WRC - OGIER TAKES COMMANDING LEAD INTO THE FINAL DAY | Federation Internationale de l'Automobile
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Sébastien Ogier was gifted a huge advantage during the closing stages of the penultimate day of Rallye Monte-Carlo when his nearest rivals, Kris Meeke and Jari-Matti Latvala, were forced into retirement. The reigning FIA World Rally Champion was heading the field at the time but less than 30 seconds separated him and Meeke as they continued their event-long battle for honours in the opening round of the Championship. With his nearest opponents out of the picture, Ogier now heads Andreas Mikkelsen by just under two minutes with Thierry Neuville moving into third, 12.5 seconds further adrift in the debut outing of the new generation Hyundai i20 WRC.

Today’s route took in two identical loops of two stages, including two runs through the daunting 51.55 kilometre Lardier-et-Valença – Faye stage, before concluding with the famous Sisteron test en route back to Monaco for the overnight halt and closing stages on Sunday. Ogier blitzed the opposition in the opening stage to double his lead over Meeke, the long stage providing a sharp wake-up call for the crews early this morning. The 51.55 kilometre test was the longest of the rally and part of a loop of two stages with differing road conditions. As such, tyre choice was critical, as the long stage was largely dry with some ice whereas the second was snow-filled on the narrow and winding descent to the finish line. Ogier was 10.6 seconds faster than Meeke in the opener and while he, Meeke and Latvala maintained their positions at the top of the leaderboard, it was Mikkelsen on a different tyre strategy who lost out, the Norwegian dropping more than a minute on studded tyres. He fell from fourth to fifth but benefitted in the following stage, clawing back 43.9 seconds with the stage victory as his rivals struggled on the snowy descent on their mix of slick and studded tyres. Meeke took victory in the repeat run of the long stage but the Briton was forced out of the event before the penultimate stage. He had hit something in the previous stage, the sump guard was ripped off and the gearbox broke putting an end to a fantastic battle. Latvala went off the road and into a ditch and while the Finn was able to effect repairs on the road section, it was simply not possible to continue.

Mikkelsen had a clean run this afternoon and he and Neuville look set to fight to the bitter end for second position on one of the trickiest events in the championship. The Belgian was really on the pace this afternoon, set-up changes to the i20 WRC enabling him to set two fastest times this afternoon. He has more than two minutes in hand to fourth-placed Mads Østberg, who has had a steady run in his first outing back in the Fiesta. Stephane Lefebvre holds fifth in the sole remaining DS3 WRC. Bryan Bouffier moved up to sixth despite losing time with a couple of small errors this afternoon but was ultimately forced out on the road section back to Monaco after damaging his Fiesta in the final stage. Ott Tanak therefore moves up to sixth, but is fighting to stay ahead of Dani Sordo who is only 2.2 seconds behind. The Spaniard lost time in the first stage when he spun and damaged the rear wheel and then had to use the manual gearshift in the following test.

Elfyn Evans and Armin Kremer, both FIA WRC 2 Championship contenders, hold positions in the top 10 along with non-championship registered Esapekka Lappi. Evans was slowed by yet another puncture this morning and dropped to second, but the Welshman has regained his position at the top of the leaderboard and overnights more than two minutes ahead of Kremer. Ole Christian Veiby continues to dominate WRC 3, the Norwegian more than three minutes ahead of his nearest rival, Jordan Berfa.

Rallye Monte-Carlo – Unofficial Results after Section 6

1.   Sébastien Ogier/Julien Ingrassia

Volkswagen Polo R WRC

3hr 19min 05.7sec

2.   Andreas Mikkelsen/Anders Jaeger Synneväg

Volkswagen Polo R WRC

3hr 21min 05.4sec

3.   Thierry Neuville/Nicolas Gilsoul

Hyundai i20 WRC

3hr 21min 17.9sec

4.   Mads Østberg/Ola Fløene

Ford Fiesta RS WRC

3hr 23min 31.6sec

5.   Stephane Lefebvre/Gabin Moreau


3hr 26min 35.1sec

6.   Ott Tanak/Raigo Molder

Ford Fiesta RS WRC

3hr 29min 48.0sec

7.   Dani Sordo/Marc Marti

Hyundai i20 WRC

3hr 29min 50.2sec

8.   Elfyn Evans/Craig Parry

Ford Fiesta R5

3hr 36min 20.2sec

9.   Armin Kremer/Pirmin Winklhofer

Skoda Fabia R5

3hr 38min 32.1sec

10. Esapekka Lappi/Janne Ferm

Skoda Fabia R5

3hr 38min 43.8sec