Loeb ends first full day of return leading Ogier

The hybrid era of the WRC has begun with two of the greatest going at each other for stage wins


Sébastien Loeb leads the Monte Carlo Rally after the first full day of hybrid World Rally Championship action, heading Sébastien Ogier – who won the day’s final test – by 9.9 seconds.

The two Sébastiens – who have won 17 of the last 18 world championships – have been in command of the rally as Ogier bossed Thursday evening and Loeb won four of Friday’s six stages.

Loeb was only good for the fourth-best time on SS8 – his weakest stage performance of the day – but his lead still looks relatively secure after what’s been a day in which he became the oldest driver to ever lead a round of the WRC.

“We are feeling well, for sure it was a good day,” Loeb surmised. “In this one I made a good stage I think but maybe it’s freezing a bit more now, it was a bit tricky.

“At the moment we are still leading, it’s not a big gap, but it’s good to be leading after the first day.”


Ogier had been passed by Toyota team-mate Elfyn Evans just before the midday tire fitting zone but quickly got back ahead of his rival, establishing a 12.1s overnight cushion as Evans faded on the day’s final stage.

“I’m surprised to lose quite that much,” admitted Evans, “I think we were probably far too careful on the hairpins at the end. Frustrating to finish like this to be honest.”

Ogier said: “This afternoon I really pushed but at the moment we can’t really go faster, we are missing some stability and traction with the car but I think I can be happy with my second loop.

“I think I can say hats off one more time to my friends from M-Sport because the car looks really fast.”

Thierry Neuville leads a close gaggle of drivers disputing fourth through seventh positions. It’s an all Hyundai-M-Sport affair with Neuville and Ott Tänak battling the Ford-driving Craig Breen and Gus Greensmith.

For most of the day it has been advantage M-Sport but Tänak jumped ahead of Breen on SS8 – pleased to have found some consistency in his i20 N Rally1 – and Greensmith fell further adrift.


Neuville heads Tänak by 8.9s with Breen 2.5s in arrears but holding a 9.2s advantage over his team-mate Greensmith.

Breen however was frustrated to have found an “a** hole, and they deserve to be called that” had left a GoPro on the racing line.

“Thanks for that, it probably cost us two or three seconds,” Breen said, staring down the camera. “Where’s the sense in that, honestly?

Greensmith, who was the hero of the previous stage as he took his maiden WRC stage win, admitted to taking it too cautiously on SS8 in the icier conditions.

“For sure on this one with the temperatures dropping I didn’t want to undo all the good work, do anything silly and put it into a wall so far too cautious but we can go again tomorrow,” he said.

Neuvile commented on his stage: “The hybrid system was working again [after failing on the previous stage] and again we made some changes, I think we’re struggling to get there for this weekend.

“I’m more or less there for what I can do for this weekend. There’s not much we can do, we have to fight with it.”

Takamoto Katsuta is an anonymous but solid eighth ahead of Kalle Rovanperä, who has struggled both with the handling of his Toyota GR Yaris Rally1 and adapting his own personal driving style to the quirks of the new-for-2022 hybrid unit.

His simple “it has not been a good day” comment at the end of SS8 told all anyone needed to know as he ended Friday in ninth, 2m10.3s from the lead.

“Of course now in the afternoon we got it better and I could start to trust the car a bit and try to drive a bit better myself, let’s see what we can do tomorrow,” he added.


Oliver Solberg completes the top 10 for Hyundai having battled smoke inside his cockpit throughout the day. He’s 10.1s behind Rovanperä.

Stéphane Lefebvre stole the lead of WRC2 from Andreas Mikkelsen on the day’s final stage, beating the reigning champion by exactly eight seconds to open up a 1.4s lead.

Mikkelsen cut a frustrated figure at stage-end having had information in his pacenotes that left him “braking way too much” as he expected there to be more ice than there was.

Lefebvre however was inspired: “I love these tricky conditions, it’s like my hunt conditions,” he said. “I take some risks on this one so it’s good to finish like that.”

Yohan Rossel rounds out the class podium, 19.1s adrift of Lefebvre. But last year’s WRC3 champion won both SS6 and SS7 so is confident he can challenge Lefebvre and Mikkelsen on Saturday.

“The fight for the victory, I think it’s possible,” he nodded.

SS8 times

1 Sébastien Ogier/Benjamin Veillas (Toyota) 10m31.6s
2 Thierry Neuville/Martijn Waydaeghe (Hyundai) +1.5s
3 Ott Tänak/Martin Järveoja (Hyundai) +3.4s
4 Sébastien Loeb/Isabelle Galmiche (M-Sport Ford) +4.5s
5 Takamoto Katsuta/Aaron Johnston (Toyota) +5.7s
6 Kalle Rovanperä/Jonne Halttunen (Toyota) +7.0s
7 Craig Breen/Paul Nagle (M-Sport Ford) +9.5s
8 Elfyn Evans/Scott Martin (Toyota) +11.3s

Leading positions after SS8

1 Loeb/Galmiche (M-Sport Ford) 1h22m49.0s
2 Ogier/Veillas (Toyota) +9.9s
3 Evans/Martin (Toyota) +22.0s
4 Neuville/Wydaeghe (Hyundai) +47.8s
5 Tänak/Järveoja (Hyundai) +56.7s
6 Breen/Nagle (M-Sport Ford) +59.2s
7 Gus Greensmith/Jonas Andersson (M-Sport Ford) +1m08.4s
8 Katsuta/Johnston (Toyota) +1m35.9s
9 Rovanperä/Halttunen (Toyota) +2m12.8s
10 Oliver Solberg/Elliott Edmondson (Hyundai) +2m22.9s