Friday | 23 Jan 2015

Ogier takes charge in Monte-Carlo

Sébastien Ogier ended Friday’s intriguing second leg of Rallye Monte-Carlo with a comfortable lead after a thrilling fight with Sébastien Loeb ended with a mistake from the nine-time world champion.

The Frenchmen traded times in a topsy-turvy day through six stages in the mountains north of Gap. Ogier had snatched the lead for the first time when Citroen’s Loeb, pushing hard to regain the initiative, hit a rock and broke his DS 3’s rear left suspension.

It handed Ogier a 1min 45.4sec advantage in his Volkswagen Polo R over team-mate Jari-Matti Latvala, with Andreas Mikkelsen completing a 1-2-3 for the German squad after climbing from seventh this afternoon. He is 49.4sec behind Latvala.

Overnight leader Loeb doubled his advantage to almost 30sec in icy conditions in this morning’s opening stage. But as the sun thawed the roads, Ogier took advantage of an early position in the start order to reduce the gap to 3.0sec as Loeb struggled for grip in the dirt.

Ogier moved ahead in the penultimate stage when Loeb lost a handful of seconds after spinning at a hairpin. Then Loeb hit a rock midway through the final stage and dropped six minutes limping out, eventually stopping for good in the following liaison section.

Ott Tanak impressed on his M-Sport debut and is fourth overnight

“It happened when I hit a rock in an icy place. Not too hard, but it broke something. I had to try really hard because I knew with the conditions it was impossible in this road position, so I tried really hard with a different tyre choice and made a mistake,” said Loeb.

Tyre selection was as difficult as ever on this rally. Studded rubber was the safe choice this morning, but as the temperature rose and frozen sections turned to mud, finding the correct balance between spikes and unstudded winter rubber was almost impossible.

Mikkelsen was uncomfortable in the conditions but the Norwegian avoided problems to take third in the final stage. He is 9.6sec ahead of Ott Tänak’s Ford Fiesta RS, with Mads Østberg climbing from eighth to fifth in the final kilometres in a DS 3.

Elfyn Evans was frustrated with his afternoon tyre choice and dropped more seconds with a spin in SS6 as he slipped to sixth. Hyundai duo Thierry Neuville and Dani Sordo are seventh and eighth, with Martin Prokop and Henning Solberg completing the top 10.

Kris Meeke also fell foul of the last stage when he broke is DS 3’s rear left suspension but, unlike team-mate Loeb, Meeke was unable to exit the stage.

Robert Kubica was well down the order after electrical issues last night but the Pole showed great pace today to win three stages. He was another final stage victim, going off the road before puncturing later after hitting a tree.

Tomorrow’s third leg comprises four stages, including the marathon 51.70km test from Lardier et Valença to Faye. Competitors face 128.41km of action as they journey south to Monaco, arriving in the Principality at 18.58.

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