Gus Greensmith has finally chalked up his first ever World Rally Championship stage win as Sébastien Loeb remains in the lead of the Monte Carlo Rally.
Greensmith had stated that one of his main pre-season objectives was to win his first stage having come close in 2021, and he finally got the job done on the seventh stage of the season opener.
His winning margin was 1.4 seconds over Sébastien Ogier, who moved into second place overall past his Toyota team-mate Elfyn Evans.
Reaching stage-end before knowing what Loeb – who had won all of Friday’s stages before SS7 – would produce, Greensmith said: “I doubt he’ll be on his phone but I would send him a text and just say ‘can I have this one?’.
“It’s hard to put into words how good this car is, it really is, it really is.”
When it was put to him he would have an anxious wait to find out if he’d win the stage, Greensmith replied: “I’m going to go and sit in a corner and cry with anxiety.”
Loeb would eventually only manage the third fastest time as he lost the electrical boost in his Puma Rally1 Hybrid, reducing his lead down to 14.4s over Ogier.
The WRC+ live feed cut to scenes of Greensmith driving away from the stage who punched the air and screamed “yes, finally!” upon hearing the news.
His stage win also closes him to just 0.7s behind sixth placed Ott Tänak.
Ogier meanwhile leads Evans by 0.8s and admitted he was happy with his day so far.
“I think we cannot really do more at the moment, it’s difficult to be faster,” he said.
“I have some section where traction feels very low, lots of wheelspin especially out of each hairpin, but I do the best with what I have.”
Evans, who experienced more minor issues with co-driver Scott Martin who “was still too quick” at one point on the stage, admitted he “just didn’t feel so fantastic” on SS7, struggling in particularly on the slippery corners.
Thierry Neuville struggled as he too lost hybrid power and ended up ninth fastest, meaning M-Sport’s Craig Breen is just 3.4s behind his fourth place.
“Slowly, slowly catchy monkey,” said Breen. “Every stage I start to be a bit more comfortable so we just need to keep on going like that.”
Kalle Rovanperä’s renovated form continued on Friday’s penultimate stage as he beat all three Hyundais on the test, but not fellow Toyota driver Takamoto Katsuta – who is 35.6s ahead of Rovanperä in eighth.
“[There are] many things I have to do and some mistakes I have to improve but for sure it’s going in the right direction so I try to continue like that,” said Katsuta who was fifth fastest, 1.6s slower than Ogier.
Oliver Solberg set an identical stage time to Rovanperä to remain 4.8s behind.
“We don’t have a gearbox problem on this run apparently, so it’s getting better,” he said.
1 Gus Greensmith/Jonas Andersson (M-Sport Ford) 7m31.9s
2 Sébastien Ogier/Benjamin Veillas (Toyota) +1.4s
3 Sébastien Loeb/Isabelle Galmiche (M-Sport Ford) +2.9s
4 Craig Breen/Paul Nagle (M-Sport Ford) +2.9s
5 Takamoto Katsuta/Aaron Johnston (Toyota) +3.0s
6 Elfyn Evans/Scott Martin (Toyota) +3.6s
7 Oliver Solberg/Elliott Edmondson (Hyundai) +4.4s
8 Kalle Rovanperä/Jonne Halttunen (Toyota) +4.4s
Leading positions after SS7
1 Loeb/Galmiche (M-Sport Ford) 1h12m12.9s
2 Ogier/Veillas (Toyota) +14.4s
3 Evans/Martin (Toyota) +15.2s
4 Thierry Neuville/Martijn Wydaeghe (Hyundai) +50.8s
5 Breen/Nagle (M-Sport Ford) +54.2s
6 Ott Tänak/Martin Järveoja (Hyundai) +57.8s
7 Greensmith/Andersson (M-Sport Ford) +58.5s
8 Katsuta/Johnston (Toyota) +1m34.7s
9 Rovanperä/Halttunen (Toyota) +2m10.3s
10 Solberg/Edmondson (Hyundai) +2m15.1s