WRC Monte Carlo: Ogier takes command on third day from Evans

Sebastien Ogier has grabbed the lead from Toyota team-mate Elfyn Evans in the Monte Carlo Rally on the third day of this year's World Rally Championship opener

WRC Monte Carlo: Ogier takes command on third day from Evans

After Friday's action, Ogier had lost half a minute following a puncture on the penultimate stage of the day, although he immediately reclaimed 16 seconds from Evans before the overnight halt.

Restarting in the dark in order to comply with local COVID-19 legislation, Ogier then resumed his imperious progress on the opening 18.3km La Bréole - Salonnet stage.

The Frenchman crossed the line 17.8s faster than the Welshman and 20s faster than anyone else in the rally.

It was a masterclass and even the usually business-like Frenchman was wide-eyed with the adrenaline coursing long after he cleared the stage end.

With Ogier leading Evans and the third Yaris WRC of Kalle Rovanpera, Toyota's grasp on the event was further strengthened by a disastrous stage for its nearest challenger, the Hyundai of 2019 WRC drivers' champion Ott Tanak.

The Estonian had been hanging on grimly through Friday's stages but his Saturday run began with a spin that was followed by a puncture which sent him hurtling down the order.

Dawn had broken before the start of the second stage of the day, the 20.48 km Saint-Clément - Freissinières test, and Thierry Neuville brought some cheer to his beleaguered Hyundai squad by firing in his first stage win of the event.

Last year's Monte winner had struggled throughout the opening days as he and newly-installed co-driver Martijn Wydaeghe sought to find a working relationship.

On stage 10, however, Neuville hit form by setting a time 42.2s faster than Ogier's and closing up on the third placed Toyota of Kalle Rovanpera in the overall order.

Any good cheer that Neuville's stage win brought to Hyundai was soon tempered by the sight of Tanak stopping on the stage with another blown tyre. Having already used the only spare on board his i20 WRC, the Estonian's event was over.

After a short service break the crews returned to La Bréole - Salonnet for the final stage of the day, where the Toyotas once again asserted their authority. This time Evans was the winner by a scant 1.3s from Ogier - but it was enough to cheer the Welshman.

"I needed that really," Evans said. "It's been a bit of a frustrating day, really, just not really been on the money... we'll keep the pressure on!"

Ogier was unperturbed and holds a 13.0s advantage as the teams prepare for four stages on the final day.

"The condition have changed a lot since the first pass and also since the gravel crew have passed so it was a little of what we see and try to trust it," he said. "But it was a clean drive for me."

Neuville's scintillating form did not continue into the final stage of the day and this bought Rovanpera some breathing space at the overnight halt, with a 7s gap opening between them.

"I had a problem with my earplugs so Jonne [co-driver Jonne Halttunen], had to scream all the time so I could hear the notes," Rovanpera explained.

"I didn't hear the notes so well so maybe at the beginning I was not so comfortable but then when I get used to the result it was okay."

The battle for the final podium position is now more than a minute clear of Dani Sordo in fifth place at the wheel of the third works Hyundai.

The Spaniard had struggled on Friday but his pace improved dramatically on Saturday morning before suffering again on the day's final stage.

"I was just very slow," he said after setting only the 15th fastest time through the final stage.

"We need to bring the two cars to the end of the rally so the only way is we go a little bit slower than before but it was very bad."

In WRC2, the day delivered another big chunk of time to veteran Andreas Mikkelsen, who holds seventh place overall and a 2m14s advantage over the M-Sport Ford of Adrien Fourmaux, with Oliver Solberg third for Hyundai.

"We drive again comfortably, very tricky conditions, but my information is really spot on. I have the best gravel crew in the whole world." Mikkelsen enthused.

In WRC3, Yohan Rossel enjoyed another solid day, maintaining his lead over Yoann Bonato and Nicolas Ciamin.

