Sébastien Ogier is closing in on a record-breaking eighth Monte Carlo Rally victory as he leads Toyota team-mate Elfyn Evans by 28.1 seconds with just one stage remaining.
Ogier narrowly edged Hyundai’s Thierry Neuville on the first pass of Puget-Théniers – La Penne earlier on Sunday morning and repeated the trick on the second pass, defeating second-quickest Dani Sordo by 2.7s.
With Evans another 5.7s slower, Ogier’s lead has now grown to close to half a minute with just 8.89 miles left to compete on.
“Honestly I was not really pushing it was just a clean drive,” said Ogier. “The car is working well so I just enjoy the driving.”
Evans, who will now need a mistake from Ogier to win, said his stage “was a steady enough run through and no problems”.
Neuville, on his first ever rally with Martijn Wydaeghe, is on course for third place but would appear to have his eyes on some extra bonus points in the powerstage too.
“We try now to save the tires for the last stage and just have a good last stage and try to bring back the result for the team,” Neuville said after setting the third fastest time on SS14.
There was no change to any of the leading positions, with Kalle Rovanperä, Sordo, Takamoto Kastuta and Gus Greensmith all holding station in fourth, fifth, sixth and eighth positions respectively.
In WRC2, Toksport’s Andreas Mikkelsen remains at the head of the pack in his Škoda with a near two-minute gap over M-Sport’s Adrien Fourmaux who is ninth overall in his Ford Fiesta Rally2.
Class rival Eric Camilli started the penultimate stage of the rally late, and his woe promoted Oliver Solberg – on his WRC debut with a Hyundai i20 R5 – into the overall top 10 but not the WRC2 podium as he hasn’t elected to score points on the Monte.
However the gap between Solberg and Camilli – who collected 40s in time penalties for arriving to the time control four minutes late – is just 1.4s.
1 Sébastien Ogier/Julien Ingrassia (Toyota) 8m42.6s
2 Dani Sordo/Carlos del Barrio (Hyundai) +2.7s
3 Thierry Neuville/Martijn Wydaeghe (Hyundai) +4.6s
4 Elfyn Evans/Scott Martin (Toyota) +8.4s
5 Yohan Rossel/Benoit Fulcrand (Citroën) +10.9s
6 Nicolas Ciamin/Yannick Roche (Citroën) +11.7s
Leading positions after SS14
1 Ogier/Ingrassia (Toyota) 2h45m37.5s
2 Evans/Martin (Toyota) +28.1s
3 Neuville/Wydaeghe (Hyundai) +1m08.3s
4 Kalle Rovanperä/Jonne Halttunen (Toyota) +2m30.3s
5 Sordo/del Barrio (Hyundai) +2m52.2s
6 Takamoto Katsuta/Daniel Barritt (Toyota) +6m24.8s
7 Andreas Mikkelsen/Ola Floene (Toksport Škoda) +6m57.9s
8 Gus Greensmith/Elliott Edmondson (M-Sport Ford) +7m56.8s
9 Adrien Fourmaux/Renaud Jamoul (M-Sport Ford) +8m48.2s
10 Oliver Solberg/Aaron Johnston (Hyundai) +9m48.9s