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SS14: Neuville in pole position!

Thierry Neuville (Hyundai) will start the final day of the 92ndMonte Carlo Rally as the overall leader, after a beautiful battle against Sébastien Ogier. He set a memorable fastest time on SS9 on Saturday morning, to kick off Day 3 in style, and ended it in the same way with another phenomenal fastest time on SS14, at sunset.

Thanks to beating Ogier (Toyota) by 4.1 seconds between Pellafol and Agnières-en-Dévoluy (21.37 km), the Belgian regained the upper hand in this high-flying duel that pitted him all day against the Frenchman, beaten fair and square on the day: “Since the start of the rally, I’ve done my utmost to try and catch him, in fact, but today I didn’t do enough. He (Neuville) did a good stage. We’ll have to push even more tomorrow,” smiled the eight-time world champion as he looked at his rival’s time on the board at the end of the stage.

“We did a good stage, it was perfection,” reacted Neuville at the last stop of this long day (120 km). He had already said, after the previous stage, that “everything is in place, everything is going well”. He repeated it, clearly delighted with his performance, and added some detailed insight: “I’m really enjoying the car, it’s incredible. Obviously, it was important to take the points tonight but we need to keep the car on the road [until tomorrow]”.

Neuville and Ogier on another planet

This Saturday evening, before the last three stages on Sunday morning (SS15 to 17), Neuville has a 3.3 second lead over Ogier, and above all 18 points in the World Championship, under the new points scale. There is just one condition to fulfil: to complete the rally on Sunday, in Monaco, whatever his position in Sunday’s classification.

There’s something new this year in the WRC, and Elfyn Evans, who has been on a back foot since Friday morning, is determined to make the most of it: “With the new format, tomorrow is a new day, and that’s how we’re going to attack it,” summed up the Welshman from Toyota. He was completely outclassed on Saturday by the Neuville-Ogier duet, he only holds 13 points tonight, but he is capable of pulling out a great Sunday to take 7 more points, plus 5 for winning the Power Stage.

The provisional assessment of this rally is clear: this week, Neuville and Ogier are aliens, as Evans is relegated to 34.9 seconds and Tänak to almost two minutes. When it comes to fastest times in the stages, there’s no photo finish either: 6 for Ogier, including the 700thof his career on SS13, 5 for Neuville (3 on Friday, 2 on Saturday), 2 for Evans and just one for Tänak (on SS11, by 12 thousandths of a second). Roll on Sunday!

Classification SS14

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