Monte Carlo WRC: Ogier leads Toyota 1-2-3 after Tanak's DNF

A short, sharp blast through traditional snowbound stages in Monte Carlo saw seven-time winner Sebastien Ogier reassert his authority on the opening round of the 2021 World Rally Championship.

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On Friday, Ogier had lost half a minute following a puncture on the penultimate stage of the day, although he immediately reclaimed 16s from his Toyota teammate Elfyn Evans before the overnight halt.

Restarting in the dark in order to comply with local COVID-19 legislation, Ogier then resumed his imperious progress on the opening 18.3 km La Breole – Salonnet stage.

The Frenchman crossed the line 17.8 seconds faster than the Welshman and 20s faster than anyone else in the rally.

With Ogier leading Evans and the third Yaris WRC of Kalle Rovanpera, Toyota’s grasp on the event was further strengthened by a disastrous stage for its nearest challenger, the Hyundai of 2019 champion Ott Tanak.

The Estonian had been hanging on grimly through Friday’s stages but his Saturday run began with a spin that was followed by a puncture which sent him hurtling back down the order.

Dawn had broken before the start of the second stage of the day, the 20.48 km Saint-Clement – Freissinieres test, and Thierry Neuville brought some cheer to his beleaguered Hyundai squad by firing in his first stage win of the event.

Last year’s Monte winner had struggled throughout the opening days as he and newly-installed co-driver Martijn Wydaeghe sought to find a working relationship.

On stage 10, however, Neuville hit form; setting a time 42.2s faster than Ogier’s and closing up on the third placed Toyota of Kalle Rovanpera in the overall order.

Any good cheer that Neuville’s stage win brought to Hyundai was soon tempered by the sight of Tanak stopping on the stage with another blown tyre. Having already used the only spare on board his i20 WRC, the Estonian’s day was over.

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After a short service break the crews returned to La Breole – Salonnet for the final stage of the day, where the Toyotas once again asserted their authority. This time Evans was the winner by a scant 1.3s from Ogier.

But Ogier was unperturbed and holds a 13.0s advantage as the teams prepare for four stages on the final day.

“The condition have changed a lot since the first pass and also since the gravel crew have passed so it was a little of what we see and try to trust it,” he said. “But yeah it was a clean drive for me.”

Neuville’s scintillating form did not continue into the final stage of the day and this bought Rovanpera some breathing space at the overnight halt, with a 7s gap opening between them.

“I had a problem with my earplugs so Jonne (co-driver Jonne Halttunen), had to scream all the time so I could hear the notes,” Rovanpera explained.

“I didn’t hear the notes so well so maybe at the beginning I was not so comfortable but then when I get used to the result it was okay.”

The battle for the final podium position is now more than a minute clear of fifth place man Dani Dordo at the wheel of the third works Hyundai.

The Spaniard had been at sea for much of Friday but his pace improved dramatically on Saturday morning before once again at the end of the day.

In WRC2, the day delivered another big chunk of time to veteran Andreas Mikkelsen, who holds seventh place overall and a 2m14s advantage over the M-Sport Fiesta of Adrien Fourmaux, with Oliver Solberg’s Hyundai now third.

In WRC3, Yohan Rossel enjoyed another solid day, maintaining his lead over Yoann Bonato and Nicolas Ciamin.

Cla # Driver/Codriver Car Total Time Gap
1 1 France Sébastien Ogier
France Julien Ingrassia
Toyota Yaris WRC 2:16'31.900
2 33 United Kingdom Elfyn Evans
United Kingdom Scott Martin
Toyota Yaris WRC 2:16'44.900 13.000
3 69 Finland Kalle Rovanperä
Finland Jonne Halttunen
Toyota Yaris WRC 2:17'28.700 56.800
4 11 Belgium Thierry Neuville
Belgium Martijn Wydaeghe
Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC 2:17'35.700 1'03.800
5 6 Spain Dani Sordo
Spain Carlos del Barrio
Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC 2:18'43.200 2'11.300
6 18 Japan Takamoto Katsuta
United Kingdom Daniel Barritt
Toyota Yaris WRC 2:21'15.000 4'43.100
7 25 Norway Andreas Mikkelsen
Norway Ola Floene
Škoda Fabia Rally2 evo 2:21'54.600 5'22.700
8 44 United Kingdom Gus Greensmith
United Kingdom Elliott Edmondson
Ford Fiesta WRC 2:22'46.500 6'14.600
9 20 France Adrien Fourmaux
Belgium Renaud Jamoul
Ford Fiesta Rally2 2:24'08.400 7'36.500
10 24 France Eric Camilli
France François-Xavier Buresi
Citroën C3 Rally2 2:24'26.000 7'54.100
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