The Monte Carlo Rally has always been about survival. For a professional driver and co-driver it's an enormous challenge to stay within their abilities when they're strapped into a potent World Rally Car. But they must be calm and collected behind the wheel if they want to get to the end of this opening round of the World Rally Championship.
On day two of the event the British duo of Kris Meeke and Elfyn Evans once again drove admirably. After today's five stages Meeke is in third position in his factory Citroen DS3 WRC. Consistent times helped his cause but the Dungannon driver was happy to admit that he was enjoying the stages.
Meeke came very close to securing a full WRC drive with Mini for the 2012 season but that fell through weeks before the season started. That he's now leading nine-time champion Sébastien Loeb's old team is a dream, but also an opportunity he's making the most of.
For Welshman Evans competing on the Monte for M-Sport in one of its Ford Fiesta RS WRCs is the culmination of years of determined hard work. In rallying a driver needs experience and stage miles. Obtaining this is difficult, mainly due to the cost involved. Evans has made a mark on the WRC this weekend with his mature performance. He's in sixth position as the crews pause in Monaco overnight.
The performance of the day came from world champion Sebastien Ogier. The VW Polo R WRC driver leapt into the lead after a stirring drive on stages eight and nine. It should have taken him all day to close the 47 second gap to Fiesta driver Bryan Bouffier, who led this morning, but the commitment Ogier showed was astonishing. The Frenchman used all of the road and more, with a particular moment catching the eye as he hooked his left rear wheel into a ditch. Plenty of right foot got his car back on the road and he escaped — but he didn't back off. A similar moment almost caught out Ogier's team-mate Jari-Matti Latvala on stage nine.
Those incidents highlight why these drivers are so good. They have breathtaking car control, but sometimes they find their own limit. Former Formula One driver Robert Kubica had driven a strong rally in his M-Sport-ran Fiesta but he succumbed to the legendary Sisteron stage this afternoon and is now on his way home.
It's very easy to waste a lot of hard work on the Monte. The British pair of Meeke and Evans have avoided the perils of the French mountains so far, but the challenge just keeps on coming. The remaining crews will tackle four stages tomorrow, totalling 50 miles of flat-out driving. They won't be easy. Nothing is easy on the Monte.