Frenchman Sébastien Ogier (Citroën) finished the day at the helm of the Monte Carlo Rally, albeit with just two seconds ahead of Belgian Thierry Neuville (Hyundai), so the excitement seems assured this weekend.
Ogier, a six-time world rally champion, took the reins of the event that opens the new season on Friday’s penultimate stage (SS7), after setting the best time of the two previous stages.
He also took advantage of an error by Neuville, who was the leader and who lost fifteen seconds due to an error in the fifth stage.
Nine-time French world champion Sébastien Loeb (Hyundai) set the fastest time on two stages of the day (SS4, SS7), but lost time on several occasions (SS6, SS8), struggling with his choice of tires. The Alsatian is fifth.
Norwegian Andreas Mikkelsen (Hyundai) completes the provisional podium at 1 minute, 17 seconds and 7 tenths of Ogier, who is aiming for a seventh victory in the test on Sunday, which would place him at the height of Loeb’s record.
Estonian Ott Tänak (Toyota Yaris), one of the favorites for the title this year, had finished in the lead on Thursday after the first two stages, but dropped to seventh, more than two and a half minutes behind Ogier.
The Frenchman, on roads that he knows well since they are around his hometown (Gap, southern France), showed good control of the situation.
“I would have signed it (before the day),” Ogier admitted.
“There is still a long way to go. We must not forget that here there can be great differences in a single special, “he stressed.
– Loeb thinks about the podium –
For his part, Neuville was also satisfied this Friday.
«I feel very comfortable and confident at the wheel. Without my mistake I would have had a wide advantage over Ogier, “said the Belgian.
Loeb sees that open Ogier-Neuville pulse and thinks about fighting for third place.
«It was a correct day. We are in the fight for third place, okay. It was not easy with the car and the rally, so I knew it would not be easy, “he estimated.
Loeb insisted that he is not competing to win this rally “but to give points to the constructor.” The Frenchman, who had withdrawn from the World Rally Championship in 2012, will play six appointments in 2019.
Among the other data of the day, he highlighted the abandonment of Ogier’s teammate at Citroën, the Finn Esapekka Lappi, who suffered a breakdown in the sixth special.
There will be two more stages around the Gap on Saturday, before heading to Monaco, where the winner will be decided on Sunday. AFP