Ott Tanak powered his Toyota Yaris WRC into a 9.1-second lead on the opening night of Rallye Monte-Carlo, the Estonian ahead of reigning World Rally champion Sebastien Ogier — making his return to Citroen this season — after two stages on the opening round of the 2019 FIA World Rally Championship. Thierry Neuville heads the Hyundai challenge in third, just 5.2 seconds further adrift.
After the opening ceremony in Gap, crews immediately headed to two new stages, both run in darkness. Tanak was on the pace from the outset and won the opener to claim a five-second advantage over the returning Kris Meeke. In the second stage, third fastest was enough to extend his lead, despite a spin in the tricky conditions. Ogier’s tire choice proved safe for the first stage and he dropped 10.6 seconds, but regained some time in the next to climb into second position. Neuville dropped nearly 30 seconds in the opener, but then reeled in his rivals with fastest time on the clearer roads and overnights just 14.3 seconds off the lead.
Behind the leading trio Esapekka Lappi admitted he hadn’t had the best tire strategy, but the Finn overnight in fourth on his debut with Citroen. Former teammate and Yaris WRC driver Jari-Matti Latvala felt the car was too soft for the conditions and he lacked confidence as a consequence, but he is just 1.2 seconds behind Lappi.
Elfyn Evans is in the lead Ford Fiesta WRC in sixth, kicking himself for not pushing harder but happy to have a clean start. In comparison, teammate Teemu Suninen went off and into retirement in the first stage. After setting a great pace, Meeke dropped down the order with a puncture and is seventh ahead of nine-time WRC champion Sebastien Loeb. The Frenchman, despite his lack of seat time in his new Hyundai, was fourth but then eighth fastest through the evening’s stages — the second not being optimum for his tires. Andreas Mikkelsen is ninth and Pontus Tidemand rounded out the top 10 after a cautious start.
In the newly-created FIA WRC 2 Pro Championship, Gus Greensmith leads after Kalle Rovanpera went off, and Yoann Bonato tops the standings in the WRC 2 Championship, which is now solely for private entrants. He heads Nicolas Ciamin and Guillaume de Mevius.
Rallye Monte-Carlo – Unofficial results after Section 1
|1||Ott Tanak / Martin Jarveoja||Toyota Yaris WRC||26min 33.0sec|
|2||Sebastien Ogier / Julien Ingrassia||Citroen C3 WRC||26min 42.1sec|
|3||Thierry Neuville / Nicolas Gilsoul||Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC||26min 47.3sec|
|4||Esapekka Lappi / Janne Ferm||Citroen C3 WRC||27min 18.2sec|
|5||Jari-Matti Latvala / Miikka Anttila||Toyota Yaris WRC||27min 19.4sec|
|6||Elfyn Evans / Scott Martin||Ford Fiesta WRC||27min 21.2sec|
|7||Kris Meeke / Sebastian Marshall||Toyota Yaris WRC||27min 26.8sec|
|8||Sebastien Loeb / Daniel Elena||Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC||27min 28.2sec|
|9||Andreas Mikkelsen/Anders Jaeger||Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC||27min 32.6sec|
|10||Pontus Tidemand / Ola Floene||Ford Fiesta WRC||28min 14.1sec|