Change of Monte Carlo lead as Loeb takes third stage win

Previous leader Ogier drops to third on final stage of Friday morning loop, as Evans leapfrogs his team-mate to go second


Sébastien Loeb moved into a 10.6-second Monte Carlo Rally lead after completing a clean sweep of stage wins across Friday morning, as erstwhile leader Sébastien Ogier fell to third.

Elfyn Evans had looked set to win his first stage of the 2022 World Rally Championship season but Loeb had other ideas, beating him by 2.3s to cap off a deeply impressive morning as Ogier struggled.

“I was pushing really hard all morning and the car was great, I have a really good feeling with this car so I continued to push,” Loeb said.

Ogier was visibly cautious through the icy sections of Val-de-Chalvagne – Entrevaux compared to his rivals and the stopwatch reflected that.

The reigning world champion dropped 13.5 seconds to his team-mate Elfyn Evans and 15.8s to Loeb, meaning Ogier is now 13s back from the new leader and 2.4s behind Evans.

“It’s tricky, there is a lot of frost and a little bit of black ice here and there,” Ogier summarised.

“Also, the road gets faster now all the time due to the sun. So it was a bit of a difficult loop for us, but we’ll try again this afternoon.”


Evans added: “It’s more like it I guess but it was difficult and very slippery in places. We picked up a slow puncture so we finished the stage with a flat tire.”

Thierry Neuville climbed two places from sixth to fourth on SS5 after setting the third-fastest time, and that was despite him taking a cautious approach.

“No risk at all in this stage,” he said. “We had a lot of ice in our notes but obviously with the sun it melted quite quickly.


“I just tried to understand the car to see where we can find the speed we need because it’s not so obvious.”

Gus Greensmith had been in fourth spot but was dumped down to seventh as his Puma Rally1 ran without hybrid boost on the stage.

That meant despite being passed by Neuville, Craig Breen remained fifth. He declared himself “happy with my loop” despite his pace not being “anything amazing”.

Ott Tänak was 7.5s faster than Breen on SS5 and is now just 2.3s behind, holding an 8.2s advantage over Greensmith’s Puma.

Tänak, who suffered the same problem as Greensmith early on Friday morning and had to compete without a working hybrid unit, said: “Things are working a bit more consistently now, so like this it’s a bit more fun.”

Perhaps unsurprisingly Takamoto Katsuta admitted he was “still not so comfortable” with his new Rally1 Yaris but kept himself out of trouble to lie eighth overall.

The Toyota Next Generation driver’s pace on SS5 was encouraging as he lost just 9.8s to team-mate Evans.

Kalle Rovanperä’s anonymous run has been one of the early surprises of this year’s Monte, but the 21-year-old did offer some hints as to why he might be struggling after SS5 – another poor stage on which he lost half a minute to the fastest time.

“The conditions were quite tricky, we had proper ice and frost on the stage,” he said.

“With the slicks this is always quite difficult. So I was careful and there’s some work to do on the pacenote side with the hybrid stuff, we can improve on that.”

Rovanperä has jumped ahead of Oliver Solberg though whose message of, “S***, nothing works at the moment” over the intercom as he crossed the stage-finish summed up his morning.

“It’s very, very difficult at the moment but I’m just driving, that’s it,” Solberg commented to the TV reporter.

“I don’t really care about the times anymore because I have nothing to fight for so I’m just driving, driving, driving and hopefully soon it’ll be good.”

There is no service during Friday’s leg, so the crews will head to a tire-fitting zone before returning for the repeat pass in the afternoon.

Reigning champion Andreas Mikkelsen assumed the lead of WRC2 in his Toksport Škoda, profiting from a mistake by Eric Camilli, who arrived at the end of SS5 with a two-minute time loss and broken front-right suspension.

FIA World Rally Championship 2022 Stop 01 - Monte Carlo, Monaco

Camilli had led Mikkelsen by 5.5s prior to the stage, but Mikkelsen can’t afford to relax as former Citroën factory driver Stéphane Lefebvre (pictured above) produced a stunning stage time that was 14.5s quicker, moving him to just 3.9s behind Mikkelsen overall.

“It was a good stage to be honest,” Lefebvre said. “I push hard on this one, I find back my rhythm.”

Mikkelsen added: “We had a clean stage, not too much drama for us. We tried to be clever in there but also tried to push and I think we managed quite well.”

Yohan Rossel has now moved onto the provisional WRC2 podium due to Camilli’s drama, 27.1s shy of the lead.

SS5 times

1 Sébastien Loeb/Isabelle Galmiche (M-Sport Ford) 10m56.8s
2 Elfyn Evans/Scott Martin (Toyota) +2.3s
3 Thierry Neuville/Martijn Wydaeghe (Hyundai) +4.7s
4 Ott Tänak/Martin Järveoja (Hyundai) +5.6s
5 Takamoto Katsuta/Aaron Johnston (Toyota) +12.1s
6 Craig Breen/Paul Nagle (M-Sport Ford) +13.1s

Leading positions after SS5

1 Loeb/Galmiche (M-Sport Ford) 54m40.9s
2 Evans/Martin (Toyota) +10.6s
3 Sébastien Ogier/Benjamin Veillas (Toyota) +13s
4 Neuville/Wydaeghe (Hyundai) +40.2s
5 Breen/Nagle (M-Sport Ford) +46s
6 Tänak/Järveoja (Hyundai) +48.3s
7 Gus Greensmith/Jonas Andersson (M-Sport Ford) +56.5s
8 Takamoto Katsuta/Aaron Johnston (Toyota) +1m23.5s
9 Kalle Rovanperä/Jonne Halttunen (Toyota) +1m58.8s
10 Oliver Solberg/Elliott Edmondson (Hyundai) +2m03.1s