Sebastien Ogier reduces Evans’ lead after Friday

Sebastien Ogier reduces Evans' lead after Friday

Elfyn Evans will head into Saturday with a slim lead in the Monte Carlo Rally after his teammate Sebastien Ogier reduced his lead on Friday night.

Elfyn Evans is currently leading the Monte Carlo Rally after Friday’s second stage but his Toyota teammate Sebastien Ogier is mounting more pressure on the Welshman.

Following Thursday’s two nighttime stages, Evans had a 21.6-second lead over his GR Yaris Rally1 colleague. However, Ogier is now lurking in the Welshman’s rearview mirror after a brilliant drive on Friday over the French Alps roads near Gap saw him reduce that margin to just 4.5 seconds.

Ogier moved up from third to second place after winning two of the three stages in the morning as he took advantage of Thierry Neuville’s spin in Stage 4. By the halfway of the day, the Frenchman had closed the gap on Evans to 10.7 seconds, most of his progress coming during the ice-patched special stage from La Bréole to Selonnet.

For the majority of the repeated afternoon loop, the two were running close as Ogier triumphed once more at La Bréole / Selonnet, which was held in the dark on its second run. He overcame his teammate by 4.1 seconds establishing an exciting duel heading into Saturday’s leg.

At the end of the day, Neuville was still very much in the hunt and was third, 11.6 seconds behind Ogier. Save for his early-morning spin he had a trouble-free run winning three of the six special stages of the day.

Ott Tänak was fortunate to finish the day 57.5 seconds behind in fourth place after his Hyundai tumbled into a ditch during SS3 after skidding on ice on a right-hander.

The Estonian was back on the road in just forty seconds, thanks to the spectators. Takamoto Katsuta and Grégoire Munster both slipped off at the same spot, with the latter losing more than five minutes.

Adrien Fourmaux proved M-Sport Ford right to be confident in him by turning in an outstanding third-best time in the SS5. The 28-year-old is making a comeback to the elite division of WRC after competing in WRC2 last season and finishing in the top five with his Puma.

Also returning to the top division for the first time since 2019, Andreas Mikkelsen finished the day more than a minute behind Fourmaux in sixth place overall.

The Norwegian who was driving a Hyundai found it challenging to rely on the data recorded in his pace notes as the road’s surface was perpetually changing. He has never driven a hybrid vehicle before, and he has spent the majority of the day getting accustomed to the latest Rally 1 car.

Munster arrived at the overnight stop 28.2 seconds later and ranked seventh In his Puma, while WRC2 rivals Nikolay Gryazin and Pepe López locked in a spectacular duel. Lopez had the lead following Thursday’s loop by 14.2 seconds.

Gryazin led by 1.8 seconds after the opening stage on Friday as Lopez closed the gap to 0.8 seconds after stage four, but the Spaniard regained the lead by four tenths of a second after stage five.

After stage six, Gryazin took the lead again and after stage seven, Lopez reclaimed the lead, and by Friday night Gryazin was leading by 1.3 seconds.

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