Neuville holds on to Ogier

Neuville holds on to Ogier

Thanks to an impressive performance during the last special of the day, Thierry Neuville took back control of the Monte-Carlo Rally from Sébastien Ogier by three seconds and is already doing well in the championship.

Thierry Neuville had a response. While Elfyn Evans entered the first of the six special stages on the program this Saturday at the head of the general classification of the Monte-Carlo Rally, the fight for victory quickly came down to an intense duel between the Belgian and Sébastien Ogier. If he was able to create an illusion during SS9, the Welshman especially saw Thierry Neuville raise his level of play. The leading driver from the Hyundai team took back just under ten seconds over the 18.79 kilometers tracked between Esparron and Oze. This was without counting on the eight-time world champion, who responded by setting the best time over the 20.04 kilometers of SS10. A special which saw the general classification change with Thierry Neuville taking the lead by nine tenths of a second against Elfyn Evans. The latter then did everything to resist the return of Sébastien Ogier during the last timed sector of the morning loop. Conceding him by a second and a half, the 2023 world vice-champion saw his Toyota teammate come closer to less than three seconds in a Top 3 which was largely isolated from the rest of the competition.

Ogier has a time in the lead

The Gapençais did not lose his appetite during the break. Indeed, he set the best time of SS12 with a little over five seconds ahead of Thierry Neuville when Elfyn Evans, victim of a technical problem with his car earlier in the day, conceded 17 seconds. It was then that the duel between the Belgian and the French gained in intensity. Coming back to just over two seconds, Sébastien Ogier hit the nail on the head in SS13, the penultimate special of the day. Taking back exactly three seconds from Thierry Neuville, the Gapençais took control of the general classification by eight tenths of a second before the 21.37 kilometers of the timed sector located between Pellafol and Agnières-en-Dévoluy. While most of the championship points were going to be distributed at the end of this SS14, the Hyundai driver drove at the limit to try to catch up… and it paid off. Indeed, Thierry Neuville set the best time with four seconds ahead of Sébastien Ogier, a sufficient gap to regain first place.

Neuville untouchable on the last special

« We did a good special, it was close to perfection, confided the Belgian at the finish of the last special of the day. Everything went well and I really enjoyed driving, it was incredible. » If he has no problems this Sunday and sees the finish of the last special, the native of Saint-Vith will score at least 18 points for the championship five more than her announced rival for the world title, Elfyn Evans, who secured third place at the end of the day. Adrien Fourmaux, for his part, had a day marked by a total absence of risk-taking to secure fifth place. The Ford M-Sport driver is in a “no man’s land” with almost a minute behind Ott Tänak’s fourth position and a margin of more than a minute and a half over his closest pursuer Andreas Mikkelsen. The last three special stages of the day, whose classification will offer seven points to the fastest in addition to the bonus linked to the “Power Stage” contested on the slopes of the Col de Turini, promise a spectacle this Sunday.

Ranking at the end of SS14 (out of 17) – Saturday January 27, 2024
1- Thierry Neuville – Martijn Wydaeghe (BEL-BEL/Hyundai) and 2h37’58”5 (18 points)
2- Sébastien Ogier – Vincent Landais (FRA-FRA/Toyota) at 3”3 (15)
3- Elfyn Evans – Scott Martin (GBR-GBR/Toyota) à 34”9 (13)
4- Ott Tänak – Martin Järveoja (EST-EST/Hyundai) à 1’46”9 (10)
5- Adrien Fourmaux – Alexandre Coria (FRA-FRA/Ford M-Sport) at 2’54”0 (8)

The championship points indicated in parentheses will be officially entered if and only if the crews complete all the special stages on the rally program.

Special stage winners
Evans : 2 (ES1, ES2)
Neuville: 5 (ES3, ES6, ES7, ES9, ES14)
Ogier : 6 (ES4, ES5, ES8, ES10, ES12, ES13)
Thanks : 1 (ES11)

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