Sébastien Ogier will start Rallye Monte-Carlo’s final leg on the cusp of a fourth consecutive win after event-long leader Thierry Neuville’s victory hopes were shattered on Saturday.
Neuville had never been headed since Thursday night’s start. But an impact midway through the final speed test of the penultimate leg broke his Hyundai i20 Coupe’s rear left suspension and handed the advantage to Ogier.
The Frenchman was 47.1sec ahead of Ford Fiesta team-mate Ott Tänak, with just four tests in the mountains above Monaco standing between the four-time world champion and victory.
Neuville extended his lead to more than a minute this morning and although Ogier clawed back a few seconds, the Belgian remained firmly en route to a maiden Monte-Carlo triumph.
Ogier drove on – and over – the limit all day. He understeered into a field this morning and later clipped a bank.
“Thierry has driven a great rally, with fantastic speed. To drive the whole of Monte-Carlo in these conditions at that speed is a hard challenge. Monte-Carlo is a rally where you need luck. I wished him no bad luck, he did a great job,” said Ogier.
Neuville worked furiously to make repairs and limped to the finish having lost more than 30 minutes and plunging to 15th. “It was quite a slow left corner and on the exit the rear went wide and I hit something. I don’t know what,” he said.
Tänak had a new gearbox fitted but it started to select gears on its own. His power steering failed at the same time but the Estonian fixed the issues and he heads Jari-Matti Latvala by 1min 33.5sec.
An over-aggressive approach on this morning’s dry roads cost the Finn time on the following snow-covered sections as his studded tyres lost their edge. But the Toyota Yaris driver was in a comfortable podium position in Toyota’s first WRC rally for 17 years.
Craig Breen climbed to fourth in a Citroën DS 3 when Dani Sordo dropped a minute in the final stage when broken power steering sent his i20 Coupe off the road. The gap between them is 16.9sec. Elfyn Evans was in stunning form in his Fiesta, winning three stages to climb to sixth.
WRC 2 leader Andreas Mikkelsen was seventh in a Skoda Fabia R5, ahead of team-mate Jan Kopecký. Bryan Bouffier and Pontus Tidemand completed the leaderboard.
Juho Hänninen, restarting after retiring yesterday, lost more than three minutes with a puncture, while fellow Rally 2 driver Kris Meeke dropped 24 minutes with an electrical problem in his C3.
Meeke retired for a second time on Saturday night when his car was involved in a collision with another vehicle on the road section to Monaco. The right-rear suspension was damaged and with no Rally 2 on Sunday, Meeke's rally is over.
Sunday’s finale includes a double ascent of the famous Col de Turini, one of the season’s iconic landmarks. Two loops of two stages are driven twice to make 53.72km of action, with bonus points available to the fastest five drivers in the final Power Stage.
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