Reigning world champion Sébastien Ogier set the pace from Sébastien Loeb on the 2022 Monte Carlo Rally shakedown, the first officially timed stage of the World Rally Championship’s new hybrid Rally1 era.
At 1.42 miles in length, the Sainte-Agnès/Peille shakedown stage was “quite tricky, slow and really narrow”, and therefore “not representing the rally stages” according to Toyota’s Kalle Rovanperä.
But it still gave teams and onlookers the first chance to see all three brand-new Rally1 cars pitted against the clock on the same stretch of road. All three teams look to be competitive, as the leading cars from M-Sport, Hyundai, and Toyota were split by just 0.8 seconds on the first pass.
Sensationally it was Loeb and new co-driver Isabelle Galmiche who set the initial pace in their Ford Puma Rally1, 0.7s up on Hyundai’s Thierry Neuville, with Elfyn Evans and Ogier’s Toyotas just 0.1s further behind.
Ott Tänak set the fifth-best time on the first run but arrived to the start of the shakedown late, entering the stage after Craig Breen and Adrien Fourmaux when he was supposed to start ahead of them.
The precise reason for this has not been confirmed but Tänak’s i20 N Rally1 was without hybrid power on the stage, making his time that bit more impressive – although the tight and twisty nature of shakedown means the extra horsepower provided by the hybrid unit would not have been of great benefit.
Gus Greensmith was another to run into early problems, encountering a power-steering issue in his Puma. Greensmith, who will not score manufacturer points this weekend, dropped his pace significantly towards the end of the stage as a result of the issue.
Takamoto Katsuta did not make it to shakedown for the initial runs, his car having to return to service shortly after leaving.
He did eventually make the stage though and produced the eighth-quickest time, 3.8s off the fastest.
That ultimate pace was set by Ogier who, competing with Benjamin Veillas for the first time instead of Julien Ingrassia, who retired after winning last year’s Monza Rally, rolled back the years as he traded quickest times with Loeb.
Loeb’s Puma Rally1 was fastest after the first two runs, but Ogier got the better of his old rival on the third and final pass, outpacing Loeb by half a second.
Ogier’s team-mate Evans – who has been widely tipped as a title favorite this year – was third quickest, a full second slower than Ogier’s sister GR Yaris Rally1, with Neuville’s Hyundai another 0.8s further back.
M-Sport Ford Pumas filled out fifth, sixth and seventh places and all three of the team’s full-time drivers were split by just 0.4s. Fourmaux pipped Greensmith by 0.1s, while new recruit Breen was another three tenths adrift.
Rovanperä posted the ninth-best stage time, 0.1s down on Katsuta, but ran into trouble on his third attempt. His Toyota GR Yaris Rally1 ground to a halt a quarter of a mile after the start of the stage with a suspected technical issue.
Tänak’s best effort was equal to Rovanperä’s, while the third Hyundai of Oliver Solberg rounded out the leaderboard.
Shakedown was only open to Rally1 crews, meaning just 11 cars set times.
1 Sébastien Ogier/Benjamin Veillas (Toyota) 1m50.4s
2 Sébastien Loeb/Isabelle Galmiche (M-Sport Ford) 1m50.9s
3 Elfyn Evans/Scott Martin (Toyota) 1m51.4s
4 Thierry Neuville/Martijn Wydaeghe (Hyundai) 1m52.2s
5 Adrien Fourmaux/Alexandre Coria (M-Sport Ford) 1m53s
6 Gus Greensmith/Jonas Andersson (M-Sport Ford) 1m53.1s
7 Craig Breen/Paul Nagle (M-Sport Ford) 1m53.4s
8 Takamoto Katsuta/Aaron Johnston (Toyota) 1m54.2s
9 Kalle Rovanperä/Jonne Halttunen (Toyota) 1m54.3s
10 Ott Tänak/Martin Järveoja (Hyundai) 1m54.3s
11 Oliver Solberg/Elliott Edmondson (Hyundai) 1m54.5s