MOTORSPORT NEWS Rally

SATURDAY IN MONTE-CARLO: OGIER AND NEUVILLE IN BATTLE ROYALE

SÉBASTIEN OGIER AND THIERRY NEUVILLE HEAD INTO SUNDAY’S RALLYE MONTE-CARLO FINALE SPLIT BY LESS THAN A HANDFUL OF SECONDS AFTER ANOTHER TITANIC MOUNTAIN ROAD DUEL TODAY.

Ogier, hunting a sixth straight victory in the French Alps on his Citroën C3 debut, led by 4.3sec after the penultimate leg. Just four more speed tests covering 64km lie in wait to settle an enthralling opening to the FIA World Rally Championship season.

World champion Ogier extended his 2.0sec overnight advantage to 5.6sec in the opening special stage north of Gap. The Belgian reduced the deficit in the next two tests before Ogier eked out another few tenths in the last one.

“I have a big lead, I’ve doubled it since this morning!” he joked. “I expect easier conditions tomorrow and it will be an intense end. Thierry will not give up. We both want to cross the finish line but we both want to win.”

Neuville acknowledged he had a hard task against Ogier, who hails from Gap, on roads that varied between ice, snow and dry asphalt. “I kept it safe. Ogier is at home, it’s his area. He knows the stages well and I needed to be careful,” said the Hyundai i20 driver.

Sébastien Loeb and Jari-Matti Latvala fought an equally absorbing battle for third, almost two minutes behind the pair ahead. They traded places on three occasions before nine-time champion Loeb, driving an i20 for the first time, ended 2.3sec clear.

                Neuville battled throughout the day with Ogier

Andreas Mikkelsen restarted in third but his podium hopes were shattered when the Norwegian swiped a wall in the final corner of the opening test. The impact destroyed the rear left of his i20 and he retired.

Ott Tänak was unbeatable as he fought back from a broken wheel rim yesterday. Aided by a brave tyre choice this afternoon, the Estonian won all four stages in his Toyota Yaris to climb to fifth. He is just 15.0sec from gatecrashing the Loeb/Latvala scrap.

Kris Meeke was a lonely sixth, more than three minutes further back. The Ulsterman, making his Yaris debut, netted three second place finishes in four stages.

WRC 2 Pro leader Gus Greensmith and WRC 2 frontrunner Yoann Bonato were seventh and eighth, with Stéphane Sarrazin and Guillaume de Mevius completing the leaderboard.

Elfyn Evans crashed out of sixth when his Ford Fiesta plunged down a steep bank while Esapekka Lappi parked his C3 midway through the opener with a suspected engine problem. Rallye Monte-Carlo rules mean none of today’s retirees restart tomorrow.

Sunday’s finale stays true to tradition. Based in the Alpes Maritimes mountains above Monaco, it comprises a double loop of two stages covering 63.98km and two passes over the legendary Col de Turini. The rally-closing Power Stage offers bonus points to the fastest five drivers.

Top fifteen after end of Saturday’s stages:

POS CAR NO DRIVER CO-DRIVER TEAM ELIGIBILITY GROUP CLASS TIME DIFF PREV DIFF 1ST
1. 1 FRAS. OGIER FRAJ. INGRASSIA CITROEN TOTAL WRT M RC1 2:38:30.0
2. 11 BELT. NEUVILLE BELN. GILSOUL HYUNDAI SHELL MOBIS WRT M RC1 2:38:34.3 +4.3 +4.3
3. 19 FRAS. LOEB MCOD. ELENA HYUNDAI SHELL MOBIS WRT M RC1 2:40:28.7 +1:54.4 +1:58.7
4. 10 FINJ. LATVALA FINM. ANTTILA TOYOTA GAZOO RACING WRT M RC1 2:40:31.0 +2.3 +2:01.0
5. 8 ESTO. TÄNAK ESTM. JÄRVEOJA TOYOTA GAZOO RACING WRT M RC1 2:40:46.0 +15.0 +2:16.0
6. 5 GBRK. MEEKE GBRS. MARSHALL TOYOTA GAZOO RACING WRT M RC1 2:43:56.8 +3:10.8 +5:26.8
7. 21 GBRG. GREENSMITH GBRE. EDMONDSON M-SPORT FORD WORLD RALLY TEAM WRC2PRO RC2 2:48:42.0 +4:45.2 +10:12.0
8. 22 FRAY. BONATO FRAB. BOULLOUD YOANN BONATO WRC2 RC2 2:50:13.4 +1:31.4 +11:43.4
9. 34 FRAS. SARRAZIN FRAJ. RENUCCI SARRAZIN STÉPHANE NONE RC2 2:50:46.0 +32.6 +12:16.0
10. 25 BELG. DE MEVIUS BELM. WYDAEGHE DE MEVIUS GUILLAUME WRC2 RC2 2:51:37.0 +51.0 +13:07.0
11. 26 FRAA. FOURMAUX BELR. JAMOUL FOURMAUX ADRIEN WRC2 RC2 2:51:42.2 +5.2 +13:12.2
12. 23 NORO. VEIBY SWEJ. ANDERSSON VEIBY OLE CHRISTIAN WRC2 RC2 2:54:43.0 +3:00.8 +16:13.0
13. 31 JPNT. KATSUTA GBRD. BARRITT TOMMI MÄKINEN RACING NONE RC2 2:55:33.3 +50.3 +17:03.3
14. 3 FINT. SUNINEN FINM. SALMINEN M-SPORT FORD WORLD RALLY TEAM M RC1 2:55:43.6 +10.3 +17:13.6
15. 29 GBRR. YATES FRAD. GIRAUDET YATES RHYS WRC2 RC2 2:56:37.9 +54.3 +18:07.9