Monte Carlo : BFGoodrich - Interim Leg 3
CitroŽn/BFGoodrich's star driver has celebrated Saint Sebastien's day in style by making a huge step towards the fourth Monte Carlo Rally win of his career. The only competitive action that remains is the 2.8km superspecial set up
along the harbour front in Monaco tomorrow and the three-time World Champion goes into that short final test with an advantage of 31.1 seconds over his own team-mate Dani Sordo. In all logic, the CitroŽn pair is likely to be joined on Sunday afternoon's podium by Marcus GrŲnholm (Ford/BFGoodrich).
This evening, the pressure lies squarely on the shoulders of the CitroŽn truck driver entrusted with hauling the two BFGoodrich-shod C4 WRCs from Valence to Monaco in time for tomorrow's re-start. Failing a last-minute technical problem, or an uncustomary driver error round the Grand Prix-famed Swimming Pool esses or at La Rascasse, Sebastien Loeb
and Daniel Elena seem to be well on their way to netting their fourth Monte success, a score that will put them equal with the record currently held by Sandro Munari, Walter RŲhrl and Tommi Mškinen. The decision appears to be wrapped up but in rallying, as in any sport, the fat lady first must sing!
The Frenchman did all the hard graft on the stages of the Vercors and ArdŤche regions between Thursday evening's start and the end of the final 'true' stage on Saturday afternoon. The CitroŽn/BFGoodrich driver took control from the outset and has never since looked like relinquishing it. Today, as the route headed northwards to Lalouvesc and Saint-Bonnet-le-Froid, all he really had to do was to keep his team-mate Dani Sordo (2nd) at a safe distance.
Meanwhile, Marcus GrŲnholm also profited from the last day in the magnificent ArdŤche scenery to pretty much make sure of taking the bronze medal by Saturday lunchtime, while a fierce battle for 4th spot has been raging in his wake between Chris Atkinson (5th, Subaru/BFGoodrich) and Mikko Hirvonen (4th, Ford/BFGoodrich) who are this evening split by less than a second!
The Subaru driver was quickest both times over Saint-Bonnet-le-Froid to give the Subaru Impreza WRC2006 its first fastest times on dry asphalt since its launch a year ago! Now competing on BFGoodrich tyres, the Australian driver took SS13 at an average speed of 124.07kph to shatter Armin Schwarz's longstanding record for the former Monte classic by practically a minute!
Petter Solberg (Subaru/BFGoodrich) currently follows in 6th place ahead of privateers Toni Gardemeister (Mitsubishi/BFGoodrich) and Jan Kopecky (Skoda/BFGoodrich), with local hero Jean-Marie Cuoq (Peugeot/BFGoodrich) and CitroŽn/BFGoodrich privateer Manfred Stohl rounding off the provisional top-ten.
Tomorrow morning will see competitors tackle the 2.8km Monaco superspecial that will bring the curtain down on the 2007 edition of the longest-standing WRC fixture which marked a return to some of the great stages that have helped forge the event's reputation as one of motor sport's greatest legends.