Icy conditions make for tough prologue stage
The 78th Rallye Automobile Monte-Carlo has already provided a tough challenge with several leading crews reporting icy conditions during the opening prologue stage on Tuesday evening. Defending champion Kris Meeke and last year’s
Monte Carlo winner, Sebastien Ogier, both picked up punctures during the stage but completed the run without dropping too much time.
Skoda UK driver Guy Wilks was first to tackle the 8.83-kilometre course in his Fabia Super 2000. He was eight fastest and said: “It was tricky because it was difficult to see if you were driving on ice or a damp surface. If anything we had the car set-up too hard so it’s something else we’ve learned and that can only help for tomorrow.”
Finn Toni Gardemeister said he was surprised to have gone fastest of all in his Abarth Grande Punto having only completed 50 kilometres of pre-event testing. He said: “The grip was better than I expected it to be even though there was ice for 40 per cent of the stage. The speed did not feel so good so I am surprised I was fastest.”
Portugal’s Bruno Magalhaes admitted he had struggled during the opening section of the stage as he adapted to driving his Peugeot 207 on studded tyres for the first time. He was 12th fastest. “It was wet Tarmac for the first 1.8 kilometres and I lost a lot of time because of this,” he said.
Nicolas Vouilloz, pictured above leaving the ceremonial start in Valence, was second fastest in his factory Skoda Fabia, even though he reported driving conservatively for much of the stage. “It was very slippery at the first corner so I decided not to take too much risk after that,” said the Frenchman.
The rally got off to a disappointing start for Renault Formula One driver Robert Kubica. He is reported to have retired from the prologue stage with a suspected engine failure. It’s not clear if he will start the rally proper on Wednesday.
Full stage times are available on the live timing section of the website. Special stage one, from Burzet to Lachamp Raphael in the Ardeche region of France, gets underway at 11:51 local time on Wednesday.