Imagine being a professional rally driver in the early hours of this morning and trying to decide which tyres to put on your car. The view from the hotel changed as the crews made their ways towards the Stage Start in the mountains, and even there, the conditions were still changing, while the weather forecasters were predicting something completely different!
In the Citroen camp, and running sixth on the road, Mads Østberg opted for five Michelin Pilot Sport SS2 supersoft tyres, but twelve minutes later, armed with new information, Kris Meeke set off with four Michelin Pilot Sport SS2 supersoft tyres and two Michelin Pilot Alpin 4 tyres (non-studded for snow and ice) in the boot.
Although the first two stages were mainly wet, the third – and especially the section through the Col de Perty where there was a lot of snow – handed a significant advantage to the crews that had taken winter tyres. Third after SS2, Kris Meeke moved into second after SS3, stealing a march on his rivals by making the right tyre choice. With his supersoft tyres, Mads Østberg managed to stay on the road whilst losing as little time as possible.
In the afternoon, both drivers went for four Michelin Pilot Alpin 4 tyres and two Michelin Pilot Sport SS2 tyres.
Kris Meeke: “Clearly, running twelfth on the road was a bit of a disadvantage and I had trouble finding the right pace in the early part of the afternoon, because the racing line was covered in mud. I also felt it was better to be very cautious, even if that cost us some time. On such difficult stages, finishing the day in second place is obviously a good result. I’ll have to make sure I get plenty of sleep tonight, because we’ve a very long day ahead of us tomorrow.”
Mads Østberg: “It was a positive day. We learned a lot in the conditions which were especially complicated. We didn’t make the best tyre choice in the morning, but we managed not to lose too much time. And although we made a few mistakes, none of them were serious enough to put us out of the rally. We’ll be able to work with the team now to try and continue to improve tomorrow. We know that we have the potential to go faster, but we have to be careful.”
Yves Matton (Citroën Racing Team Principal): “Unusually for us, our two cars set off this morning having made different tyre choices. This decision was due to their starting positions. The option taken by Kris was the better one. And that is the main reason for the gap between the two drivers. They both drove well, very much in line with what we asked them to do.”