Reigning FIA World Rally Champion Sebastien Ogier led Rallye Monte-Carlo at the end of the first full day of competition, but the Frenchman has just two-seconds in hand to Thierry Neuville after a total of eight tricky mountain stages. Andreas Mikkelsen has leapt from fifth at the mid-leg service to third overnight, albeit over a minute adrift already.
The repeated afternoon loop of three stages ran without problems and Ogier closed the gap to Neuville in the opening stage to just 1.4 seconds having set joint fastest time with Jari-Matti Latvala. While the Frenchman didn’t win either of the following stages, a consistent but cautious pace maintained his advantage heading into Saturday. Neuville dropped at least 15 seconds in the first stage when the car wouldn’t turn in and he had to spin his Hyundai back onto the right road. Otherwise, the Belgian has had a good day and high confidence in the last stage helped him reel in another fastest time. Mikkelsen is exercising a degree of caution and has had a clean run, overhauling Ott Tänak and Sebastien Loeb during the afternoon loop.
Latvala took a safe tyre choice which helped him equal Ogier’s fastest SS6 time and the Finn is just 7.4 seconds adrift of Mikkelsen. Loeb knew he would struggle with his tyres on the first stage, gambling on gaining in the following two. He set another fastest time in the middle stage to rocket from seventh to third, only to drop back to fifth in the final stage. He is however only eight-tenths of a second off Latvala. Elfyn Evans had a great feeling in the middle stage but had to take it easy over the icy sections in the final stage; he is sixth, 21.6 seconds behind Loeb. After a great start and the rally lead last night, Tänak is now seventh having stopped to change a puncture which dropped him from third. Kris Meeke had a frustrating afternoon, sustaining another broken rim and a broken damper as a consequence. The Northern Irish driver nevertheless remains upbeat, confident the speed has been there.
Gus Greensmith has now moved into ninth overall and leads the newly-created FIA WRC 2 Pro Championship. He is trading fastest times with Kalle Rovanperä but continues to have a healthy advantage after the Finn lost time off the road last night. Yoann Bonato is also inside the top 10, leading WRC 2 in his Citroen C3 R5. He won one of the afternoon’s three stages and heads Adrien Fourmaux by nearly two minutes.
The leading retirements of the afternoon were Esapekka Lappi and Pontus Tidemand. Lappi hit a rock, damaged a wheel and broke the wishbone and driveshaft, while Tidemand was also forced out with a broken wishbone.
Rallye Monte-Carlo – Unofficial results after Section 3
1 Sebastien Ogier / Julien Ingrassia Citroen C3 WRC 1hr 37min 17.3sec
2 Thierry Neuville / Nicolas Gilsoul Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC 1hr 37min 19.3sec
3 Andreas Mikkelsen/Anders Jǽger Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC 1hr 38min 35.0sec
4 Jari-Matti Latvala / Miikka Anttila Toyota Yaris WRC 1hr 38min 42.4sec
5 Sebastien Loeb / Daniel Elena Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC 1hr 38min 43.2sec
6 Elfyn Evans / Scott Martin Ford Fiesta WRC 1hr 39min 04.8sec
7 Ott Tänak / Martin Järveoja Toyota Yaris WRC 1hr 39min 52.2sec
8 Kris Meeke / Sebastian Marshall Toyota Yaris WRC 1hr 42min 50.3sec
9 Gus Greensmith / Elliott Edmondson Ford Fiesta R5 1hr 44min 17.4sec
10 Yoann Bonato / Benjamin Boulloud Citroen C3 R5 1hr 44min 24.0sec
Saturday’s penultimate leg journeys north of Gap on familiar roads. A double loop of two stages precedes a long journey south to Monaco for Sunday’s finale.