Triple world champion Sebastien Ogier delighted his hometown crowd by storming to a commanding lead in the Monte Carlo Rally on Friday, boosting his hopes of a fourth win in the storied race.
The French Volkswagen driver had trailed Citroen’s Kris Meeke overnight after the opening stages driven over treacherous icy surfaces.
But the 32-year-old Ogier, born in Gap where the first round of the world championship is based, grabbed four of the day’s six stages to end the day with a 9.5sec lead over his Northern Irish rival.
Ogier didn’t have an incident-free day, however, suffering a major scare when his Polo clipped a bridge on stage four.
“I came out a little too wide and after I was a little worried,” admitted the French driver.
“I was scared that there may have been some damage so I took my foot off the gas a little.
He added: “I was then a little too cautious on the seventh stage (won by Meeke) but I have to recognise that Kris did a great job. He had a great rhythm all day.
“To make a difference, I had to attack. Nine and a half seconds in the lead, it’s not really that big especially when you consider that tomorrow will be a long day with long stages.”
Ogier’s VW teammates Jari-Matti Latvala and Andreas Mikkelsen were third and fourth fastest ahead of Saturday’s five stages while the event concludes Sunday with three more runs.
Standings at end of second day:
1. Sebastien Ogier-Julien Ingrassia (FRA/VW Polo-R) 1 h 29:06.1, 2. Kris Meeke-Paul Nagle (GBR-IRL/Citroën DS3) at 9.5, 3. Jari-Matti Latvala-Miikka Anttila (FIN/VW Polo-R) 1:08.1, 4. Andreas Mikkelsen-Anders Jaeger Synnevag (NOR/VW Polo-R) 1:33.8, 5. Thierry Neuville-Nicolas Gilsoul (BEL/Hyundai i20) 1:47.8, 6. Mads Ostberg-Ola Floene (NOR/Ford Fiesta RS) 2:18.5, 7. Dani Sordo-Marc Marti (ESP/Hyundai i20) 3:07.8, 8. Stéphane Lefebvre-Gabin Moreau (FRA/Citroën DS3) 3:32.0, 9. Bryan Bouffier-Victor Bellotto (FRA/Ford Fiesta RS) 4:18.6, 10. Ott Tänak-Raigo Molder (EST/Ford Fiesta RS) 5:25.8
Stage winners: Ogier 5 (SS1, SS3, SS5, SS6, SS8), Meeke 3 (SS2, SS4, ESS7)
– Agence France-Presse