Despite an impressive field of guest drivers plus all the Intercontinental Rally Challenge regulars to beat, reigning champion Juho Hanninen proved to be a class apart on day one of the Monte Carlo Rally, opening up a 44-second lead over the first four stages.
AUTOSPORT spoke to him as he prepared to defend that advantage on the next leg.
Q. How was day one?
Juho Hanninen: Looking at the time it was not so bad! We ran the car a little bit soft, not soft, but not so hard as we might have done, because there were some changes in the grip level. The feeling has been very good from the car.
Q. What about some snow for tomorrow?
JH: I don't mind that, I like snow! But, having said that, maybe it would be good for me to have more time on the tarmac – I need more experience of this surface. If the weather is changing, anything can happen on the event. Don't forget, it's still a very long way to go, even when we get to Monaco tomorrow afternoon it's still a long way to go.
Q. Did you have any problems at all yesterday?
JH: On the second pass of the afternoon stage, there was quite much gravel being pulled out by the other drivers, so I was taking it a little bit steady in there, I didn't push so hard.
Q. What do you think for tomorrow? Can Freddy Loix catch you?
JH: He will be fast tomorrow, there's no doubt about that. He knows the stages tomorrow very well and I'm sure he can make some time.
Q. Are you surprised to be leading?
JH: I am! I didn't expect this. You know, you look at the drivers like [Stephane] Sarrazin and the other Peugeot drivers and it's good to be where we are. I don't know so much about who is on what tires, but at the moment we are at the front and I'm happy with that.
Q. Any problems with the car?
JH: No, none at all. The car has been good. Maybe tomorrow we will run the car a little bit stiffer, but if you say there is some changing weather coming then it could be better to leave it like it is.