Monte Carlo WRC: Ogier leads after chaotic early stages

Sebastien Ogier leads the 2018 WRC-opening Monte Carlo Rally overnight despite spinning on a chaotic first stage that caught out most drivers.

Monte Carlo WRC: Ogier leads after chaotic early stages

Ogier's 2017 WRC title rival Thierry Neuville had the most costly incident of any in the top class and is already over four minutes adrift.

Starting the season with two after-dark stages was always likely to be a challenge, and a patch of ice and snow on the opening test caused mayhem for the entirely slick-shod field.

While Ogier somehow still took the stage win despite a spin in his M-Sport Ford, Neuville slid into a ditch and lost four minutes being helped back on course by spectators.

Only Ogier, Andreas Mikkelsen, Esapekka Lappi and Dani Sordo made it through SS1 both relatively unscathed and at a competitive pace, and held the early top four places.

Ogier led Mikkelsen's Hyundai by 7.7 seconds at that stage, before another fastest time on the ice-free SS2 built his advantage to 17.3s. Sordo was fourth quickest there and took third from Lappi.

Toyota holds fourth, fifth and sixth places overnight. Ott Tanak had an early trip into a bank on SS1 but closed in on Lappi with a stronger SS2, while two early spins left Jari-Matti Latvala a further 13s back.

Craig Breen set some rapid split times on SS1 and felt he might have been leading had he not gone off the road in an incident he estimated cost him 40s.

He still came in fifth fastest, 24.6s off Ogier, but lost two places as he struggled on SS2 having run out of time to adjust his tyre pressures pre-stage and then spun.

Breen's teammate Kris Meeke was left kicking himself after reversing into a ditch while trying to recover from a relatively innocuous spin on the first stage.

He is two minutes off the lead in ninth, behind M-Sport's additional entrant Bryan Bouffier - who said his cautious SS1 pace on his new-era World Rally Car debut was "too slow to spin!"

M-Sport's second full-season runner Elfyn Evans had to stop early on SS1 to change a puncture then had a half-spin on SS2 as he struggled with an unpredictable throttle.

That left him down with Neuville among the WRC2 runners, the pair finishing the night 13th and 14th. Their woes mean WRC2 leader Eric Camilli is currently 10th overall.

Standings after SS2:

Pos.Driver CarTime/Gap
 Sebastien Ogier Ford 38'09.8
 Andreas Mikkelsen Hyundai 17.3
 Dani Sordo Hyundai 25.6
 Esapekka Lappi Toyota 37.4
 Ott Tanak Toyota 42.4
 Craig Breen Citroen 52.3
 Jari-Matti Latvala Toyota 55.4
 Bryan Bouffier Ford 1'51.0
 Kris Meeke Citroen 2'12.7
10   Eric Camilli Ford 2'42.2
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Monte Carlo WRC: Neuville tops first shakedown of 2018

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