SÉBASTIEN OGIER WILL START SUNDAY’S FINAL LEG OF RALLYE MONTE-CARLO WITH A NEAR TWO-MINUTE LEAD AFTER HIS TWO CLOSEST CHALLENGERS RETIRED DURING A DRAMATIC SATURDAY AFTERNOON IN THE FRENCH ALPS.
Although the Frenchman won only one of today’s five speed tests near Gap, he journeyed south to Monaco with a 1min 59.7sec advantage over Volkswagen team-mate Andreas Mikkelsen. Thierry Neuville was 12.5sec back in third.
Kris Meeke, who twice demoted Ogier from the lead in an exciting opening two legs, retired from second. The Briton hit debris in the penultimate test, holing the sump guard on his DS 3 and damaging the gearbox.
“It’s a shame for Kris as he was very fast this weekend and we had to produce a big performance to stay ahead of him,” said Polo R driver Ogier. “It was an exciting fight. Now it’s a different rally for me, I just have to concentrate on getting to the finish.”
Third-placed Jari-Matti Latvala slid into a ditch in SS11 and broke the front left suspension arm on his Polo R. He made repairs after the test but had no chance of checking in at the next control in time and called a halt.
There is no Rally 2 service facility available in Monaco tonight and so neither Meeke nor Latvala will restart tomorrow.
Mikkelsen dropped over a minute after a bad tyre choice this morning but recovered to head Neuville by more than a minute. However, the Belgian’s inspired selection of winter tyres for the final two stages ensured victory in both in Hyundai’s new-specification i20 and he closed in.
Modified suspension settings provided a better feeling for Neuville on the slippery and bumpy sections after a difficult opening two days.
Mads Østberg steered clear of trouble to hold fourth in his Ford Fiesta RS, the Norwegian still fine-tuning his pace note relationship with new co-driver Ola Fløene. He is 2min 13.7sec behind Neuville and more than three minutes clear of Stéphane Lefebvre’s DS 3.
Lefebvre twice spun but headed Bryan Bouffier in sixth before the last stage. However, Bouffier broke the rear left suspension arm on his Ford Fiesta RS and used a ratchet strap to try to hold it together before embarking on the long liaison section to Monaco . He later retired.
Ott Tänak ended the day sixth ahead of Dani Sordo, who lost six minutes with damaged suspension in the opening stage. WRC 2 leader Elfyn Evans, Armin Kremer and Esapekka Lappi completed the leaderboard
Sunday’s final leg contains three stages covering 45.50km. Two passes over the 12.07km Col de L’Orme – St Laurent sandwich the 21.35km test from La Bollene Vesubie to Peira Cava.