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SS9: Neuville, the Wizard of Oze !

Thierry Neuville pulled out all the stops this morning on SS9 of the 92nd Rallye Monte-Carlo, between Esparron and Oze (18.79km), setting a magical, stratospheric time of 12 minutes, 12 seconds and 5 tenths, which enabled the Hyundai driver to move back ahead of Seb Ogier in the overall standings, just behind leader Elfyn Evans. The Toyota drivers will have to remain vigilant.

“I don’t understand. I must have been wide awake. The road conditions were better than expected. I did a decent stage”, smiled Neuville, totally incredulous, when his time was announced at the stop point. Not only did the Belgian beat rally leader Elfyn Evans by 9.6 seconds, but he also moved up the overall ranking. He also took the liberty to beat, fair and square, the best rally driver of the 21st century, eight-time world champion Sébastien Ogier, by a huge margin: one second per kilometre (18.8 seconds for 18.8km). With the same mix of tyres, three super-soft and one soft.

“It’s a lot of lost time. My crew notes were perhaps too cautious”, judged Ogier after his under-performance due to the change in road conditions in the space of two hours, between the passage of the road crews and that of the drivers. Several drivers were surprised, like Ogier and Evans for Toyota, but not Grégoire Munster, who set the 3rd fastest time on this SS9, in his Ford Puma entered by M-Sport. This was the other great coup of the early morning, with Neuville’s completely crazy time.

As a direct consequence, the overall classification was turned upside down from the outset on Saturday morning, and Evans, still in the lead, now has a 6.5-second advantage over Neuville after SS9. He held a 4.5-second lead over Ogier when he left the parc fermé in Gap, early this morning. So everything remains possible, more than ever, in this rally, especially as Ott Tänak, in the other leading Hyundai, had a bad start of the day: impossible to start his i20N this morning in Gap, then several engine (or throttle) cuts in SS9, the same as on Thursday evening in SS1 and 2.

Classification SS9

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