First event of 2020 Open RBR-LT WRC season started in the night stages of Rallye Monte-Carlo. We had 76 participants on the start line and all of them immediately had to make a hard choices. As this event is known for unpredictable conditions in every kilometer, tires choice is very important.
Last years dominant in WRC 3 category Oscar Estevez jumped to a WRC car in a middle of season and this year driving for M-Sport Ford WRT is definitely one of the fastest guys. Portuguese driver chose semi-slicks for two opening night stages, he was fastest in SS1 by 16 seconds than anyone else, but in the next stage was with more slippery conditions and Oscar lost more than 27 seconds to his team mate Lukas Fafrak. That's an interesting to see different tire choices from same team. Although it was 3rd stage result for Estevez with Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT driver Remus Diaconescu interruption in 2nd place. Romanian was very fast in the end of last season in WRC 3 category, but now his speed with WRC car is surprise for everybody. Remus was very stable during first leg and now is sitting in 3rd position overall with 1min and 25sec gap from rally leader. That's and amazing performance knowing he had jumped to a WRC car straight from a 2wd one. Morning loop was opened with a privateer Adrian Klimas win in SS3, by just 0.56 seconds over his countrymen and last season 3rd place winner Mateusz Przyzlakowski. This time all leader chose intermediate tires. SS4 and SS5 was won by Oscar Estevez with more than a 2 seconds advantages. But after a service in Gap city, Adrian Klimas was showing that manufacturer team isn't everything. Pole won all last three stages of the leg and finished 2nd overall with 44.91 gap from rally leader Oscar Estevez. That's an impressive performance by a private driver. Paulo Tempera is also in the same role, he is driving the only one Citroën C3 WRC in whole fleet. Nevertheless just 8.17 seconds separates him form a another M-Sport Ford WRT driver Lukas Fafrak in 4th place. Here is a rally leader Oscar comment after firs leg finish,- "Calm, not risks in first day. See you tomorrow. Thanks RBR-LT."
Well for a current Open RBR-LT WRC champion Juan Marzoa season start didn't went as everybody expected. Juan crashed in a very first stage, then he restarted in a morning by a Super Rally rule and made a decent stage times, but in SS5 he again had some problems. Juan lost much time and and after service again made a mistake in SS6 that made him to withdraw from a first leg. Just 56 position overall probably means that Spaniard will be left with no points in the first event of the season.
Looks like the 2019 season continues for somebody. Echedei Benitez won both night stages in WRC 2 category even with semi-slicks. He was leading till SS4 and fighting with other Spanish guys but in SS5 Echedei had an accident. "Big crash. Car don't start. this is Monte.",- Benitez comment after retirement. After that another Spaniard Diego Rivas with a VW Polo GTI R5 took a lead for a following two stages, but he also messed up by making a stupid mistake like he said. All that mistakes opened a door to first place for Pole Krzysiek Sliz who always was behind these Spanish guys. However Krzysiek didn't run far from Spaniards, as Diego Vazques is hardly chasing Poles Hyundai with his Škoda with just 8,52 seconds behind in 2nd place. With a 40,81 seconds gap from class leader we have Gedvis Ralistaz in 3rd place. Lithuanian said that first leg was very long and exhausting so it's very nice to see that his Fiesta made it in one peace.
In JUNIOR WRC we again had an amazing battle between Spanish drivers. Pablo Sanches was leading the whole day from SS2 till the last one where his Peugeot 208 R2 was beaten by Cristian Lamas Ford Fiesta R2T19. However Pablo was happy and knows that 2,61 seconds gap from 1st place is nothing in a rally like this,- "Happy for the first day, it's a long rally. Little mistakes but not problem. Thanks RBR LT, see you in the second day." Pole Artu Hazuka was pushing really hard and was behind Pablo or Cristain all the time, he also won two stages in the second half. So Artur sits in 3rd place and with 43.70sec gap from a leader is still everything possible.
We have 69 drivers in the finish of leg one and the best performance so far is delivered by M-Sport Ford WRT drivers Oscar Estevez and Lukas Fafrak in 1st and 4th places. While privateer Adrian Klimas and WRC debut maker Remus Diaconescu living a dream in top positions. Rally Monte-Carlo continues with more twisty and treacherous stages. Stay tuned!