Ogier Leads Monte Carlo WRC Opener

Despite planning just a partial WRC campaign, evergreen Sebastien Ogier delivered a masterclass display of driving to claim four of the first day's six tricky Alpine asphalt stages. His relentless pace saw the eight-time Monte Carlo winner head into Saturday equipped with a 36.0s advantage over Kalle Rovanpera, who managed to leapfrog Hyundai's Thierry Neuville into second across the afternoon loop, resulting in the Belgian reaching the service park in third, 1.9s behind Rovanpera. M-Sport's Ott Tanak ended the loop in fourth, albeit 54.2s away from the outright pace as the Estonian continued to search for the set-up sweet spot in his new Ford Puma.

Toyota's Elfyn Evans had issued Ogier a strong challenge at the start of the day which was undone by a right rear puncture that left the Welshman in recovery mode in the afternoon. The two-time WRC runner-up did pick up a stage win but will face a 1m02.3s deficit to the rally leader. Ogier's perfect run of stage wins came to an end on the afternoon's first test held in bright and dry conditions. Technicians from Hybrid suppliers Compact Dynamics were able to resolve the hybrid issue that occurred towards the end of Friday morning. However, Ogier was unable to match the recovering Evans.

Evans managed to pip Ogier by 0.5s across the 18.33km test although Ogier admitted he was not in maximum attack mode given his sizeable lead. "So far the hybrid is working - the guys managed to fix it with the laptop at midday," said Ogier. We have a 30s lead so we can manage not to take full risks."

Despite his elevated road position, Rovanpera produced arguably his best stage of the rally so far to finish only 2.0s behind Evans. Toyota enjoyed a domination of the test as Katsuta fired in the fourth fastest time to complete a. 1-2-3-4. The next best was Hyundai's Neuville, who was 4.2s slower, which ultimately demoted him to third overall, 0.4s behind Rovanpera.

Position Driver Team Time Gap
1 Sebastien Ogier Toyota 1h26m39.4s
2 Kalle Rovanpera Toyota 1h27m15.4s 36.0s
3 Thierry Neuville Hyundai 1h27m17.3s 37.9s
4 Ott Tanak M-Sport Ford 1h27m33.6s 54.2s
5 Elfyn Evans Toyota 1h27m41.7s 1m02.3s
6 Dani Sordo Hyundai 1h28m09.6s 1m30.2s
7 Takamoto Katsuta Toyota 1h28m12.5s 1m33.1s
8 Esapekka Lappi Hyundai 1h28m37.1s 1m57.7s
9 Nikolay Gryazin Skoda 1h30m52.2s 4m12.8s
10 Yohan Rossel Citroen 1h31m21.9s 4m42.5s

20th January, 2023