Sebastien Ogier in command as Neuville crashes at Monte
Sebastien Ogier has seized the lead of the Monte Carlo Rally after a third day of twists at the opening World Rally Championship round.
Ogier bounded into the lead by 47.1s overall from his M-Sport Ford Fiesta team-mate Ott Tanak on a day of high drama in the stages outside of Gap.
“To be in the lead of our first event together at Rallye Monte-Carlo, it feels amazing,” Ogier said.
“Of course I’m sorry for Thierry as he was doing a great job, but that is the way this rally goes sometimes.
“The last 53km are going to feel very, very long. We’ve seen a lot of really tricky conditions and tomorrow won’t be any easier.
“We need to finish the job and it would be incredible to start this new chapter with a victory.”
Hyundai’s dream of claiming its first Monte win and fourth WRC triumph were snuffed out when Thierry Neuville crashed on the final stage of the day, the 25.4km SS13 run from Bayons to Breziers.
At that point Neuville had increased his outright lead to Ogier to just over 50s however the Belgian ran wide at a fast corner with the i20 suffering suspension damage.
Neuville and co-driver Nicolas Gilsoul performed some makeshift repairs which saw them return to the service park in Gap but they had lost more than half an hour.
“At the start of the stage, I played with the diffs to get into a good rhythm, and things felt fine,”Neuville explained.
“But we went wide into a third or fourth gear corner and there was a lot of gravel.
“We knew this from our gravel crew, but I must have been too quickly back on the throttle because the car went wide and we hit something like concrete.
“Immediately, we knew something had broken so we had to stop and fix it.”
It leaves Toyota with a look at a podium going into the last day after Jari-Matti Latvala moved into third place, albeit it 2min20.6s off the lead.
The highlight of the day was the blistering form of Elfyn Evans who stormed to three of the five stage wins which leaves his DMACK Fiesta in sixth outright.
Kris Meeke’s rally ended bizarrely after his Citroen C3 was hit by another vehicle on the road section between Gap and the rally base in Monaco, leaving his machine with damage to the right rear wheel.
The Hyundai i20 of Dani Sordo was also stricken with problems on SS13 after the Spaniard had power steering problems which cost him more than a minute, leaving him in fifth outright, more than four minutes from Ogier.
Monte: Overall classification after Day 3 (top 10)
1: Sebastien Ogier (M-Sport World Rally Team Ford) 3:26.10.7s
2: Ott Tanak (M-Sport World Rally Team Ford) 47.1s
3 Jari-Matti Latvala Toyota Gazoo Racing WRC Toyota 2.20.6
4 Craig Breen Citroen Total Abu Dhabi WRT Citroen 3.47.3
5 Dani Sordo Hyundai Motorsport Hyundai 4.03.2
6 Elfyn Evans M-Sport World Rally Team Ford 7.27.2
7 Andreas Mikkelsen Skoda Motorsport Skoda 9.15.2
8 Jan Kopecky Skoda Motorsport Skoda 12.34.4
9 Bryan Bouffier Gemini Clinic Rally Team Ford 14.41.9
10 Pontus Tidemand Skoda Motorsport II Skoda 14.59.3
VIDEO: Stage 9-10 highlights
VIDEO: Stage 11-13 highlights