We started our rally on studded Michelin tyres, to cope with thick snow and ice on the opening stages. It was the only sensible choice, and Tuthill Porsche driver François Delecour got the best from them, clearing stage one in 19m01s versus nearest R-GT rival, Romain Dumas on 20m24s.
‘Gravel everywhere, on every corner,’ said nine-time World Champion, Sébastien Loeb, as he finished SS2. Tuthill Porsches love gravel, and again François went fastest of the R-GT cars, ten seconds up on Dumas.
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SS3 was held early next morning: dense fog and ice awaited the competitors. The frozen morning stages saw François stretch the gap to the 4-litre Porsche of Dumas. By the end of SS5, we were two minutes in front, despite François losing a rear brake line on the stage.
The day continued with the Porsches trading blows. Up front, the bad weather wreaked havoc in the premier class with both Loeb and Kris Meeke having terminal offs. It was a huge relief to hear Francois interviewed on WRC Live Radio at the end of stage eight: we lived to fight on in day three.
We started the next day 2.5mins up, but the first stage was cancelled due to too many spectators. This once used to happen in Britain and R-GT could bring many fans back if it ever gets a chance from the powers-that-be. No matter: we raced on to SS10, battling our way to a 3min 15sec lead at the end of day 3.
François started day 4 with a winning drive over the icy first stage. Romain had gone with a wider tyre option, but we played it more conservatively for the final two stages, swapping ultimate performance for minimum risk. Taking the chequered flag almost three minutes in front, François Delecour and Dominique Savignoni had done it: first Monte victory for a Porsche 911 since 1978. It may not have been an overall win, but it certainly felt just as sweet.
Next time: the car comes home and gets ready for testing