Reigning FIA World Rally Champion Sébastien Ogier is now two stages away from a fifth consecutive Rallye Monte-Carlo victory having safely negotiated the opening pair of Sunday stages. The Frenchman has further extended his advantage over Ott Tänak, the Estonian no longer prepared to risk a fine second position in his debut outing with Toyota. Team-mate Jari-Matti Latvala remains in a lonely third position with the squad’s third Yaris WRC fourth in the hands of Esapekka Lappi.
Based out of Monte Carlo, today’s route is the shortest with two identical loops of two stages; La Bollene Vesubie – Peira-Cava which climbs to the summit of the famous Col de Turini, and La Cabanette – Col de Braus which has never been driven competitively and will also run as the closing Power Stage. Ogier was quickest through the first stage but dropped some time in the following one, briefly having to stop near the finish after a spectator set off a flare and smoke poured across the road. Tänak is now in safe mode, especially with the tricky mix of conditions and the size of the gaps in front and behind; second position would represent his best result on the most famous rally in the world. Latvala went safe with his tyre choice and, like some others, used the second test as a high-speed recce for the all-important Power Stage, where additional points are awarded to the fastest three drivers. Team-mate Lappi had a similarly safe run through the stages and this too would be a significant result for the young Finn.
Thierry Neuville, in seventh, has been on a mission and has closed the gap to Kris Meeke and Elfyn Evans having finished second to Ogier in the first stage and won the following one. He is now within 8.7 seconds of sixth-placed Evans but still targeting a move further up the leaderboard. Meeke was shocked by the conditions in La Cabanette; “Black ice on loose gravel? I’m just trying to stay on the road to be honest,” said the Northern Irishman. Bryan Bouffier had a half spin but still has a significant advantage over ninth-placed Craig Breen, who has struggled a bit with the changing conditions. Jan Kopecky’s runaway lead in the FIA WRC 2 Championship remains intact and Enrico Brazzoli continues to head the WRC 3 registered crews.