Sebastien Ogier goes into the final day of the Monte Carlo Rally with a 51-second lead after a commanding performance on Friday.
Reigning world champion Ogier had languished in ninth place, 1m20s off the lead, three stages into the event following a poor tyre choice in Thursday morning’s changeable conditions.
His subsequent recovery charge got him up to fourth by the end of leg one and second halfway through Friday, but closing the 35s gap to leader Bryan Bouffier still looked difficult.
However, a spin for Bouffier’s M-Sport Ford on SS9 handed first place to Ogier’s Volkswagen.
Ogier’s advantage ballooned on the final stage of leg two, where Bouffier had to drive with pace notes borrowed from Francois Delecour having somehow contrived to miss part of the course during the recce.
With Robert Kubica crashing out on Friday afternoon, Citroen is holding secure third and fourth places with Kris Meeke and Mads Ostberg.
Ogier’s team-mate Jari-Matti Latvala raised his pace through Friday and by the end of the day was up to fifth place, having been as low as 19th as he struggled for confidence on leg one.
M-Sport duo Elfyn Evans and Mikko Hirvonen were among those outpaced by Latvala during leg two, despite the VW driver picking up a puncture on SS9.
VW’s third driver Andreas Mikkelsen was poised to move into the top six when he lost four minutes with a mistake, leaving him back in eighth.
The rally concludes with four more stages on Saturday afternoon and evening, ending around 10pm local time.
Leading positions after SS11:Pos Driver Team/Car Time/Gap 1. Sebastien Ogier VW 3h14m51.3s 2. Bryan Bouffier M-Sport Ford +51.1s 3. Kris Meeke Citroen +1m38.6s 4. Mads Ostberg Citroen +2m48.9s 5. Jari-Matti Latvala VW +6m04.4s 6. Elfyn Evans M-Sport Ford +6m14.5s 7. Mikko Hirvonen M-Sport Ford +6m43.7s 8. Andreas Mikkelsen VW +10m16.9s 9. Jaroslav Melicharek Slovakia Ford +16m00.8s 10. Matteo Gamba Balbosca Peugeot +20m01.4s* * S2000 car
Follow the final day of the Monte Carlo Rally from 1.30pm UK on Saturday on AUTOSPORT Race Centre Live.