After a tyre poker Sebastien Ogier is able to pull away from his pursuer Sebastien Loeb at the Rally Monte-Carlo – More dramas at Hyundai
Sebastien Ogier (Toyota) has caused a preliminary decision in the duel against his namesake Sebastien Loeb (Ford) for victory at the Rally Monte-Carlo, season opener of the 2022 World Rally Championship (WRC), on Saturday afternoon.
Ogier extended his lead from 5.4 to 21.1 seconds in the afternoon’s two special stages (SS) and now has a good chance of winning the Rally Monte-Carlo for the ninth time on the final day. Third-placed Craig Breen (Ford), with a gap of 1:26.0 minutes to Ogier, can no longer intervene in the fight for the top two by his own efforts.
Ogier made up the most time on the last special stage of the day, the second run of “Saint-Geniez – Thoard”. On the track, which was icy in sections, the tyre choice was crucial and here Ogier reacted to Loeb’s decision at the last second.
Ogier copies Loeb’s tyre choice
“I was planning to go with the winter tyres because that was the safest option, but I saw Seb was on slicks so I changed at the last minute before the start,” said Ogier, who was 16.1 seconds quicker than Loeb on that special stage. “It was difficult to drive in places, but it was more fun on the dry sections. “
Loeb, on the other hand, knows that he will hardly be able to close the gap on the final day under his own steam. “It’s a bit much now,” he says. “We tried, but Ogier saw it and changed at the last minute. It was really tricky with the slicks and very easy to make a mistake, but here we are.”
Driver of the afternoon was Kalle Rovanperä (Toyota), who improved to fourth overall with two SS best times. His teammate Takamoto Katusta, however, slid off the track on SS13 and lost more than ten minutes, dropping out of the top 10. Also as a result, Gus Greensmith moved up to fifth place.
Bankruptcies, misfortunes and breakdowns at Hyundai
The tour of woes continued for Hyundai on Saturday afternoon. On the twelfth special stage, Neuville’s right front shock absorber broke out of the strut bearing, which meant that the Belgian could only continue at a slow pace. Between the two special stages, Neuville and co-driver Martijn Wydaeghe managed to make a makeshift repair.
“I don’t know what to say. We had hoped it would get better. But it got worse,” is how Neuville summed up the day. “We knew we were lacking development time, but we expected more.” More than the current sixth place is not possible for Neuville on his own.
Earlier, his team-mate Ott Tänak had to retire. After his impact on the eleventh special stage in the morning, his Hyundai i20 N Rally1 came to a halt on the connecting stage to the tyre change zone. Oliver Solberg is also outside the top 10 after his crash in the morning.
Andreas Mikkelsen (Skoda) is seventh overall and thus the leader in the WRC2 standings. The former WRC race winner, like some of his rivals, had difficulties with the slippery road on SS13, but goes into the final day with a 22.4 second lead over Czech Erik Cais (Ford).
On the final day, crews can expect another four special stages over a total distance of 67.26 kilometres at the Rally Monte-Carlo from 08:45 hrs.