Sebastien Ogier has extended his advantage at the top of the Rallye Monte-Carlo leaderboard and now heads Ott Tanak, second position having changed hands twice during the morning’s three stages. Dani Sordo remains third, teammate Andreas Mikkelsen being forced into retirement.
Today’s first full day of competition takes in two identical loops of three stages, split by service in Gap, and covers 90 miles. Dry conditions greeted the crews in the 16.6-mile opener and Ogier immediately extended his advantage after nearest rival Mikkelsen overshot a junction and dropped to third. The Norwegian’s day then got worse when he had an alternator problem on the road section to the second stage and, despite efforts to make roadside repairs, was forced to retire.
Sordo, who therefore climbed to second in the first stage, has come under increasing pressure from Tanak and with a fastest time in the day’s first stage, the Estonian eventually overhauled the Spaniard in the last stage of the loop to climb to second, 40.4 seconds adrift of Ogier who won the middle test.
Esapekka Lappi continues to shine in the Toyota, the young Finn fourth at the mid-leg service despite being frustrated by the “crazy amount of dirt” being pulled onto the road by the crews ahead. He heads teammate Jari-Matti Latvala by 12.7 seconds, the Finn in turn having a big advantage over sixth-placed Kris Meeke, who ran into problems last night.
Meeke’s teammate Craig Breen has had a nightmare morning after a stone flew into the brakes leaving him with less and less braking power throughout every stage. He dropped from seventh to 10th. Bryan Bouffier climbed a position as a consequence and is now seventh after a clean morning. Elfyn Evans racked up a win in the final stage of the loop and has moved into eighth and remains ahead of Thierry Neuville, both drivers losing a chunk of time last night. Neuville’s morning also started badly with a puncture, losing him yet more time.
The FIA WRC 2 Championship category is now being led by Skoda’s Jan Kopecky, with Eric Camilli dropping to second in the Fiesta. Jean-Baptiste Franceschi continues to head the WRC 3 crews.