Monte Carlo Rally Day 1

First day action on the opening round of the 2019 World Rally Championship, the Monte Carlo Rally, has been frantic, the rally initially being led by Ott Tanak while Kris Meeke and Sebastien Loeb both made the early running before hitting problems. Toyotas Kris Meeke was Tanaks closest challenger as the pair set a commanding pace on the La Breole Selonnet stage that started the season, finishing just five seconds apart.
Meeke then picked up a puncture in the final miles of the following stage and tumbled to seventh overall. Tanak was only third fastest on this stage, but retained an overall lead of 9.1s over Sebastien Ogier, now back in a Citroen. Thierry Neuville set the pace on that stage, moving up to third and closing to within 14.3s of leader Tanak in the process after taking a bold tyre choice with mostly supersoft slick tyres despite snow having hit the stages.
Neuville had floundered on the ice and snow that affected much of SS1, where he was only fifth fastest and nearly half a minute from Tanak but in the clearer conditions of SS2, Neuville flew. Loeb had been the best of the Hyundais on the first stage and began his new WRC era fourth-fastest but then plunged to eighth on the next stage, having taken primarily studded tyres and therefore struggled on the dry roads. He remains within 10s of fourth place, sitting in a group of drivers already a long way from the podium battle but packed close together.
Esapekka Lappis Citroen led that pack in fourth, half a minute away from Neuville in front, and just ahead of Toyotas Jari-Matti Latvala, the leading M Sport Ford of Elfyn Evans, the delayed Meeke, Loeb and the third Hyundai of Andreas Mikkelsen. Evans carries M-Sports hopes virtually alone, with new team-mate Pontus Tidemand a long way off the pace in a cautious 10th on his return to the World Rally Car class and Teemu Suninen having crashed out early on SS1.
Leading positions after SS2
Pos Driver Team Car Gap
1. Ott Tanak/M.Jarveoja Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT 26m33.0s
2. Sebastien Ogier/J.Ingrassia Citroen Total WRT 9.1s
3. Thierry Neuville/N.Gilsoul Hyundai Shell Mobis WRT 14.3s
4. Esapekka Lappi/J.Ferm Citroen Total WRT 45.2s
5. Jari-Matti Latvala/M.Anttila Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT 46.4s
6. Elfyn Evans/S.Martin M-Sport Ford WRT 48.2s
7. Kris Meeke/S.Marshall Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT 53.8s
8. Sebastien Loeb/D.Elena Hyundai Shell Mobis WRT 55.2s
9. Andreas Mikkelsen/A.Jager Hyundai Shell Mobis WRT 59.6s
10. Pontus Tidemand/O.Floene M-Sport Ford WRT 1m41.1s

26th January, 2019