AFTER almost 15 months away, Citroën master Sebastien Loeb blasted back into the FIA WORLD Rally Championship with fastest time on a pre-event shakedown at Rallye Monte-Carlo on Wednesday.
The nine-time champion and seven-time Monte-Carlo winner was immediately on the pace aboard his Citroën DS3 in the final test before the first round of the 2015 championship, which starts tonight in Monaco’s Place du Casino.
He led a Citroën 1-2 with teammate Kris Meeke 0.4 seconds behind and followed by current world champion Sebastien Ogier in the new Volkswagen Polo R WRC.
“It’s not a bad way to come back to WRC!” Loeb said.
“I immediately felt comfortable in the car but this won’t be an easy rally. The weather forecast looks tricky and so my low position in the road order could be an advantage or a disadvantage.”
Although only preliminary to the demanding 355 km chase through ice and snow crews will have to complete to the Sunday finish, the shakedown result raises hopes of a return to form for Citroën as it seeks to end Volkswagen’s WRC dominance.
Citroen DS3 WRC cars filled four of the top eight places.
Top 10 shakedown drivers:
1. Sébastien Loeb (Citroen) 2min 21.0sec
2. Kris Meeke (Citroen) + 0.4sec
3. Sébastien Ogier (Volkswagen) + 1.1sec
4. Andreas Mikkelsen (Volkswagen) + 1.2sec
5. Robert Kubica (Ford) + 1.3sec
6. Elfyn Evans (Ford) + 1.4sec
7. Mads Østberg (Citroen) + 1.8sec
8. Sebastien Chardonnet (Citroen) + 3.7sec
9= Thierry Neuville (Hyundai) + 3.9sec
9= Dani Sordo (Hyundai) + 3.9sec