Monte Carlo WRC: Ogier stays ahead, Loeb takes third
Sebastien Ogier kept a chasing Thierry Neuville at bay during Saturday afternoon’s loop of Monte Carlo Rally stages, as Sebastien Loeb moved up into third place.
Ogier had taken a pair of softer tyres in comparison to Neuville but the effect was negligible, as he dropped just 1.2s during Agnieres en Devoluy-Corps and gained 0.2s back one stage later.
Neuville claimed he had left pace in reserve after the first of those stages in which he had beaten Ogier but admitted he had no answer for the reigning champion in the second.
But the star of Saturday was Ott Tanak, who guided his Toyota Yaris to a lock-out of stage wins across the day’s four stages.
Having lost time on Friday when he was forced to stop and change a puncture, Tanak went for a risky tyre strategy this afternoon, selecting four non-studded winter tyres while the rest of the field had taken studded tyres more suited to icy conditions.
Tanak’s gamble was a masterstroke, taking almost 20 seconds out of podium rivals Loeb and Jari-Matti Latvala across two stages, most of which was recouped in the first, icier test.
New Hyundai signing Loeb retook third place from Latvala on the afternoon’s first stage and finished the day with 2.3s in hand over the lead Toyota. But Tanak is now firmly in podium contention, 17.3s off Loeb and 15s off teammate Latvala.
Kris Meeke, closest to Tanak's stage-winning pace throughout the day, retained sixth place.
M-Sport pairing Teemu Suninen and Pontus Tidemand are still well outside the top 10 but both are still set to score manufacturers’ points for their team.
WRC2 Pro leader Gus Greensmith is instead the best placed M-Sport driver in seventh, albeit ineligible to score manufacturer points as he races an R5-specification car and thus isn’t considered a WRC entrant.
He was being caught by French tarmac ace Yoann Bonato but a puncture for the Citroen C3 R5 pilot lost him over a minute.
Bonato remains eighth overall, ahead of former Minardi Formula 1 driver and Le Mans veteran Stephane Sarrazin in ninth and Gregoire De Mevius in 10th.
Sébastien Ogier, Julien Ingrassia, Citroën World Rally Team Citroen C3 WRC
Photo by: McKlein / LAT Images
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