Saturday | 23 Jan 2016

SS9: Ogier blitzes rivals in Saturday's opener

Sébastien Ogier stamped his authority on Rallye Monte-Carlo in Saturday’s opening speed test to stretch his lead to 20.1sec after a crushing drive through the longest special stage of this opening round of the FIA World Rally Championship.

Stage info: SS9

Lardier et Valenca - Faye 1, 51.55km
The longest stage of the event which contains a bit of everything – long fast straights, twisty and narrow sections and climbs and descents. It is quite technical and crosses three passes, Espréaux (1160 metres), La Croix (838 metres) and Faye (930 metres). If the snow that covered the roads during the recce remains, then it will be a tricky challenge.

Opening the road in his Volkswagen Polo R, Ogier was 10.6sec faster than closest rival Kris Meeke in the 51.55km stage from Lardier et Valenca to Faye.

“With no splits I had no idea what was happening in the stage. It was very slippery, a lot more icy than I expected,” said the Frenchman.

Meeke was far from dispirited after regaining time from Ogier in the final 10km. “There was a lot of debris on the road, even snow because there are little tiny snow banks on the side. I did the best I could on the road I had. If I want to be first on the road in Monte-Carlo then I have to be world champion,” said the DS 3 driver.

Jari-Matti Latvala was third, albeit 31.3sec off Ogier’s pace, with a happier Thierry Neuville fourth. The Belgian modified the suspension settings on his Hyundai i20 to provide a better feeling on the slippery and bumpy sections.

Neuville climbed to fourth ahead of Andreas Mikkelsen, who dropped 1min 13.5sec after a bad tyre choice. The Norwegian opted for two Michelin studded tyres on roads that were essentially clear with patchy ice.

“We tried something different but I think it has dried more than we expected since the gravel crews went through. It should be better on the next one, we’ll make the best of it,” said the Norwegian.

Dani Sordo limped to the finish with a suspected broken rear suspension arm on his i20 after hitting a bank. He stopped to replace a broken wheel rim in the stage and was reported to be working on the car after the finish.

Head to WRC+ to see the latest onboard and video reports from Rallye Monte-Carlo.

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