Juho Hanninen holds a commanding 44.5-second lead over Freddy Loix at the end of the opening day of the Monte Carlo Rally.
Last year's Intercontinental Rally Challenge champion was quickest on the first of this afternoon's two runs through the St. Bonnet stage, then just 0.8sec slower than stage winner and fellow Skoda driver Loix on the repeat.
Loix's stage win pulled him clear of leading Peugeot driver Petter Solberg in their battle for second place. Solberg had looked to be on course for the fastest time at the opening splits, before a small mistake and subsequent over-caution cost him time. Solberg ends the day 10.8sec behind Loix and 0.2sec ahead of fourth-placed Stephane Sarrazin, who fell away from his morning pace on the second loop.
Guy Wilks is now fifth for Peugeot UK, with Jan Kopecky raising his pace in the works Skoda to move push Bryan Bouffier (Peugeot) down to seventh.
1994 Monte winner Francois Delecour continues to keep pace with the younger drivers and set very solid times despite his eight-year absence from top-level rallying. He holds eighth place at present.
After finishing the morning in ninth, punctures on both this afternoon's stages cost Giandomenico Basso several minutes. Toni Gardemeister also fell further down the order with tire damage on his Peugeot during SS3. The pair are now 13th and 15th, split by impressive ex-Formula 1 man Alex Caffi, with Nicolas Vouilloz 12th after his SS1 delay.
Pos Driver Car Time/Gap
1. Juho Hanninen, Skoda, 1h11m33.4s
2. Freddy Loix, Skoda, + 44.5s
3. Petter Solberg, Peugeot, + 55.3s
4. Stephane Sarrazin, Peugeot, + 55.5s
5. Guy Wilks, Peugeot, + 1m18.7s
6. Jan Kopecky, Skoda, + 1m26.3s
7. Bryan Bouffier, Peugeot, + 1m36.2s
8. Francois Delecour, Peugeot , + 1m52.4s
9. Jean-Sebastien Vigion, Peugeot, + 3m11.3s
10. Julien Maurin, Ford, + 3m53.2s