Sebastiens Ogier and Loeb hold the top two spots in the 2022 Monte Carlo Rally, the first World Rally Championship event of the all-new hybrid Rally 1 era, after Thursday night’s pair of prologue stages.
Toyota’s Ogier leads M-Sport Ford’s Loeb by 6.7s after sweeping both tests in the French Alps, the second of which included a run over the iconic Col de Turini.
Third overall is Ogier’s teammate Elfyn Evans, the Welshman some 11.2s down on the eight-time and reigning WRC champ on a day when the new breed of hybrid Rally1 cars proved more reliable than expected, with 11 examples starting and 11 heading back to Monaco for the overnight halt.
“It felt a little bit better in there, but it’s hard to know at the moment where we are,” said rally leader Ogier, who’s still getting to grips with the characteristics of his GR Yaris Rally1 and admitted to some circumspection on asphalt that had grown frosty in places once the sun went down. “We keep trying things with the car, but I’m happy to be through this night – it’s always a challenge.”
Loeb was second to Ogier in each of the stages, finishing just 1.2s slower in his Puma Rally1 on the second, despite overheating his Pirelli rubber on the climb to the Col de Turini.
“We enjoyed it,” said the nine-time WRC champ. “It was very hard for the tire, so I overheated [them] before the middle of the stage, then struggled a bit to keep the car in a good position, but OK.”
With Ogier and Loeb at the sharp end, and chasing Monte Carlo Rally wins nine and eight, respectively, Friday’s six special stages and 60.8 competitive miles are set to be a bottle royal between two WRC legends.
WRC Monte Carlo Rally, leading positions after Prologue, SS2
1 Sebastien Ogier/Benjamin Veillas (Toyota GR Yaris Rally1) 25m48.4s
2 Sebastien Loeb/Isabelle Galmiche (M-Sport Ford Puma Rally1) +6.7s
3 Elfyn Evans/Scott Martin (Toyota GR Yaris Rally1) +11.2s
4 Adrien Fourmaux/Alexandre Coria (M-Sport Ford Puma Rally1) +17.9s
5 Gus Greensmith/Jonas Andersson (M-Sport Ford Puma Rally1) +21.9s
6 Thierry Neuville/Martijn Wydaeghe (Hyundai i20N Rally 1) +28.5s
7 Craig Breen/Paul Nagle (M-Sport Ford Puma Rally1) +29.2s
8 Ott Tanak/Martin Jarveoja (Hyundai i20N Rally 1) +41.1s
9 Takamoto Katsuta/Aaron Johnston (Toyota GR Yaris Rally1) 48.2s
10 Oliver Solberg/Elliott Edmondson (Hyundai i20N Rally 1) +58.8s
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