekka Lappi has taken his World Rally Championship lifeline in both hands

WRC
Sep 28, 2022
How team orders could make Hyundai's historic Acropolis Rally a Greek tragedy Plus

How team orders could make Hyundai's historic Acropolis Rally a Greek tragedy

Thierry Neuville led a maiden Hyundai 1-2-3 in the World Rally Championship, as the previously soft i20 N became a battle-hardened Greek warrior at the Acropolis Rally. But with team orders in play between the winner and Hyundai’s title protagonist Ott Tanak, could the result come back to haunt the team?

WRC
Sep 12, 2022
How Tanak triumphed amid a series of Belgium WRC blunders Plus

How Tanak triumphed amid a series of Belgium WRC blunders

After runaway World Rally Championship leader Kalle Rovanpera made his first major mistake of the season, the chance to take advantage was wide open for the chasing pack. Several of his rivals faltered to grasp the opportunity, but Ott Tanak made no such mistake and demonstrated his class with a third win of the campaign

WRC
Aug 22, 2022