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It is only a step in the career of Kalle Rovanperä, 22, but it is significant: his 100th stage win in WRC, this morning between Le Fugeret and Thorame-Haute (SS9, 16.8km), to start off on a positive note Day 3 of the 91st Rally Monte-Carlo. This remains far from the 935 stage wins collected by the grand master of world rallies, Sébastien Loeb, but it is also the 1950th stage win for the Japanese brand in WRC.
Toyota Gazoo Racing therefore continued its raid on this “Monte”, with a 9th stage win out of 9 contested since Thursday night, and another 1-2-3 on the scoreboard: Rovanperä ahead of Sébastien Ogier and Elfyn Evans. This infernal trio drove faster than Thierry Neuville (Hyundai Motorsport), 4th at 2.7 seconds. It may be a happy omen for the Frenchman, aiming this year for a record 9th success in the Principality.
The M-Sport Ford drivers are not in the game, even if Ott Tänak saves appearances and remains in the Top 5. The 2019 World Champion is still a minute behind Ogier in the general standings (57.5 seconds exactly) while the competitors have just passed, in the famous Colle Saint-Michel, the mid-rally point (9 stages out of 18).
This SS9 claimed a victim in the French ranks: Pierre-Louis Loubet, the other M-Sport Ford driver, had left well rested after a whole Friday afternoon driving without power steering. His Puma slipped in the last left corner, just before the timing cell, and its right rear axle got damaged : “We need to get back in shape and try to aim for a few points during the Power Stage on Sunday”, the young Corsican driver reacted on Twitter.