WRC – Neuville takes the lead for Hyundai | Federation Internationale de l'Automobile
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WRC – Neuville takes the lead for Hyundai

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Rallye Monte-Carlo - Friday morning

Thierry Neuville has taken the lead of Rallye Monte-Carlo for Hyundai and the Belgian heads arch rival and reigning FIA World Rally Champion Sebastien Ogier by 3.4 seconds after only two of the three Friday morning stages ran. Ott Tänak, who took the early advantage last night, has dropped to third, 13.5 seconds further adrift.

More fresh challenges laid in wait on today’s longest day, which was scheduled to cover two loops of three stages. However, the day’s opener ended up being cancelled for safety reasons. Neuville has fared well, second fastest through the two stages to climb from third into the lead, despite nearly puncturing on a worn tyre. The cancellation of SS3 didn’t work entirely in Ogier’s favour tyre-wise, but the Frenchman kept up the pace and then set fastest time in the final stage of the loop to marginally close the gap to Neuville. Tänak, who set the early pace yesterday, was not on the optimum rubber for the two stages that ran; he is third, 16.9 seconds off the lead.

Sébastien Loeb was a driver to benefit and the Frenchman set his first fastest time in a Hyundai on the first stage, despite a puncture in the closing kilometres. He jumped from eighth to fourth but dropped a little time in the final stage when mud and gravel dragged onto the roads by cars ahead made it a stage of survival for him. Andreas Mikkelsen felt his Hyundai’s set-up was potentially not perfect but has had a good morning and has climbed from an overnight ninth to fifth. Jari-Matti Latvala suffered with overheating tyres in the first stage but finally felt relaxed at the wheel at the end of the loop. He is sixth and just 2.2 seconds adrift of Mikkelsen. Esapekka Lappi also wasn’t on ideal rubber but the Finn is feeling good in the C3 WRC and is also within striking distance of Latvala. In a close group, Elfyn Evans is just 3.3 seconds further behind with fellow Briton Kris Meeke also chasing. Meeke lost boost in the final stage, the radiator clogged with leaves, but he too is in the battle with a group of drivers ahead. Pontus Tidemand rounds out the top 10.

Gus Greensmith continues to lead the FIA WRC 2 Pro Championship category, despite losing the brakes at one point, although rival Kalle Rovanperä set the pace through both the morning’s stages. In WRC 2, Yoann Bonato won both stages to maintain his lead in the category ahead of Adrien Fourmaux and Guillaume de Mevius, who picked up a puncture in the first stage.