Ogier ends Saturday by extending lead over Loeb

An observant Ogier copied the tire strategy of his rival and then beat him convincingly on the ice and snow


Sébastien Ogier and Sébastien Loeb’s epic fight to win the Monte Carlo Rally looks to be over as Ogier destroyed Loeb on Saturday’s final stage, copying the tire choice his rival made and making better use of it.

The final stage of the day, the icy Saint-Geniez / Thoard, had been expected to be an intriguing tactical battle between Ogier and Loeb as each driver had different tires in the trunk of their Rally1 car.

While Ogier had two winter tires onboard, Loeb was carrying two studded tires – but incredibly both drivers decided not to fit them and instead tackled the stage on the same soft tires that had done the previous stage.

In the end, Ogier defeated Loeb by 16.1 seconds, meaning that he now leads the rally by 21.1s with four stages to go on Sunday.

“I was planning to go with the snow tires to be honest because it was the safest option but I saw that Séb was going for slicks so I quickly changed last minute just before the start, just to do the same,” Ogier revealed.

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“It was a bit challenging in places but more fun to drive on the dry at least.”

Loeb sounded a bit defeated: “Now it’s a bit far. We tried but Ogier saw it, he changed at the last minute. It’s OK, it’s like that.

“We had a clear stage, it was really tricky with the slicks so very easy to do a mistake. We are here.”

Kalle Rovanperä produced one of the drives of the day to rise from ninth to fourth overall across Saturday’s five tests.

He picked up his first stage win of the season on the penultimate stage of the day and repeated that feat on the final stage as one of few drivers to run snow tires, snatching 20.4s from third-placed Craig Breen ahead to trail by 37.3s overall.

“Of course it has been a quite big change from two days before, now it’s starting to be a bit enjoyable at least in the car so I can be really happy with my progress,” said Rovanperä.


In one of the other Toyotas, Takamoto Katsuta locked up the brakes on an icy hairpin of SS13 and from there was a passenger, sliding forwards into the corner rather than round it and becoming wedged in a culvert at the side of the road.

Katsuta and co-driver Aaron Johnston were pleased to see stage-side fans who were quick to attend, but it was abundantly clear that the GR Yaris Rally1 wasn’t going to be easy to extricate.

Incredibly Katsuta was freed, but not after four cars had passed him, meaning he has now fallen to sixth behind Thierry Neuville.

“I have no words,” said a very dejected Katsuta. “I could see some lines but obviously it was ice on the braking, I didn’t think that was ice and we just lock up, and yeah.

“I’m just sorry for the team and Aaron. Thanks to the spectators.”

Andreas Mikkelsen

Neuville pulled off a miraculous bodged job to repair the broken damper that threatened to curtail his rally on the previous stage.

He managed to complete the stage with a semi-competitive time, but does have to make the 112-mile drive back to Monaco service tonight too.

“We were able to fix it more or less before the stage but it gave up the last three kilometers so we had to be careful, but we are here,” Neuville said.

“I don’t know what to say to be honest, we expected a bit of a better day than the rest but unfortunately it was worse. We knew it was early in the stage and we’re missing a bit of development but we hoped for the better.”

Neuville is sixth, 1m10.3s behind Gus Greensmith who has had a bruising day with an engine issue but has at least made it through.

“Everything that could’ve gone wrong today did go wrong, so not a very enjoyable day,” said the M-Sport driver.

Oliver Solberg’s day of woe continued on the final stage as he had a slow puncture and hit a bank, admitting he was “quite lucky” to emerge from the skirmish unscathed.

“I just hope for a better day tomorrow,” said Hyundai’s teenaged talent. He set an identical time to Breen on the stage despite his moment.

There was drama in WRC2 too as both lead contenders Andreas Mikkelsen and Yohan Rossel ran into trouble on the final stage.

Mikkelsen was forced to stop and change a front-right puncture and must have expected to lose his category lead while doing so.

But behind him on the stage, rival Rossel was sliding off at the same corner that Katsuta had earlier and in an identical fashion.

Erik Cais

Although he didn’t lose anywhere near as much time as Katsuta did, the damage was clear as his WRC2 victory hopes now look like a long shot at best with a 1m37s deficit to Mikkelsen.

“I do a mistake on the slow corner on the ice at maybe 20km/h,” said a frustrated Rossel.

“Pfft it’s so s*** honestly. I think for the championship it’s so long and I go for some points tomorrow I think it’s the most important, but it’s my fault.”

Mikkelsen’s lead before the stage had been 22.9s and after it was 22.4s, despite losing 1m37s with his tire change.

Erik Cais is now the driver giving chase, but Cais could’ve been 11.9s behind had he not picked up a 10s penalty for checking into Saturday’s first stage late.

SS13 times

1 Kalle Rovanperä/Jonne Halttunen (Toyota) 14m14.6s
2 Sébastien Ogier/Benjamin Veillas (Toyota) +5.0s
3 Craig Breen/Paul Nagle (M-Sport Ford) +20.4s
4 Oliver Solberg/Elliott Edmondson (Hyundai) +20.4s
5 Sébastien Loeb/Isabelle Galmiche (M-Sport Ford) +21.1s
6 Elfyn Evans/Scott Martin (Toyota) +25.0s

Leading positions after SS13

1 Ogier/Veillas (Toyota) 2h19m43.1s
2 Loeb/Galmiche (M-Sport Ford) +21.1s
3 Breen/Nagle (M-Sport Ford) +1m26.0s
4 Rovanperä/Halttunen (Toyota) +2m03.8s
5 Gus Greensmith/Jonas Andersson (M-Sport Ford) +6m33.8s
6 Thierry Neuville/Martijn Waydaeghe (Hyundai) +7m44.1s
7 Andreas Mikkelsen/Torstein Eriksen (Škoda Fabia Rally2 evo) +9m37.2s
8 Erik Cais/Petr Tesínský (M-Sport F0rd) +9m59.6s
9 Gregoire Munster/Louis Louka (Hyundai) +10m44.1s
10 Yohan Rossel/Benjamin Boulloud (Citroën) +11m14.2s