WRC Monte Carlo: Leader Evans under pressure from Ogier after Friday

WRC Monte Carlo: Leader Evans under pressure from Ogier after Friday

Elfyn Evans leads Rallye Monte-Carlo after Friday’s second leg, but the Welshman is under increasing pressure from his Toyota team-mate Sébastien Ogier.

Evans had been 21.6sec clear of his GR Yaris Rally1 colleague after Thursday’s night-time loop, but Ogier is now looming large in the Welshman’s rear mirror after a stunning drive over Friday’s French Alps roads near Gap saw him whittle that deficit down to just 4.5sec.

Ogier won two of the morning’s three speed tests and climbed from third to second after Hyundai’s Thierry Neuville spun his i20 N in SS4. The Frenchman had moved to within 10.7sec of Evans by the day’s midpoint, with the bulk of the time being gained over the ice-patched special stage from La Bréole to Selonnet.

The pair were closely matched for much of the repeated afternoon loop, but it was again at La Bréole / Selonnet – held in darkness on its second run – where Ogier shone, outpacing his colleague by 4.1sec to set-up a thrilling showdown going into Saturday’s penultimate leg.

Ogier: “Tomorrow will be fun”

“It was a difficult start to the rally, but we expected that with our start position,” said Ogier, a nine-time winner of this event. “Now I am glad that we managed to be very close – tomorrow will be fun.”

Evans, who was never outside the top three times, admitted that conditions had been difficult to read.

“It never gets easier, this rally,” he explained. “[The last stage was] very difficult in the dark. I had a lot of information, but I couldn’t see a lot of it to be honest – I just had to trust it. It’s very difficult to read the conditions on the road. I’m happy to get through today without any issues.”

Neuville remained very much in the fight at the sharp-end and trailed Ogier by 11.6sec in third. He won three of the day’s six special stages and enjoyed a trouble-free run aside from his early-morning spin.

Tänak drops 40s with mistake

Ott Tänak was lucky to end the day 57.5sec further back in fourth after ice on a right-hander sent his Hyundai sliding into a ditch during SS3. It took spectators just 40sec to get the Estonian back on the road. Grégoire Munster and Takamoto Katsuta also went off at the same location, with the latter dropping more than five minutes.

Adrien Fourmaux repaid M-Sport Ford’s faith in him by delivering an impressive third-best time in SS5. The 28-year-old is returning to the WRC’s top level having contested WRC2 in 2023, and he completed the top five aboard a Puma.

Andreas Mikkelsen, also returning to the top-flight for the first time since 2019, ended the day over one minute back from Fourmaux in sixth overall. Driving a Hyundai, the Norwegian found it difficult to trust the information in his pace notes with surface conditions changing constantly.

Seventh-placed Munster reached the overnight halt 28.2sec further back in his Puma, while WRC2 contenders Nikolay Gryazin, Pepe López and Yohan Rossel completed the top 10.

Saturday brings another full-on schedule with Esparron / Ozenet launching the day at 08.05. Les Nonières / Chichilianne and Pellafol / Agnières-en-Dévoluy follow before the trio are repeated, bringing the day’s total competitive distance to 120.40km.

Saturday’s opening stage, SS9, gets underway at 08:05 (07:05 GMT, 02:05 EST).

Find everything you need to know (Itinerary, Maps, Rally Guides, Entry list) about the WRC Rallye Monte Carlo here.

Don’t miss anything from the action at WRC Rallye Monte Carlo via our social media channels:
– Facebook
– X / Twitter
– Instagram

WRC Rallye Monte Carlo 2024 – Standings after Friday (SS8)

#DriversCarTime / Diff. to 1st
1.Evans / MartinToyota GR Yaris Rally11:25:28.9
2.Ogier / LandaisToyota GR Yaris Rally1+4.5
3.Neuville / WydaegheHyundai i20 N Rally1+16.1
4.Tänak / JärveojaHyundai i20 N Rally1+1:13.6
5.Fourmaux / CoriaFord Puma Rally1+1:38.0
6.Mikkelsen / EriksenHyundai i20 N Rally1+2:58.9
7.Munster / LoukaFord Puma Rally1+3:27.1
8.Gryazin / AleksandrovCitroën C3 Rally2+5:18.9
9.López / VázquezSkoda Fabia RS Rally2+5:20.2
10.Rossel / DunandCitroën C3 Rally2+5:25.1

Photo, text: Red Bull Content Pool