Eight-time Monte Carlo Rally winner Sébastien Ogier has pinpointed caution in his pacenotes as one of the main factors that led to his relinquishing of the rally lead to M-Sport’s Sébastien Loeb on Friday.
Ogier finished Friday’s stages 9.9 seconds behind nine-time world champion Loeb, hitting back with a stage win on the second run of Val-de-Chalvagne-Entrevaux after Loeb’s four top times in a row to start the day.
But it was stage five in particular, the first run of the same stage he later won, that cost Ogier dearly. He dropped 15.9s over the 10.63-mile test, which placed him seventh on the stage and dropped him to third behind Loeb and Toyota team-mate Elfyn Evans at the time.
While it wasn’t the only difficulty Ogier ascribed, it did contribute the most to his demotion from the lead.
“It was a mix of a couple of issues,” Ogier told DirtFish.
“One of those is that probably, with Simon [Jean-Joseph, two-time European Rally Champion and Ogier’s safety crew driver], my gravel crew were a bit on the safe side.
“The information I received from them was very safe and slowed me down quite a lot on the frosty section, which they described a bit more towards being ice.
“That can make a big difference on such a rally. We’ve been talking about it tonight and we said, OK, tomorrow we do better. It’s always a very difficult task for them so I don’t blame anybody.”
Ogier made a decision to back off in light of his cautious pacenotes, which in turn made a strong rhythm harder to find on the latter parts of the stage, where he dropped the most time.
“It’s difficult to find because it looks white, it’s frost, it’s hard to judge,” he said.
“When I was driving, I didn’t have the feeling that I was pushing, for sure, but I was not expecting to lose that much either.
“That’s the way it is sometimes, especially nowadays without [in-car] split times. It can easily happen.”
Though his approach to stage five had the biggest effect on his own position on the leaderboard, Ogier also suggested Loeb’s later start on the morning stages had given his rival a small advantage.
“Starting first was definitely not an advantage either,” he added.
“The sun was coming through, the road was gaining [speed] faster, especially for Loeb starting half an hour behind us.
“But we’ve been a bit too cautious on that one and it’s a shame that we lost so much time in there.
“Except for that, it’s been a very good day in the car for Benjamin [Veillas, co-driver] and me. We’ve been doing a good job and this afternoon I was really on the limit.”