With just 14.8km to go on Col de Turini (SS17) and a 13.5-second lead over Sébastien Ogier, it’s starting to look good for Thierry Neuville, leader of the 92nd Monte-Carlo Rally and fastest on SS16 between Digne-les-Bains and Chaudon-Norante (16.01km), in order to show, one more time, who is the boss this year.
“So far, so good. It was a bit more slippery than expected at the start and really dirty at the end, but I’m feeling fine. There’s still one stage to go and I need to stay focused on the Power Stage,” summed up the Belgian, as serene and smiling as ever. He knows the feeling, since he has already won the opening event of WRC in 2020, ahead of Ogier, after a similar driving display.
“It was already over after the first special stage (this morning),” agreed Ogier, with a smile on his face. “Thierry is flying. I’m not the kind of guy who takes risks for nothing”, Ogier added, as if already acknowledging his defeat, without waiting for SS17 on Col de Turini. But the Gap man is not disappointed, and he says it clearly: “If I don’t win a 10th time here, it doesn’t really matter, because I’ve already won nine times, and nobody has done as well”. Not even Seb Loeb, who has won 9 times in Spain and Germany, but only 8 times in Monte-Carlo.
There will be two drivers to keep a close eye on in SS17, aiming for the 5 points awarded to the Power Stage winner: Elfyn Evans (3rd) and Ott Tänak (4th), at the end of a rather frustrating weekend. They would love to close it in style, with a bit of panache, especially if the two aliens ease off a bit… which is far from guaranteed!
In WRC2, on the other hand, the game is far from over. There is now only a 0.9 second gap left between Pepe Lopez (Skoda) and Yohan Rossel (Citroën), while Nikolay Gryazin has dropped back to third, 5 seconds behind. Not over yet…