#WRC2015, Master Drive by Monsieur Loeb, after Day1 at Rallye Monte-Carlo!

Thierry Neuville in his i20 WRC
Monte master Loeb does it again! It was a tricky road sections, along the two stages that ran tonight on the opening leg of Rally Monte-Carlo and the returning 9-timer shows how it has to be done. He started late at 14th position, yet was fastest in the first stage by flat 22s and ahead of the next fastest driver Ott Tanak.

Loeb's younger compatriot; two times world champion Sebastien Ogier, took the next stage win and narrowed the gap to13.3s after the second and last stage for the day. Jari-Matti Latvala was second quickest in the second test, Loeb finished third, but still fast enough to keep the overall lead to Day 2.

Loeb at the end of SS1
The first test of the day started after the Ceremonial start at Place du Casino in Monaco, and Ogier was the first off the ramp. After a quick tyre selection at the service camp, 10 km before the stage start; the Frenchman opted for studded tyres and was the first to drive through an altogether new stage that was last used way back in 1983. He completed the stage by setting a benchmark time of 16m24.4s.

Elfyn Evans under hard-braking
Although the skies were clear, the temperature hovering around ~2ºC, snow and ice reported along the 21.31 km stage [Entrevaux – Rouaine SS1].

Perhaps it was the first few cars which cleared most of the ice from the racing lines, which helped Loeb gain the massive lead of 30.9s over his former team-mate and defending champion; and it was sufficient for catapulting him up the score-board. Most of the drivers ahead of the 9-timer, had difficulty in keeping the car on the road and had at least one off-road moment, and bled time in the process.

Ogier claims SS2
In the following stage of 19.68km [Norante – Dignes les Bains SS2], Ogier complained of a wrong tire choice for the second and last test of the day, yet took the victory by over 10s over the nearest contender Latvala. Loeb finished third quickest, 17.6s slower to the reigning champ and  reports; "It was okay but a lot of gravel everywhere in every corner. I had a good tyre choice for the first stage but it wasn't the best for the second. I passed two cars in there - I'm not sure who they were."

It was Bryan Bouffier and Robert Kubica who were cruising through the stage to complete the opening leg, yet the pole had to retire, electrical problems reported.

The action will resume on Friday morning at 09:56 hrs [local-time, GAP], in full day light, and the real battle is expected on this long day with six special stages.

Results Overall- After SS2

Pos  # Flag + Driver Time Diff Prev  Diff 1st
1. 4 FRA S. LOEB 30:08.2

2. 1 FRA S. OGIER 30:21.5 +13.3 +13.3
3. 2 FIN J. LATVALA  30:44.3  +22.8 +36.1
4. 6 EST O. TANAK 30:46.8 +2.5 +38.6
5. 5 GBR E. EVANS 30:55.6 +8.8 +47.4

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