The 2017 Rallye Monte-Carlo officially got underway on Thursday evening, with a leg taking competitors from Monaco to Gap. During the evening’s only fully completed stage, Kris Meeke set the fourth fastest time, whilst Stéphane Lefebvre was forced to stop with a mechanical issue.
After setting off from Monaco’s Place du Casino, the crews were to contest two stages on their way to Gap.
However, SS1 was cancelled after one of the competitors rolled their car midway through the stage. Unfortunately, a spectator was hit in the incident and later died despite the intervention of the emergency services. SS2 went ahead as normal, albeit slightly behind schedule.
Between Bayons and Bréziers, Kris Meeke and Paul Nagle set the fourth fastest time in their Citroën C3 WRC. In line with the instructions given by the team, the British-Irish crew did not take any risks at the start of the rally.
Meanwhile, Stéphane Lefebvre and Gabin Moreau were forced to stop on this stage due to a transmission problem. As soon as the car is back to the service park, the team will get to work to ensure they are able to return to action under Rally2 rules.
Craig Breen and Scott Martin made a promising start to their race, recording their seventh fastest time, ahead of two new-generation World Rally Cars.
Tomorrow, the rally continues with two loops of three stages, covering a total timed distance of 160.8km. The cars are expected to arrive back at the Gap service park from 5.04pm onwards.
Yves Matton, Citroen Racing Team Principal : Kris’s pace was consistent with what we planned to have at the start, insofar as it wasn’t necessary to be leading the rally tonight. We’re obviously disappointed for Stéphane. We’ll wait for the car to get back to service to analyse the problem and the circumstances in which it arose. We are confident that both Citroën C3 WRCs will be able to continue the rally tomorrow.”
Kris Meeke : “It’s not how I imagine anyone wanted to start the season, with a stage cancelled because one of the competitors went off. SS2 was tricky, especially due to the gravel dragged onto the racing line by the first few cars. When you’re as cautious as I was, it ends up costing you quite a bit of time. We learned some new things about the car and overall, I’m fairly pleased with this first leg.”
Craig Breen : “I was pleasantly surprised when I learned my time at the end of SS2. I thought I would be a lot further behind the 2017 cars! It’s quite good fun, although it was difficult to read the road in some places. I’m pleased with my opening stage.”
1. Neuville / Gilsoul (Hyundai i20 WRC) 15:01.1
2. Ogier / Ingrassia (Ford Fiesta WRC) +7.8
3. Hanninen / Lindstrom (Toyota Yaris WRC) +15.0
4. Meeke / Nagle (Citroën C3 WRC) +15.8
5. Tanak / Jarveoja (Ford Fiesta WRC) +19.4
6. Evans / Barritt (Ford Fiesta WRC) +21.0
7. Breen / Martin (DS 3 WRC) +25.4