Sebastien Loeb continues to maintain a comfortable lead over Sebastien Ogier in the Monte Carlo Rally, as Evgeny Novikov flew on Thursday morning's snow-covered stages.
There was little to choose between Loeb's Citroen and Ogier's Volkswagen on the loop. Ogier was quickest on SS5, had a quick spin on SS6, then virtually matched Loeb on SS7.
The gap between them stands at 1m17.9s, with Loeb having built a margin on Wednesday afternoon. But the fastest man of the morning was Qatar M-Sport Ford driver Novikov. A close second to Ogier on Labatie d'Andaure, Novikov then won the next two stages.
That brought Novikov past Jari-Matti Latvala's VW and Mikko Hirvonen's Citroen, and to within 7.6sec of third-placed Citroen driver Dani Sordo.
All the Fords have been rapid in the tough conditions. Juho Hanninen challenged Latvala for sixth before a scare on SS6, while Mads Ostberg is making up time after a penalty for being late into service following electrical problems on Wednesday afternoon.
Leading positions after SS7:
Pos Driver Team/Car Time/Gap
1. Sebastien Loeb Citroen 2h29m49.4s
2. Sebastien Ogier VW + 1m17.9s
3. Dani Sordo Citroen + 2m18.0s
4. Evgeny Novikov Qatar M-Sport Ford + 2m25.6s
5. Mikko Hirvonen Citroen + 2m29.7s
6. Jari-Matti Latvala VW + 2m54.8s
7. Juho Hanninen Qatar M-Sport Ford + 3m20.5s
8. Bryan Bouffier PH Citroen + 4m17.0s
9. Mads Ostberg Qatar M-Sport Ford + 4m35.4s
10. Martin Prokop Czech Ford + 10m04.2s