Ott Tänak was fastest out of the blocks on Friday morning at Rallye Monte-Carlo to claim his first stage victory for Toyota Gazoo Racing.
Stage info: SS3
Vitrolles - Oze 1, 26.72km
A modified stage from 2017, featuring two-thirds of the Lardier-et-Valença - Faye test with a new start in Vitrolles. There are three passes en route - Col d’Espréaux (1157 metres), Col des Verniers (1042 metres) and Col de la Bachassette (940 metres), with a succession of winding and fast portions. It descends through the valley to the finish in Oze. Tyre choice in here will prove a brain teaser for drivers.
The Estonian switched to the Japanese manufacturer from 2017 champions M-Sport Ford World Rally Team and was quickest through today’s opening 26.72km speed test from Vitrolles to Oze.
Mild temperatures and mainly dry roads greeted crews. A mix of Michelin’s soft and super soft tyres were the preferred choices as drivers contemplated forecasts suggesting rain would move over the Gap region as the day progressed.
Tänak was fastest by 3.9sec in his Yaris from rally leader Sébastien Ogier and said: “The middle section was damp as expected. It was very tough but OK, we are here.”
Road opener Ogier was 1.5sec quicker than Ford Fiesta team-mate Elfyn Evans, who was third quickest, and extended his lead to 30.0sec.
Dani Sordo climbed to second with fourth fastest time after Hyundai i20 team-mate Andreas Mikkelsen made a mistake which dropped him to third, 4.9sec behind the Spaniard.
“I went straight on at a junction and had to turn around. Not so good and a very dirty road,” said the Norwegian, who lost 21.5sec to the pace-setting Tänak, who was up to fourth overall.
Jari-Matti Latvala and Kris Meeke completed the top six in the stage, the Finn reporting understeeer in his Yaris. He was sixth overall, just behind team-mate Esapekka Lappi.
Thierry Neuville’s problem-filled start to the rally continued with a rear left puncture in his i20 about 10km from the end. Craig Breen hit a stone and his Citroën C3 finished with no brakes and oil leaking onto the front right tyre from a damaged pipe.
The roads became progressively dirty as the early starters dragged mud and stones onto the asphalt and they had a clear advantage over the later runners.