Pierre-Louis Loubet has crashed out on Saturday morning’s opening stage of the Monte Carlo Rally, sliding into a barrier on the final corner.
The first round of Loubet’s first full World Rally Championship season has slipped away from Loubet ever since Friday morning where he lost power-steering aboard his Puma Rally1.
With no opportunity to fix it during the day, Loubet bravely soldiered on and contested the entire afternoon without his power-assisted steering, falling to 29th overall but earning plenty of plaudits.
However, Loubet quickly went from hero to zero on Saturday’s first stage when, on the very last corner of the test, Loubet slid on some ice and clouted the side of a small bridge with the rear right of his Ford.
Although he completed the stage with the finish boards just in front of him, the damage to his car was significant, with his rear-right wheel bent outwards.
Just like on Friday, there is no service break on Saturday – just a remote tire fitting zone.
Asked to describe what happened, Loubet simply responded: “It was icy.”
Asked if he could repair the damage, he said: “No.”
Other than that, the other key story from Le Fugeret / Thorame-Haute was Takamoto Katsuta who relieved Dani Sordo of sixth place – beating the Hyundai by a handsome 10.2 seconds on SS9 to move ahead by 7.3s.
On Friday Sordo believed that the feeling was fine aboard his Hyundai but the times weren’t there, but on Saturday’s first stage he was bereft of any confidence and therefore expected a poor time unlike on Friday where that surprised him.
Hyundai newbie Esapekka Lappi had been in the same boat on Friday but sounded more confident after SS9,
“It’s definitely, feeling wise, better than yesterday,” he said.
“I still don’t believe the time is fast enough but we are heading in the right direction. For sure it was the best car I’ve driven this weekend.”
Out front, Sébastien Ogier remains firmly in control of the rally he’s won eight times before; leading fellow world champion Kalle Rovanperä by 33.5s.
Rovanperä, who won his first stage as defending world champion late on Friday, set the pace on the stage to extend his advantage over third placed Thierry Neuville from 1.9s to 4.6s.
Elfyn Evans is now just 2.9s behind Ott Tänak’s fourth place as he strengthened his bid to potentially climb back onto the podium.
Tänak, who’s learning his new Puma Rally1, said: “Let’s say we are moving with the car and trying to find a bit more, so hopefully it’s coming today a bit more.”