Mikkelsen/Fløene, who already led WRC2 after the two opening stages on Thursday in the vicinity of the winter sports town Gap, continued to dominate the category on Friday as well. Extremely difficult road conditions with mostly wet tarmac, some slush and the occasional patch of ice made tyre choice tricky. But the two Norwegians aboard the ŠKODA FABIA Rally2 evo looked unimpressed, winning WRC2 on five of Thursday’s and Friday’s seven stages. The newcomers to ŠKODA Motorsport supported team Toksport WRT arrived back in the Gap service park with a 47.1 seconds lead over Ford crew Adrien Fourmaux/Renaud Jamoul (FRA/BEL) with French duo Eric Camilli/François-Xavier Buresi (Citroën C3 Rally2) a further one and a half minutes down.
“I’m really enjoying this rally. The gap is quite good now and it’s a nice feeling, because in the car we don’t feel like we’re pushing very hard,” Mikkelsen summed up his day, especially praising the further developed 2021 generation of the ŠKODA FABIA Rally2 evo. “The car is fantastic in these conditions.”
The experienced former factory driver was also quick to mention his safety crew, who checks each stage shortly before the start. So, the co-drivers receive valuable information about changes in road conditions compared to Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday, when the pace notes were written. Which was particularly helpful during Friday, because rising temperatures had turned the snow and ice of the recce period mostly into standing water and slush. “Our safety crew is doing a great job,” Mikkelsen acknowledged. So high was his pace, that he often left some of the drivers of the much more powerful WRC1 cars in his wake, finishing leg 1 in an impressive seventh position overall.
Competing for the first time for team Toksport WRT, 20 years old Marco Bulacia from Bolivia showed a steep learning curve and delivered a faultless drive. Well, nearly. “In stage 6, we had a puncture,” he explained the loss of three minutes in the penultimate test of the day. Nevertheless, Bulacia and his Argentinian co-driver Marcelo Der Ohannesian brought the team’s second ŠKODA FABIA Rally2 evo to the evening service in fourth position in WRC2.
Among the after leg 1 remaining 30 competitors in Rally2 cars, ŠKODA crews make up the majority. Mikkelsen/Fløene also lead this group, twelve more ŠKODA FABIA Rally2 evo appear on the interim result.
Rallye Monte-Carlo continues on Saturday with three stages covering 57.1 kms. The competitors leave Gap, the event’s base since Monday, and turn south to the Mediterranean. Parc Fermé at the end of leg 2 is set up alongside Monaco yacht harbour.
Standings Rallye Monte-Carlo after Leg 1 (WRC2)
1. Mikkelsen/Fløene (NOR/NOR), ŠKODA FABIA Rally2 evo, 1:37:48.3 hrs.
2. Fourmaux/Jamoul (FRA/BEL), Ford Fiesta Rally2, + 47.1 sec.
3. Camilli/Buresi (FRA/FRA), Citroën C3 Rally2, + 2:11.6 min.
4. Bulacia/Der Ohannesian (BOL/ARG), ŠKODA FABIA Rally2 evo, + 7:17.1 min.
5. Johnston/Kihurani (USA/USA), Citroën C3 Rally2, + 8:57.8 min.
6. Brazzoli/Barone (ITA/ITA), ŠKODA FABIA Rally2 evo, + 32:11.4 min.
Number of the day: 6
In stage 6, WRC2 front-runners Andreas Mikkelsen and co-driver Ola Fløene (ŠKODA FABIA Rally2 evo) posted the sixth fastest time overall.
2021 FIA World Rally Championship
Monte-Carlo 21 – 24 January
Arctic Lapland (Finland) 25 – 28 February
Croatia 22 – 25 April
Portugal 20 – 23 May
Italia Sardegna 3 – 6 June
Safari Kenya 24 – 27 June
Estonia 15 – 18 July
Finland 29 July – 1 August
Ypres (Belgium) 13 – 15 August
Chile 9 – 12 September
Spain 14 – 17 October
Japan 11 –14 November