Sebastian Ogier leads the 2017 Rallye Monte Carlo with one leg left to go, Saturday marked a turn of events for the Ford Fiesta RS driver who had trailed Thierry Neuville throughout the entire rally since day 1. Neuville did not only prove Hyundai’s new i20 WRC is in its finest form, he also had the best drive, which Ogier later confirmed.
The Hyundai driver however met his fate on the final speed test today after running wide on a slow left corner and ultimately damaging his rear left suspension. His massive advantage over Ogier reduced to nothing within no time as he limped to the end of the stage. He would then finish with a deficit of more than 30 minutes in 15th place.
Hyundai has had an unfortunate start of the season, first was Hayden Paddon who rolled at the Entrevaux – Ubraye test. His car blocked the road forcing organizers to cancel stage 1 of the event. To an even sadder note, a spectator lost his life in that incident. Neuvilles’ incident was just a case of bad luck as Ogier explained.
“Thierry has driven a great rally, with fantastic speed. To drive the whole of Monte-Carlo in these conditions at that speed is a hard challenge. Monte-Carlo is a rally where you need luck. I wished him no bad luck, he did a great job,” said the World Champion.
If anything, the opening round of the WRC 2017 is a clear preview of what to expect in the rest of the season. Ford has been strong and not just because they have a world champion in their team, the Fiesta RS has proven to be fast and reliable, Ott Tanak is currently second behind Ogier in the other M-Sport Ford.
Then there is Toyota, marking their participation in WRC for the first time in 17 years. Jari-Matti Latvala has everything it takes to make their dreams come true, he is currently 3rd after today’s leg in the Toyota Gazoo Yaris WRC. Craig Breen is fourth in the Citroen C3 with Dani Sordo fifth in the Hyundai i20 WRC.
Andreas Mikkelsen who missed a seat in the Manufacturer class currently heads WRC2 in a Skoda Fabia R5. He has been fast, really fast since day 1 and has everything it takes to match his comrades in the manufacturer class.
Tomorrow’s final leg will go through the infamous Col de Turini twice. Stay tuned for the final race report and photos.
[Photos by Photo Brieuc Mercière]