Surprises on the first 6 stages of the 2014 Monte Carlo Rally, opening round of the 2014 WRC season:
VW's Sebastian Ogier, the defending champion, finds himself over 47 seconds from the lead after having a close encounter with a wall on an unexpectedly snow covered Stage 1.
Robert Kubica, on his Monte debut in Ford Fiesta RS WRC, won the first two snow covered stages with his usual maximum attack style despite being on slicks like Ogier . He toned it down in the later stages, concentrating on getting to the end in one piece. He sits in third place, 0.7s behind Citroen's Kris Meeke.
"I will settle for third place, but I can assure you that the most important thing for me is to finish and to feel like I've done a good job," Kubica told reporters "I didn't take any risks in the afternoon. It was less (difficult) in the afternoon, but it was still tricky, with a lot of mud on the road."
Leading the Monte after the first day is M-Sport Ford's Bryan Bouffier, Kubica's teammate. Bouffier used local knowledge and experience (he had won a non WRC edition of the monty) to end the fist day with a massive 38.8 second lead.
The Frenchman used a mix of snow and tarmac tires, mounted diagonally front and back and found the best compromise on the mixed conditions of the French mountain roads though he too had a close call:
"It’s fantastic to be leading but we are very lucky to be here," Bouffier explained. "We hit a bridge on the very first corner of the first stage. I thought our race was over."
Don't count Ogier out though, he won the last two stages of the day and improved his position from ninth to fourth.
Pos Driver Car Time/Gap 1. Bryan Bouffier M-Sport Ford 1h25m36.6s 2. Kris Meeke Citroen +38.8s 3. Robert Kubica M-Sport Ford +39.5s 4. Sebastien Ogier VW +47.3s 5. Mads Ostberg Citroen +1m20.7s 6. Elfyn Evans M-Sport Ford +1m38.6s 7. Jari-Matti Latvala VW +2m20.8s 8. Mikko Hirvonen M-Sport Ford +2m46.9s 9. Andreas Mikkelsen VW +4m06.2s 10. Olivier Burri Burri Ford +4m47.4s *
* WRC2 spec car