Sebastian Ogier leads Rallye Monte Carlo with a slender lead over the Toyota of Ott Tanak following a hectic start to the 2018 WRC season
The reigning world champion held the lead initially after the first action of the year on Thursday night, with all the drama unfolding behind him with his main rivals having various issues. Thierry Neuville, Kris Meeke, Elfyn Evans and Tanak all went off or had problems and lost time to Ogier despite the Frenchman spinning on the ice in SS1. Neuville lost over four minutes with a minor off early on in the stage. Andreas Mikklesen emerged as his main rival following the first action of the season.
Ogier extended his lead through Friday morning thanks to a mistake from Mikklesen, the Norwegian going overshooting a junction and dropping to third behind Dani Sordo, the day then getting worse for Mikklesen after hitting alternator issues on the next section and having to retire his Hyundai. Tanak meanwhile was engaged in battle with Sordo for 2nd and he leapfrogged the Spaniard but was 40 seconds behind Ogier at the end of the morning, with Sordo just seven seconds behind. However, Ogier’s comfortable lead was about to be slashed drastically during the afternoon.
On SS7 Ogier got it wrong heading into a hairpin and spun into a ditch, fortunately plenty of spectators were on hand to push him out of the ditch but he lost over 30 seconds to Tanak who had closed to within 19 seconds of the leader following his off. Ogier had just put 13s onto his advantage over Tanak but it was all gone within a matter of moments. Sordo maintained his 3rd place but was nearly a minute behind Ogier, and around 10 seconds ahead of Esapekka Lappi in the second of the three Toyota’s. Realistically, the battle for the lead is down to Ogier and Tanak, with Sordo also a potential threat with two days of the rally still to run.