Leading Rally Monte Carlo positions after Stage 11

Pos Class Driver Team Gap
1 RC1 Sebastien Ogier, J.Ingrassia Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT 2h16m31.9s
2 RC1 Elfyn Evans, S.Martin Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT 13.0s
3 RC1 Kalle Rovanpera, J.Halttunen 56.8s
4 RC1 Thierry Neuville, M.Wydaeghe Hyundai Shell Mobis WRT 1m03.8s
5 RC1 Dani Sordo, C.del Barrio Hyundai Shell Mobis WRT 2m11.3s
6 RC1 Takamoto Katsuta, D.Barritt Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT 4m43.1s
7 WRC2 Andreas Mikkelsen, O.Floene Toksport WRT 5m22.7s
8 RC1 Gus Greensmith, E.Edmondson M-Sport Ford WRT 6m14.6s
9 WRC2 Adrien Fourmaux, R.Jamoul M-Sport Ford WRT 7m36.5s
10 WRC2 Eric Camilli, F-X.Buresi Sports & You 7m54.1s
11 WRC2 Oliver Solberg, A.Johnston Hyundai Motorsport N 8m47.3s
12 WRC3 Yohan Rossel, B.Fulcrand 8m50.7s
13 WRC2 Nikolay Gryazin, K.Aleksandrov Movisport SRL 10m47.3s
14 WRC3 Yoann Bonato, B.Boulloud 10m50.9s
15 WRC3 Nicolas Ciamin, Y.Roche 13m06.0s
16 WRC2 Marco Bulacia Wilkinson, M.Der Ohannesian Toksport WRT 13m51.0s
17 RC1 Pierre-Louis Loubet, V.Landais Hyundai 2C Competition 14m42.8s
18 RC2 Olivier Burri, A.Levratti 16m44.8s
19 WRC2 Sean Johnston, A.Kihurani Sainteloc Junior Team 16m52.0s
20 WRC3 Hermann Neubauer, B.Ettel 16m59.9s
21 RC2 Kevin Abbring, P.Tsjoen 18m18.0s
22 WRC3 Cedric De Cecco, J.Humblet 19m45.1s
23 RC2 Mike Coppens, F.Gordon 22m52.3s
24 RGT Cup Manu Guigou, A.Coria 23m12.2s
25 WRC3 Davy Vanneste, K.D'alleine 25m38.5s
26 RGT Cup Raphael Astier, F.Vauclare 25m40.5s
27 RC2 Jerome Chavanne, P.Blot 26m12.3s
28 WRC3 Johannes Keferbock, I.Minor 26m30.3s
29 RC2 Daniel Alonso Villaron, A.L.Fernandez 28m11.9s
30 RC4 Nicolas Latil, J.Degout 28m57.0s
31 WRC3 Giacomo Ogliari, L.Granai 29m32.1s
32 WRC3 Cedric Cherain, S.Prevot 30m52.0s
33 WRC3 Tom Williams, G.Ascalone 34m25.4s
34 RC4 Sacha Althaus, L.Zbinden 36m37.4s
35 RC4 Thibault Lefebvre, M.Lacruz 36m43.2s
36 RC2 Carlo Boroli, M.Imerito 38m41.4s
37 RGT Cup Cedric Robert, M.Duval 38m50.0s
38 RC4 Frederic Roussel, G.Dini 39m24.9s
39 RGT Cup Pierre Ragues, J.Pesenti 40m00.9s
40 RC5 Timothy Van Parijs, K.Heyndrickx 40m16.8s
41 WRC3 Miguel Diaz-Aboitiz, D.Sanjuan 41m05.3s
42 RC2 Pascal Eouzan, P.Eouzan 41m39.9s
43 WRC3 Fabrizio Arengi Bentivoglio, M.Bosi 42m08.5s
44 RC5 Benoit Verlinde, J.Claerhout 42m12.9s
45 RC5 Thierry Monnet, Q.Saxemard 42m39.7s
46 RGT Cup Philippe Baffoun, A.Dunand 43m12.7s
47 WRC2 Enrico Brazzoli, M.Barone Movisport SRL 44m51.3s
48 RC4 Jerome Aymard, S.Aymard 45m37.8s
49 RC2 Philippe Roux, C.Roux 46m40.9s
50 RC5 Gilles Michellier, C.Richard 47m15.0s
51 RC4 Sebastien Martinez, P.Santos 47m37.9s
52 RC2 Carlo Covi, M.Lorigiola 47m45.3s
53 RC5 Ghjuvanni Rossi, B.Volpei 48m08.1s
54 RC4 Francois Delgery, S.Schwab 49m03.8s
55 RC4 Viliam Prodan, Z.Rastegorac 55m17.7s
56 RC5 David Berard, F.Lager 56m30.4s
57 RC5 Myriam Peretti, L.Salini 57m01.1s
58 RC4 Jean-Paul Marcaillou, M.Salignon 1h00m34.0s
59 RC5 Jonathan Villy, R.Villy 1h05m41.2s
60 RC5 Jeremie Mallard, A.M.-Ceccaldi 1h05m57.3s
61 RC4 Pierre Tanci, S.Malet 1h07m40.9s
62 RC4 Alain Cittadino, L.Santi 1h08m01.0s
63 RC5 Jean-Luc Morel, M.Toti 1h08m24.2s
64 RC4 Jean-Paul Palmero, P.Mattia 1h12m27.4s
65 RC4 Zoltan Laszlo, D.Berendi M-Sport Racing Kft. 1h17m19.9s
66 RC4 Nikos Pavlidis, A.Harryman 1h25m14.5s
67 RC5 Lucas Biagetti, L.Biagetti 1h34m37.5s
68 RC5 Francesco Garosci, R.Briani 1h40m28.3s

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Series WRC
Drivers Sébastien Ogier , Elfyn Evans
Author Nick Garton
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