MCR Day 2 - Ogier leads Evans & Rovanpera

A day spent on the traditional snowbound stages in Monte Carlo saw seven-time WRC winner Sebastien Ogier reassert his authority on the opening round of the 2021 World Rally Championship.
After Ogier lost half a minute following a puncture on the penultimate stage of Friday, he immediately reclaimed 16s back from his Toyota teammate Elfyn Evans before the overnight halt.

Restarting in the dark to comply with local COVID-19 legislation, Ogier resumed his imperious progress on the opening 18.3 km La Breole - Salonnet stage and the Frenchman crossed the line 17.8 seconds faster than the Welshman and 20s faster than anyone else in the rally.

With Ogier leading, Evans second and the third Yaris WRC of Kalle Rovanpera third, Toyota's grasp on the event was further strengthened by a disastrous stage for its nearest challenger, the Hyundai of 2019 champion Ott Tanak, after the Estonian had been hanging on through Friday's stages but his Saturday run began with a spin, followed by a puncture which sent him back down the order.

Dawn had broken before the start of the second stage of the day, the 20.48 km Saint-Clement - Freissinieres test, and Thierry Neuville brought some cheer to his beleaguered Hyundai squad by firing in his first stage win of the event. Last year's Monte winner had struggled throughout the opening days as he and newly-installed co-driver Martijn Wydaeghe sought to find a working relationship. However, on stage 10, Neuville hit form; setting a time 42.2s faster than Ogier's and closing up on the third placed Toyota of Kalle Rovanpera in the overall order.

Any good cheer that Neuville's stage win brought to Hyundai was soon tempered by the sight of Tanak stopping on the stage with another blown tyre. Having already used the only spare on board his i20 WRC, the Estonian's day was over.

After a short service break the crews returned to La Breole - Salonnet for the final stage of the day, where the Toyotas once again asserted their authority. This time Evans was the winner from Ogier. But Ogier was unperturbed and holds a 13.0s advantage as the teams prepare for four stages on the final day.

Neuville's brilliant form did not continue into the final stage of the day and this bought Rovanpera some breathing space at the overnight halt, with a 7s gap opening between them. The battle for the final podium position is now more than a minute clear of fifth place man Dani Sordo at the wheel of the third works Hyundai. The Spaniard had been nowhere for much of Friday but his pace improved dramatically on Saturday morning before once again at the end of the day.

In WRC2, the day delivered another big chunk of time to veteran Andreas Mikkelsen, who holds seventh place overall and a 2m14s advantage over the M-Sport Fiesta of Adrien Fourmaux, with Oliver Solberg's Hyundai now third. In WRC3, Yohan Rossel enjoyed another solid day, maintaining his lead over Yoann Bonato and Nicolas Ciamin.

23rd January, 2021