WRC Rallye Monte Carlo: Ogier holds commanding lead after Friday despite issues

Rallye Monte Carlo: Ogier holds commanding lead despite issues

Sébastien Ogier leads Rally Monte Carlo by 36 seconds over his Toyota team-mate Kalle Rovanperä after a dominant performance on Friday’s stages. However, it wasn’t a trouble-free day for the Frenchman.

The eight-time WRC champion holds a commanding lead at the end of Friday. He won four of the six French Alps stages to lead the opening round by 36 seconds from colleague Kalle Rovanperä after 145km of competition.

The Monaco-based fixture holds fond memories for Ogier, who was born and raised in the Hautes-Alpes. He is chasing down a record-breaking ninth victory this week.

Ogier set the tempo on Thursday night’s short opening leg and continued to assert the same dominance in the morning, stretching his advantage into double figures over team-mate Elfyn Evans despite nursing hybrid unit problems which meant he didn’t have the additional 134 horsepower in the both SS4 and SS5.

When Evans dropped back after losing 40 seconds with a rear-right puncture on SS5, Ogier was afforded room to breathe. He took less risks in the afternoon with the hybrid system working again and extended his lead to 36 seconds.

“I am very satisfied,” Ogier reflected. “Obviously, the risk of punctures [in the last stage] was higher so I took things a bit more easy. I’m just happy to bring the car home tonight.”

Rovanperä topped an intense battle with Hyundai i20 N driver Thierry Neuville. The pair were rarely split by more than a few tenths of a second, but Rovanperä found a slight edge in the afternoon to end 1.9sec clear.

Fourth overall went to Ott Tänak after challenging day spent learning the intricacies of driving M-Sport’s Ford Puma in competition for the first time. In the Estonian’s own words, his new steed did not feel “racey” enough, although he did admit to being comfortable in the car.

Tänak sits 16.3sec adrift of the podium heading into Saturday’s penultimate leg and faces increasing pressure from Evans, who put in an impressive recovery drive after his puncture to end 8.1sec behind.

Another 27.9sec in arrears and rounding out the top six is Dani Sordo, driving another Hyundai. The Spaniard appeared frustrated and felt that his times did not match up with the risks he was taking out on the stages.

Takamoto Katsuta was hampered by a handbrake issue on Thursday evening but enjoyed a trouble-free run aboard his GR Yaris. A series of top-four stage times promoted the 29-year-old to seventh overall ahead of Esapekka Lappi, who shared similar frustrations to Sordo in his i20 N.

The action switches west to the Alpes-de-Haute-Provence on Saturday for another 111.78km of competition. Le Fugeret / Thorame-Haute, Malijai / Puimichel and Ubraye / Entrevaux each run twice either side of another tyre fitting zone in Puget-Théniers. Again, there is no mid-leg service.

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WRC Rallye Monte Carlo 2023 – O/A after SS8 (Friday)

#DriversCarTime / Diff. to 1st
1.Ogier / LandaisToyota GR Yaris Rally11:26:39.4
2.Rovanperä / HalttunenToyota GR Yaris Rally1+36.0
3.Neuville / WydaegheHyundai i20 N Rally1+37.9
4.Tänak / JärveojaFord Puma Rally1+54.2
5.Evans / MartinToyota GR Yaris Rally1+1:02.3
6.Sordo / CarreraHyundai i20 N Rally1+1:30.2
7.Katsuta / JohnstonToyota GR Yaris Rally1+1:33.1
8.Lappi / FermHyundai i20 N Rally1+1:57.7
9.Gryazin / AleksandrovSkoda Fabia RS Rally2+4:12.8
10.Rossel / DunandCitroën C3 Rally2+4:42.5

Photo, text: Red Bull Content Pool