Thierry Neuville leads Monte Carlo Rally after Saturday

Thierry Neuville leads Monte Carlo Rally after Saturday

Thierry Neuville is currently leading the Monte Carlo Rally after Saturday edging out Sebastien Ogier despite his 700th stage victory in the World Rally Championship.

Hyundai’s Thierry Neuville delivered a spectacular performance to win the final stage on Saturday and take back the lead in Monte Carlo Rally from an equally motivated Sebastien Ogier following an exciting head-to-head duel.

Throughout Saturday, Elfyn Evans, Neuville and Ogier took turns leading the rally, however after problems befell the Welshman, Neuville and Ogier were left to face off in the afternoon.

Elfyn Evans was leading the Monte Carlo Rally in his Toyota Gazoo Racing GR Yaris Rally1 after Friday’s running ended with the conclusion of SS8, leading Ogier by 4.5 seconds with Neuville 16.1 seconds behind in third.

Neuville impressed in his Hyundai i20N Rally1 by dominating Saturday morning’s SS9, overcoming Evans’ time by 9.6 seconds and Ogier’s by 18.8 seconds. This resulted in a change in the overall order with Evans leading, Neuville in second(+6.5s), and Ogier in third(13.7s).

The next stage saw the Belgian take the lead in the rally, while Evans experienced a little problem with a lack of hybrid, which cost him 7.4 seconds to Neuville. Even so, Ogier avoided wasting any time as he shaved 2.1 seconds away from Neuville on SS10 and after the morning route’s penultimate stage, just 5.1 seconds separated the trio.

Neuville took control of the race once more with an overall lead of 5.1 seconds over Evans going into the afternoon break as he acknowledged that the race setting was not perfect in SS11 due to a dirty tarmac surface. By now, Ogier was behind Neuville by 7.7s having lost an additional 2.1s in SS11.

Ogier put in a brilliant performance in stage 12, the second pass through the test where Neuville had excelled in the morning (Esparron/Oze -18.79km). This time, the Toyota driver overcame determined rally leader Neuville by 5.5 seconds, as the latter believed he had given the stage his best.

Ogier acknowledged that he was taking a bigger risk by clocking the pace that brought the eight-time world champion to within 2.2 seconds behind the 2020 Monte Carlo Rally winner. Evans entered stage 12 in second place overall, however he struggled during the test and lost 16.9 seconds, tumbling down in third place.

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Tanak and Katsuta set identical times with the latter getting more confidence. However, Munster had a heartbreaking finish at 6.3km and went on to finish sixth in the stage. The M-Sport driver ended his day early after he drove wide on a gravel patch at a slow-speed left-hander, beaching his Puma in the barriers.

Stage 13 (Les Nonieres/Chichilianne, 20.04km) saw different conditions as Ogier launched his remarkable charge. The road was dry over the first stretch and then turned wet and treacherous in the final stretch.

Ogier secured his 700th stage victory in his career, obviously making a point as it was enough to put him ahead of Neuville by 3.0s and take the lead in the rally for the first time this weekend by 0.8s.

For the second stage in a row, Evans was unable to keep up with Ogier and Neuville’s pace. The three-time champion finished third after struggling in the low grip sections and lost another 7.6 seconds to his teammate, pushing him down to 21.9 seconds behind the lead.

In a remarkable display, Neuville won the last stage by 4.1 seconds to reclaim the lead in the rally, while Evans lost a further 13.8 seconds. This was the ideal response to Ogier’s pace.

In WRC2, Nikolay Gryazin reclaimed the lead from Pepe Lopez during the last stage of the day, with the two drivers split by only 0.2 seconds.

The rally will conclude following three stages on Sunday. Neuville will receive 18 points for leading at the conclusion of Saturday under the new format, presuming runners complete the Rally on Sunday. The trailing runners will receive a sliding points system of 15-13-10-8-6-4-3-2-1.

On Sunday, points will be given out on a scale of 7-6-5-4-3-2-1 based only on the day’s running (the Rally winner will still be determined by overall time over the entire event) as bonus points for the final Power Stage will also be granted.

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