Citroen team boss Yves Matton is taking plenty of positives from Sebastien Loeb’s performance on the opening two days of Rallye Monte Carlo.
Making a one-off guest appearance in a DS 3 WRC this weekend, Loeb leapt into an early lead on Thursday, beating defending champion Sebastien Ogier. The pair battled hard through five stages on Friday until Loeb hit a rock on the sixth and retired shortly after.
“He just got a little bit wide and touched some concrete – just on the place on the wheel where you don’t want to,” explained Matton. “That broke something in the suspension. He will be in SuperRally tomorrow.”
But despite the disappointment of losing his star driver, Matton said Loeb’s pace had given the team a boost. “For sure everybody was very happy – after all it was a bit of a gamble to have Seb here. It was difficult to know what his real speed could be. We know he is always able to surprise us and yesterday night he did that once again.
“After the first two stages we saw that he was able to fight for a good result. We saw he hadn’t lost that ‘something’. I think everybody hoped to have a long rally with a big battle. Okay, it was not as long as expected but for sure it was a great battle,” he added.
The 2015-spec DS 3 World Rally Car introduced on this rally has improvements including a new engine and new suspension and Matton believes Loeb’s early speed shows it is capable of beating Volkswagen’s all-conquering Polo R.
“The speed [Loeb showed] was very good for everybody in the company, and for our technical people especially, because it showed that they did a great job and that the 2015 car seems very good and fast,” he said.
“I’ve said for for a long time that I am convinced the car is on the level – maybe I was the only one to be convinced! But Seb has shown here in these conditions, that the DS3 is still able to fight for a victory. Last year we chose to take some drivers without so much experience and we were learning, but I am convinced that our car is still able to win rallies.”
Today’s opening stage cancelled
The 19.93km test from Prunieres to Embrun lies just 35km east of the Gap service park and huge crowds flocked into the stage. However, there were so many fans packed into the final few kilometres that organisers cancelled the test for safety reasons.
Cars will now head to the marathon 51.70km stage from Lardier et Valença to Faye before returning to Gap for service.
The second pass through the stage is scheduled to start at 13.55.