Monte Carlo Rally 2012 - Day Four

Loeb, who has led the 2012 Monte Carlo Rally since Wednesday's SS4, appears to be cruising to his sixth success on this, the 80th running of this iconic rally. For the day's first visit to the 'Turini'/'Loda-Luceram' loop, he chose hard-compound Michelin Pilot Sport tyres. "No problems," reported the CitroŽn DS3 WRC at the Stop Control of SS15. "There were quite a lot of stones either side of the stage, and it was quite narrow, so I did my best to stay in the middle of the road."
After a cautious start to the event to familiarise himself with his new car, the world champion's team-mate Mikko Hirvonen was on a mission today, to snatch third place from Petter Solberg's Ford Fiesta. The Finn was fastest on the Col du Turini test but the Norwegian responded with the best effort on the following stage, on which he was the only driver to get beneath the 13-minute mark. "I made a small mistake towards the end, so I think Mikko will beat me," said the heavily perspiring Ford driver at the control.
Two minutes later, it was Mikko's turn to rue his caution, nearly 10s off Solberg's pace: "I was a bit too careful through the damp portions. There are still two night-time stages to come and I think third place is still possible." Past Monte Carlo Rally winner FranÁois Delecour was quite agitated at this control: "I've got a power steering problem," he explained, inviting onlookers to tug on his steering wheel to check for themselves. "Not a bad time, though, ay? It pays to keep fit!"
With almost two and a half minutes in hand and only the hand of fate to intervene it's now surely a mere formally before Loeb is confirmed as the 2012 Monte Carlo Rally winner and opens his WRC account with a useful deposit of points.
Top Ten Postions
1. Loeb/Elena - Citroen DS3
2. Sordo/Del Barrio - MINI Cooper Works + 2:37.6
3. Solberg/Patterson - Ford Fiesta WRC + 3:08.4
4. Hirvonen/Lehtinen - Citroen DS3 + 3:52.4
5. Novikov/Giraudet - Ford Fiesta WRC + 5:35.4
6. Delecour/Savignoni - Ford Fiesta WRC + 6:53.8
7.Campana/De Castelli - MINI Cooper Works + 8:19.2
8. Tanak/Sikk - Ford Fiesta RS WRC + 9:40.6
9. Prokop/Hruza - Ford Fiesta RS WRC + 15:47.3
10. Araujo/Ramalho - MINI Cooper Works + 15:50.2

21st January, 2012