Sat 27 Jan 2024

Neuville heads Ogier in Rallye Monte-Carlo thriller

Thierry Neuville has set up the perfect Sunday showdown at Rallye Monte-Carlo after dethroning Sébastien Ogier in Saturday’s final stage, provisionally netting himself 18 points.

Hyundai i20 N star Neuville was undoubtedly the man to beat in the morning. Having held third last night, he pinched second place from Ogier on the day’s first ice-patched speed test and stormed into the top spot before midday as time ebbed away from overnight leader Elfyn Evans.

 

Ogier seized control by reeling off back-to-back stage wins early in the repeated afternoon loop, but Neuville retaliated by outpacing the Toyota GR Yaris-driving Frenchman in the closing kilometres to carry a 3.3sec advantage into Sunday.  

 

With Rallye Monte-Carlo marking the debut of the all-new WRC points structure, Neuville’s late charge will earn him 18 points providing he completes Sunday’s stages. Ogier will receive 15 while Evans, who ended the day 34.9sec off the lead in third, gets 13.

 

"It was perfection,” Neuville said of his drive on Pellafol - Agnières-en-Dévoluy. “Everything went well and I really enjoyed the car - it was incredible.

 

“It was important to take the points tonight but we also needed to keep the car on the road. I had a good feeling, so I went for it and it seems like it paid off," he added.


Ogier’s stage win at Les Nonières - Chichilianne was the 700th of his career. That feat moved him ahead of Finnish legend Juha Kankkunen (699 stage wins) into fourth on the all-time WRC list of stage winners.

 

"I have been trying since the beginning of the rally, basically,” admitted the nine-time Rallye Monte-Carlo winner. “This [final stage] was no different, but Thierry did a good stage. It looks like we need to try harder tomorrow.”

 

Super Sunday brings the opportunity for the top performers over the course of the final day to collect up to seven points in addition to the five bonus points also up for grabs in the rally-ending Wolf Power Stage.

 

Evans completed SS10 with no hybrid boost on his GR Yaris. Even with the issue fixed, he could not find an answer to the sudden speed of his peers. “I don’t know what's going on,” the Welshman admitted after yielding 16.9sec in SS12. “It didn't feel great, but that’s chronic.”


Hyundai man Ott Tänak’s hold on fourth was strengthened as he pulled away from his closest challenger Adrien Fourmaux, helped by his stage win on Pellafol / Agnières-en-Dévoluy. The pair were split by over one minute at close of play, with Fourmaux doubling down on his conservative approach after seeing his M-Sport Ford Puma colleague Grégoire Munster off the road in SS12.

 

Munster’s demise allowed Andreas Mikkelsen to claim sixth in his Hyundai, while Takamoto Katsuta climbed up to seventh following his costly ditch excursion on Friday.

 

Eighth place went to Nikolay Gryazin, who currently heads Pepe López in a thrilling duel for WRC2 supremacy. Yohan Rossel is also involved in the support category scrap and completed the top 10.


Sunday's final leg features three stages as crews journey south to Monaco. The trio add up to 52.12km before the rally finishes in the principality.  


Latvia
Starts: Thursday, July 18, 2024 at 4:31:00 AM
Italy
Starts: Friday, July 26, 2024 at 8:30:00 AM
Hungary
Starts: Saturday, July 27, 2024 at 9:30:00 AM