Bryan Bouffier continues to lead Rallye Monte-Carlo at the midpoint of day two despite some strong pressure from hard-charging Sebastien Ogier.
The defending world champion leapt into second place with a fastest time on the mammoth 49-kilometre opening stage, but Bouffier fought back on the next test to go fastest by 0.2s.
It was enough to stop Ogier in his tracks. Bouffier said: “I am having to drive quite flat out and close to the edges. It’s a great battle with Seb and I’m doing my best.”
Britain’s Kris Meeke was bumped down to third place following Ogier’s first stage charge but he was pleased with his morning’s work after successfully defended the place from day one sensation Robert Kubica just behind.
Citroen’s Mads Ostberg and VW’s Jari-Matti Latvala hold fifth and sixth places respectively at the end of the morning, while M-Sport World Rally Team duo Elfyn Evans and Mikko Hirvonen occupy seventh and eighth places in their Ford Fiesta RS WRCs.
There was drama in the WRC2 category as a brace of punctures forced the lead to change twice. Overnight pacesetter, Yurii Protasov picked up a puncture in SS7 and that handed the lead to Armin Kremer. But Kremer suffered an identical fate on the next test and that handed the lead back to a grateful Protasov.