SS4/5: Ogier stretches lead

Sébastien Ogier widened his Rallye Monte-Carlo lead during a drier than expected loop of speed tests on Friday morning.

Stage info: SS4/5

SS4: Roussieux - Eygalayes 1, 30.54km
It starts in the tiny hamlet of Roussieux, which boasts just 22 residents. It crosses the Col du Reychasset (1052 metres) and Col de Pierre Vesce (1056 metres), before crossing the charming Laborel village. The last section is centred on Col Saint-Jean, climbing and falling to Eygalayes on a road which has often proved treacherous over the years. The stage last appeared in the late 1980s in a slightly different format.

SS5: Vaumeilh - Claret 1, 15.18km
An untypical Monte stage with plenty of pace and average speeds will be high. It climbs to Col de Grêle (728 metres) and then crosses the villages of Sigoyer and Melve. Descending to the finish will prove more technical but it remains very fast, with spectacular hairpins in the last portion. New for 2018.

The Frenchman returned to the Gap service park with a 40.4sec advantage in his Ford Fiesta as his pursuers jostled for position behind.

Ogier was fastest through Roussieux - Eygalayes, before posting fourth quickest time in the short Vaumeilh - Claret to head Ott Tänak at the midpoint of today’s first full day.

“I’m not so happy with my driving on this one,” he said after SS5. “Conditions were much drier than we thought. I had super soft tyres on the car which wasn’t a good idea. I was a bit on the safe side this morning, but overall not a bad loop.”

Heavy rain was forecast in the region but apart from a brief shower for the early starters in SS4, the roads remained dry, with no hint of snow and ice.

Having won today’s opener, Tanäk was third and second fastest in the following two tests to complete a stellar loop in which the Estonian climbed from fifth to second on his Toyota Yaris debut.

Dani Sordo was frustrated by a tyre mix-up which meant he drove the final two tests with soft rather than super soft rubber on the front of his Hyundai i20. He conceded 10sec in Vaumeilh - Claret and dropped to third, 7.1sec behind Tänak.

Hyundai team-mate Andreas Mikkelsen retired his i20 from third before the start of Roussieux - Eygalayes. The Norwegian stopped on the liaison section with a broken alternator.

Finnish drivers doubled up in fourth and fifth, with Esapekka Lappi heading Toyota team-mate Jari-Matti Latvala by 12.7sec. Kris Meeke was a distant sixth in a Citroën C3, the Northern Ireland driver almost 90sec further back.

M-Sport Ford duo Bryan Bouffier and Elfyn Evans were next up, Welshman Evans charging to fastest time in his Fiesta through Vaumeilh - Claret. Thierry Neuville was up to ninth after his earlier problems, the Belgian setting a target of climbing to fifth by Sunday’s finish.

Craig Breen was 10th, but the Irishman dropped more than three minutes in the two stages with a brake problem in his C3. “I got a stone between the bleed nipple and the rim on the first stage and that broke it. We had three brakes for the next stage and now I have nothing. I can barely stop,” he said.

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