WRC Monte Carlo Rally: Sebastien Loeb tops shakedown stage

Sebastien Loeb made a sensational return to the World Rally Championship with the fastest time on Wednesday afternoon's Monte Carlo Rally shakedown stage

WRC Monte Carlo Rally: Sebastien Loeb tops shakedown stage

And his time - four tenths of a second quicker than Citroen team-mate Kris Meeke - was even more impressive considering he had rolled his recce car on the way to a stage in the morning.

Loeb set the benchmark time through the 2.13-mile shakedown stage on his first run. He attempted the test four more times, but the road condition was deteriorating all the time.

Loeb said: "The first run was perfect. After that, the road was a big mess with mud everywhere. I couldn't drive as I would drive if it was clean, so I didn't [push]."

When the competition proper starts on Thursday evening, Loeb will be running in 14th place because he scored no points in last year's championship.

"With the new regulations, we will stay there as well," said Loeb. "Depending on the conditions, maybe it's good [to be 14th] or maybe we have no chance.

"We will see where we are. I can only try my best."

The Frenchman's recce shunt happened when he came over a crest and missed a corner.

A spokesman from the team said: "It wasn't a problem. Sebastien didn't miss any of the recce or anything like that, he was able to change the car and continue straight away."

Meeke was happy with his time, the Dungannon man's final run coming on studded tyres as he sought to find the feeling with the wrong tyres - a scenario that is certain to come the way of the crews with heavy snow forecast overnight.

Defending champion Sebastien Ogier was third fastest, 1.1s off Loeb, with his Volkswagen team-mate Andreas Mikkelsen a tenth of a second down in fourth place.

Robert Kubica was fifth fastest on his debut with his new RK World Rally Team. Fellow Ford Fiesta RS WRC driver Elfyn Evans was 0.1s behind him in sixth place.

The crews will depart Gap on Thursday morning to make the official photograph in Monaco before attending a start of the season party and the ceremonial start in the afternoon.

The first stage - a 13-miler from Entrevaux to Rouaine - gets underway at 20:21 local time.

FOLLOW THE 2015 WRC OPENER WITH AUTOSPORT:

Comprehensive preview package in the January 22 issue of AUTOSPORT magazine

Follow the Monte Carlo Rally as it happens with Race Centre Live on AUTOSPORT.com from 6.45pm UK time on Thursday evening

shares
comments
M-Sport plans huge Ford Fiesta World Rally Car upgrade for 2015
Previous article

M-Sport plans huge Ford Fiesta World Rally Car upgrade for 2015

Next article

Sebastien Ogier: Revised WRC rules throw 2015 battle open

Sebastien Ogier: Revised WRC rules throw 2015 battle open
Inside Hyundai’s F1-spec mobile WRC home Plus

Inside Hyundai’s F1-spec mobile WRC home

Hyundai is one of the World Rally Championship's big three, and has a brand-new travelling facility befitting of that status. The team invited Autosport for a behind-the-scenes look at its state-of-the-art HQ, which comes complete with all the bells and whistles you'd expect of a top Formula 1 outfit

WRC
Jul 27, 2022
How Rovanpera's latest Estonia masterclass left his WRC rivals stumped Plus

How Rovanpera's latest Estonia masterclass left his WRC rivals stumped

After trailing Toyota team-mate Elfyn Evans for much of Rally Estonia's opening day, WRC points leader Kalle Rovanpera took advantage of a change in the weather and never looked back afterwards. Winning for a fifth time this year at the scene of his 2021 breakthrough, and with a breathtaking powerstage bonus for good measure, his advantage is already looking difficult to topple

WRC
Jul 18, 2022
How the WRC captures its stunning visuals Plus

How the WRC captures its stunning visuals

Whether it’s the mountains of Monte Carlo, the snow of Sweden or the Kenya Savannah, the World Rally Championship is able to beam some of motorsport’s most spectacular footage to television screens while operating in the harshest of environments. Autosport went behind the scenes to unearth the secrets that make this logistical challenge possible

WRC
Jul 7, 2022
Why WRC's Safari tour is more than just a rally Plus

Why WRC's Safari tour is more than just a rally

OPINION: A source of national pride in Kenya, the Safari Rally is also a sporting, cultural and economic phenomenon. And as last weekend's World Rally Championship round reminded us, it's a key driver in establishing Africa’s place in world motorsport

WRC
Jun 29, 2022
How Rovanpera tamed a wild Safari Rally Plus

How Rovanpera tamed a wild Safari Rally

The Safari Rally acted as a brutal test of driver and car resolve as multiple retirements opened the path for a historic Toyota 1-2-3-4 triumph, headed by star Kalle Rovanpera. But keeping things clean was only half of the challenge, as a well-timed charge when conditions worsened allowed the Finn to take control

WRC
Jun 27, 2022
How Tanak turned the tables to deliver Hyundai a timely WRC triumph Plus

How Tanak turned the tables to deliver Hyundai a timely WRC triumph

The 2019 champion has been a bit-part player recently, but Ott Tanak ended a 15-month drought in fine style with a dominant win in Sardinia. On a weekend when championship leader Kalle Rovanpera struggled with cleaning the road, his Hyundai rival has made his belated arrival into the title race and given cause for those predicting a walkover from the Toyota star to pause

WRC
Jun 6, 2022
How Rovanpera overcame rallying royalty in Portugal to extend his WRC lead Plus

How Rovanpera overcame rallying royalty in Portugal to extend his WRC lead

Although the Rally Portugal entry list featured World Rally Championship royalty in Sebastiens Loeb and Ogier, victory was secured by rallying's rising star in Kalle Rovanpera. Here's the story of his 2022 hat-trick, as his key rivals faltered among the gravel and asphalt ahead of them

WRC
May 23, 2022
The former WRC star playing the unsung hero role for Rovanpera Plus

The former WRC star playing the unsung hero role for Rovanpera

Kalle Rovanpera’s 2022 World Rally Championship displays have been spectacular, with the Toyota driver benefitting from a secret weapon in his crew to win two of the opening three rallies. But while the former challenger to Sebastien Loeb won’t take credit for his fellow Finn's performances, a key bond has been formed which could prove key to Rovanpera’s title charge

WRC
Apr 29, 2022