WRC Monte Carlo Rally: Loeb just leads from Ogier as Kubica flies

Sebastien Loeb's lead over Sebastien Ogier shrank to just three seconds after a tense morning of Monte Carlo Rally stages, while a delayed Robert Kubica was the pacesetter

WRC Monte Carlo Rally: Loeb just leads from Ogier as Kubica flies

With Ogier third on the road (behind the Rally2 cars) and Loeb 14th under the new-for-2015 running order system, the two arch-rivals encountered very different stage conditions.

At first it was Citroen driver Loeb who benefited, and the returning World Rally Championship legend increased his lead from 13s to 28s with the fastest time on the morning's opener.

But then the roads swung back in Ogier's favour. With the early fog clearing and ice patches melting, the main factor became the level of mud dragged onto the stages by the early runners.

Loeb lost 4s to Ogier on SS4, then a full 21s on SS5, bringing his lead down to exactly three seconds heading for the lunchtime service.

Kubica was fastest of all on both SS4 and SS5, but it counts for little other than confidence as his major electrical problems on Thursday night left his RK Ford outside the overall top 60 at the start of the day, 10 minutes behind the leaders and running under Rally2.

Jari-Matti Latvala struggled to find a rhythm in SS3's ice and fog, allowing M-Sport's flying young drivers Ott Tanak and Elfyn Evans to move into third and fourth places.

As Latvala's confidence returned, so did his pace, and by the end of SS5 he was firmly established in third again, 24s clear of Tanak.

Evans is now fifth, just 0.4s ahead of Kris Meeke and with Andreas Mikkelsen right behind them in the third VW.

Mads Ostberg is eighth but only 12.7s away from fifth place in this close pack, while the Hyundais of Thierry Neuville and Dani Sordo are falling away in the final points-scoring positions.

AUTOSPORT Race Centre Live's as-it-happens Monte Carlo Rally coverage resumes from 1.30pm UK time for SS6-SS8.

LEADING POSITIONS AFTER SS5:

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WRC Monte Carlo Rally: Ogier takes lead as Loeb damages car

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