WRC: Ogier leads as Neuville hits trouble

2017-01-22 16:32:53

Sebastien Ogier has taken the lead of Rallye Monte-Carlo with his M Sport Ford after Thierry Neuville – who has led from the start – damaged the rear suspension on his Hyundai i20 Coupe in the final stage of the day. Reigning world champion 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.

Ogier's M Sport teammate Ott Tanak 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.

Today'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, Stephane 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 Skoda 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.

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