At the completion of the first day of the Rallye Monte-Carlo, Sébastien Ogier held a commanding lead over the other competitors in the FIA World Rally Championship.
The eight-time world champion was driving a Toyota Gazoo Racing GR Yaris for the inaugural round, and he won four of the six-speed tests in the French Alps to take a 36.0-second lead over teammate Kalle Rovanperä after 145 kilometers of racing.
Ogier, who was born and reared in the Hautes-Alpes, has many happy memories associated with the fixture that is located in Monaco. This week, he is aiming to win for the ninth time in a row, which would set a new record.
Even though he was suffering from a hybrid unit problem, Ogier still managed to extend his lead over teammate Elfyn Evans into the double digits by continuing to demonstrate his dominance throughout the morning. The short first leg on Thursday night saw Ogier set the tempo for the competition.
As a result of Evans losing 40 seconds due to a rear-right puncture on Stage 5, Ogier was given more leeway to maneuver and was able to take a deeper breath. He increased his cushion despite taking fewer chances in the afternoon, going so far as to carry an extra spare tire with him.
Rovanpera successfully finished a GR Yaris 1-2.
“Ogier remarked, “I am quite happy with how everything turned out.” “Clearly, the chance of punctures was higher [in the penultimate stage], so I made sure to take things a little bit more lightly. Tonight, all I care about is getting the automobile into the garage.”
Rovanpera emerged victorious after a heated competition with Thierry Neuville, who was driving the Hyundai i20 N. Throughout the race, the two competitors were seldom separated by more than a few tenths of a second from one another; nevertheless, Rovanpera managed to gain a little advantage in the afternoon and finished 1.9 seconds ahead of his competitor.
Ott Tanak finished the day in fourth place overall after enduring a hard day during which he learned the nuances of driving M-Ford Sport’s Puma in a race for the very first time. Although the Estonian did acknowledge that the vehicle was comfortable for him to ride in, he stated that his new mount did not have a “racey” enough feel about it.
The third and final slot on the podium goes to Neuville.
Tanak is currently 16.3 seconds behind the podium as they go into Saturday’s last stage of the race. He faces mounting pressure from Evans, who put in an excellent recovery push following his puncture to end 8.1 seconds behind.
Dani Sordo, driving another Hyundai, finished in sixth place, a further 27.9 seconds behind the leader, and was the final competitor. The Spaniard gave off the impression of being dissatisfied and looked to feel that his timings did not justify the risks he was taking while competing on the stages.
On Thursday evening, a problem with the handbrake caused Takamoto Katsuta some difficulty, but he was able to complete his run in his GR Yaris without any issues. The 29-year-old driver’s string of stage timings that placed him in the top four propelled him to seventh place overall, moving him ahead of Esapekka Lappi, who had experienced troubles comparable to those of Sordo in his i20 N.
Puma’s hotshot failed to provide any service to the mid-leg. In order to compete in more than half of the day’s stages, Pierre-Louis Loubet had to do it without the use of power steering. WRC2 frontrunners Nikolay Gryazin and Yohan Rossel finished in the top 10 at the end of the day, taking advantage of the difficulties experienced by the Frenchman.
On Saturday, the race will continue in the Alpes-de-Haute-Provence region, which is located to the west, for another 111.78 kilometers of racing. In Puget-Théniers, the trails Le Fugeret / Thorame-Haute, Malijai / Puimichel, and Ubraye / Entrevaux each run twice on each side of another tyre fitting zone. Once more, there is no service throughout the mid-leg.