Rally Monte Carlo was not a joyous affair for the Citroën team. The race got off to pretty poor start for Stéphane Lefebvre. After carrying a bit too much speed into a corner, the Citroën C3 WRC driver opted for what he believed was the safe option, by running straight on. But this mistake proved costly: stuck in the snow, the Frenchman burned out the car’s clutch as he attempted to get going again.
From that point onwards, the hopes of the Citroën Total Abu Dhabi team rested solely with Kris Meeke. The Northern attacked and got second place at the end of SS3. But on the next stage, he was caught out by a sheet of ice. The rear of his C3 WRC hit a bank on the outside of the corner, breaking the suspension and forcing him to retire for the day.
After rejoining under Rally2 rules on Saturday, Kris lost another twenty minutes due an ignition problem on SS10. And in the evening, an ordinary road traffic accident ended his hopes of finishing the rally! On the road section to Monaco, Kris’ car was hit by another vehicle, leaving him with no choice but to retire given the damage caused.
“Nothing really went as planned during this race,” admitted Yves Matton, Citroën Racing Team Principal
“And yet, we thought we could have a good weekend after some pleasing tests for the drivers and the team. In the early stages of the race, both Stéphane and Kris made mistakes and from that point onwards, we could no longer aim for a significant final result. We also had some difficulties in finding the right set-up for these very specific conditions, the likes of which we hadn’t faced in testing. We’ve only just started to run the C3 WRC and we still have a lot of work ahead of us.”
Lefebvre made every effort possible to improve. He juggled with the four types of tyres to rack up the miles and add to his experience. From being in 64th position at the end of day one, he swept through the field up to 11th place by Saturday evening. He claimed the C3 WRC’s first stage win on SS15 on Sunday. After that finished as runner-up on the Power Stage. These impressive performances helped him to move up into ninth overall.
“It was really good for morale to finish the rally on a positive note,” reported the Frenchman. “Setting the fastest time on the Col de Turini is something special. But most of all, it points to some of the car’s potential in more normal conditions.
Craig Breen was the best classified Citroen driver in the first 2017 WRC race
He was with the old DS3 but was battling with Dani Sordo for fourth place.
“We won’t forget about this rally, because there are things that we can take from it which will be useful in 2018,” commented Yves Matton. “But in the short and medium term, we are going to put this weekend behind us and move on. We remain positive, for Sweden, obviously, but also for Mexico and all of the subsequent rounds. Monte-Carlo can be a cruel rally and we experienced that first hand this weekend. Our aim is still to win races in normal conditions this season.”