Two fastest times in a row for Sébastien Ogier on Friday morning, in SS4 and then SS5 between La Bréole and Selonnet (18.31km). The local hero made the most of this first loop of stages to move up to 2nd in the overall standings, 10.7 seconds behind Elfyn Evans, his Toyota team-mate. The 92nd Monte-Carlo Rally is well underway and suspense is total. For the 3rd place on the podium as well, since Adrien Fourmaux (M-Sport Ford) is driving faster and faster…
“It looks like I’m still alive. I’ve had a complicated week but I’m going to do my best. I’ll talk about it after the rally…” said a particularly emotional Seb Ogier at the end of this special stage, which marked the return to the impressive driving style which brought him eight world titles.
Faced with Ogier in maestro mode, the rally leader is still Evans, but he is now just ten seconds ahead of his French team-mate, 40 since December 17. His favourite number, the one he also carries as a race number on his black Yaris. Beaten by Ogier by 11.2 seconds on SS5, the Welshman was not confident: “There’s very little grip in the icy sections, and a lot more in the dry sections,” summed up the reigning vice-world champion.
Fourmaux raises his game
In addition to Ogier’s, the most successful performance of the stage came from M-Sport Ford driver Adrien Fourmaux, who set the 3rd fastest time just behind Evans, six-tenths only behind the Welshman. “We had a good set-up and some very good notes, so I felt good and enjoyed myself without taking too many risks. I’m happy,” said the Frenchman, back in Rally 1 after a season in WRC2.
On the Hyundai side, Ott Tänak found a good rhythm again and did better than his team-mate Thierry Neuville, on this stage, to make up for his small mistake on SS3. “I had a lot of mentions of icy conditions in my notes and I was too cautious. It’s complicated to take more risks when the co-driver’s notes say that there’s black ice everywhere”, regretted the Belgian at the stop point. He is now 3rd overall, 24.5 seconds behind Ogier, but anything is still possible on the remaining 12 stages until Sunday morning.
After the midday break in the Gap service park, a second loop is scheduled for this afternoon, with a second pass in the same three stages (SS6 to SS8). One thing is certain: they will be less slippery than in the morning version.