Sebastien Loeb saw his hopes of an eighth Monte Carlo Rally title dented Friday when his Citroen suffered a broken rear suspension following a collision with a rock on the icy surface.
Nine-time world champion Loeb, who had led overnight as well as at the midway stage on Friday, was understood to have lost around six minutes after the accident on the day’s final run.
That allowed two-time defending world champion Sebastien Ogier to overturn a 41sec deficit to snatch the overnight lead with two days left to race in the 83rd edition of the famed rally.
The Volkswagen driver now has a 1min 45.4sec advantage over teammate Jari-Matti Latvala with another Volkswagen pilot Andreas Mikkelsen in third spot.
“We were aggressive, we had to be,” said Loeb. “I hit a small rock, it wasn’t a very strong impact, but the wheel broke.”
The former champion attempted makeshift repairs at the roadside but the patched-up Citroen was forced to limp home.
Ogier took full advantage by taking the honours on the eighth stage for his first win of the event.
“This day is going to be very special for me,” said Ogier.
“The race will be very different for us. There is a long way to go and we will face more difficult moments.
“We must show intelligence and stay concentrated in the tricky conditions.”
Loeb is racing in the world championship for the first time in 15 months and his run for Citroen in Monte Carlo is his only scheduled appearance of the 2015 season.
The 40-year-old triumphed in the wintry conditions of the Principality seven times between 2003 and 2013.
Friday proved a black day all round for Citroen as Loeb’s Irish teammate Kris Meeke saw his hopes of a podium finish also ended by a damaged suspension.
Poland’s former Formula One star Robert Kubica, who had picked up a 10-minute penalty on Thursday, crashed his Ford Fiesta leaving the car with a damaged front and another three minutes lost in the timecharts. – Agence France-Presse