By: Jack Cozens
The Hyundai driver was able to limit his time loss to two seconds to stage winner Ogier come the end of that run but, with more slick tyres at his disposal, Ogier hammered home his advantage on the following stage – the 14.94-mile Roussieux-Laborel test – to move into a lead of 14s.
Neuville – who profited from a bold tyre selection of his own in the morning – clawed back a huge chunk of that time by recording a second stage win of the weekend on the day’s final stage but will start Saturday morning’s loop two seconds behind six-time champion Ogier.
Toyota driver Tanak, whose team principal Tommi Makinen hit out at officials over stage issues in the morning, dropped away from the two leaders on the opening stage of the afternoon but held a comfortable third.
But the overnight leader then suffered a puncture on SS7 that he was forced to change on the stage, which cost him 2m20s and dropped him to seventh overall.
He was back up to speed on the day’s final stage, finishing second to Neuville, but is more than 45s behind the M-Sport Ford Fiesta of Elfyn Evans, who holds sixth.
Tanak’s tumble allowed Sebastien Loeb to briefly move into third when he claimed his second stage victory of the day on SS7 – the repeat run of Roussieux-Laborel, which he won in the morning – after once again opting for a generous selection of slicks.
But Loeb, making his first start in Hyundai colours, was only seventh fastest on the final stage of the afternoon and dropped back behind Andreas Mikkelsen (Hyundai) and the Toyota Yaris of Jari-Matti Latvala.
Mikkelsen has an advantage of 7.4s over Latvala, while nine-time WRC champion Loeb is just 0.8s further back.
The final WRC car still running by the end of the afternoon loop was Kris Meeke’s Toyota, but a wheel-rim issue on the penultimate stage cost him more than three minutes in one hit.
Meeke had worked his way up to sixth after the first stage of the loop, but the wheel issue dropped him out contention for a strong finish – the Northern Irishman is now more than three minutes behind seventh-placed Tanak.
M-Sport driver Pontus Tidemand retired after breaking a wishbone on SS6, while Citroen’s second driver Esapekka Lappi broke his driveshaft and a wishbone of his own on the same stage and will restart on Saturday.
Story source: Moorsport.com. Results: crash.net
Top 15 classification after SS8 at Rallye Monte-Carlo, the first round of the 2019 World Rally Championship.
1. Sebastien Ogier FRA Citroen C3 WRC 1hr 37m 17.3s
2. Thierry Neuville BEL Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC +2.0s
3. Andreas Mikkelsen NOR Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC +1m 17.7s
4. Jari-Matti Latvala FIN Toyota Yaris Gazoo Racing +1m 25.1s
5. Sebastien Loeb FRA Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC +1m 25.9s
6. Elfyn Evans GBR M-Sport Ford Fiesta WRC +1m 47.5s
7. Ott Tanak EST Toyota Yaris Gazoo Racing +2m 34.9s
8. Kris Meeke GBR Toyota Yaris Gazoo Racing +5m 33.0s
9. Gus Greensmith GBR Ford Fiesta R5 +7m 00.1s
10. Yoann Bonato FRA Citroen C3 R5 +7m 06.7s
11. Stephane Sarrazin FRA Hyundai i20 R5 +8m 06.3s
12. Adrien Fourmaux FRA Ford Fiesta R5 +8m 54.1s
13. Guillaume de Mevius BEL Citroen C3 R5 +9m 01.1s
14. Ole Christian Veiby NOR Volkswagen Polo GTI R5 +10m 36.5s
15. Takamoto Katsuta JPN Tommi Makinen Racing Ford Fiesta R5 +11m 06.6s
Esapekka Lappi FIN Toyota Yaris Gazoo Racing SS6 – Mechanical
Pontus Tidemand SWE M-Sport Ford Fiesta WRC SS6 – Mechanical