Ogier takes the lead on Rallye Monte-Carlo

Saturday

Sébastien Ogier has taken the lead of Rallye Monte-Carlo after Thierry Neuville – who has led from the start – damaged the rear suspension on his i20 Coupe in the final stage of the day. Ogier now takes a 47.1 second advantage into the final day, seeking a fifth victory on this legendary event and the first victory for an M-Sport built WRC car since Rally GB in 2012. Team-mate Ott Tänak has overcome problems during the day to hold second and, following Neuville’s time loss, Jari-Matti Latvala has moved the Toyota Yaris WRC into the final provisional podium position on the team’s return to the FIA World Rally Championship.

Saturday’s route took in five stages, two repeated, and once again provided tricky conditions with a mixture of snow, ice and slush in some stages and drier conditions in others. Ogier started the day second and dropped some time to Neuville this morning with an over-cautious approach on the icy sections. He won the third stage of the day to claw back some time but then lost what he’d gained in the following test with a trip through a field.

In the final stage he was lucky to escape damage after hitting a bank, but was then gifted the lead when Neuville dropped over 30 minutes with damaged suspension, the result of running wide and hitting something. The Belgian seemingly had the event totally in his control and has led from the start, winning one stage today to consolidate his lead. It will be a bitter pill for Neuville to swallow as he was chasing a maiden Monte-Carlo victory. As a consequence, Jari-Matti Latvala is potentially on course for a podium finish for Toyota, which would be an incredible result for the Japanese manufacturer on its return to the sport. The Finn didn’t feel comfortable this morning but a better run this afternoon puts him well ahead of Craig Breen.

The Irish driver has been performing well in the 2016 specification DS3 WRC, faring better in the trickier conditions but losing time to the 2017 cars on the drier sections. He is however the lead driver for the French team, Stéphane Lefebvre just outside the top 10 and Kris Meeke again forced to retire, this time on the road section back to Gap this evening. Dani Sordo holds fifth, the Spaniard losing the power steering in the final stage, and Eflyn Evans is sixth in the third Ford Fiesta WRC. The Welshman has set a blistering pace today, winning three of the five stages.

Andreas Mikkelsen holds seventh and leads the FIA WRC 2 Championship category ahead of fellow Škoda R5 driver Jan Kopecky, the Norwegian with over three minutes in hand. Bryan Bouffier, a former winner of the event, is ninth in a Fiesta R5 car and Pontus Tidemand rounds off the top 10. In the FIA WRC 3 Championship, Raphael Astier continues to lead by nearly 10 minutes over Luca Panzani.

Rallye Monte-Carlo – Provisional results after Section 6

1. Sébastien Ogier/Julien Ingrassia Ford Fiesta WRC 3hr 26min 10.7sec

2. Ott Tanak/ Martin Järveoja Ford Fiesta WRCn3hr 26min 57.8sec

3. Jari-Matti Latvala/Miikka Anttila Toyota Yaris WRC3hr 28min 31.3sec

4. Craig Breen/Scott Martin Citroën DS3 WRC 3hr 29min 58.0sec

5. Dani Sordo/Marc Marti Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC 3hr 30min 13.9sec

6. Elfyn Evans/ Daniel Barritt Ford Fiesta WRC 3hr 33min 37.9sec

7. Andreas Mikkelsen/Anders Jæger Škoda Fabia R5 3hr 35min 25.9sec

8. Jan Kopecky/Pavel Dresler Škoda Fabia R5 3hr 38min 45.1sec

9. Bryan Bouffier/Denis Giraudet Ford Fiesta R5 3hr 40min 52.6sec

10. Pontus Tidemand/Jonas Andersson Škoda Fabia R5 3hr 41min 10.0sec