Sébastien Ogier thwarted Toyota team-mate Elfyn Evans’ Friday dominance of Rallye Monte-Carlo as he usurped Thierry Neuville and closed to within 3.3 seconds of the Welshman.
Evans won all three of Friday morning’s stages to lead Neuville by 8.9s at service but set a slower time on Curbans – Venterol 2 than both Ogier and Neuville, surrendering 6.4s to stage winner Ogier.
Ogier laid down a marker to take his second scratch time of the weekend but wasn’t initially sure if he had done enough.
“So far Elfyn was always faster, so let’s see what he was doing!” he said.
Evans was indeed faster than Ogier through the opening splits but haemorrhaged time with a bent front-right rim on his Yaris.
“It just sucked me into the ditch in one place,” Evans explained. “[It’s] not a big, big deal. Very marginal I would say.”
Neuville kept in touch but lost his second place to Ogier, losing 5.2s to the six-time world champion on the 12.4 miler.
“Very tricky, very slippy,” was Neuville’s assessment. “A lot of surprises for us.”
The leading trio have continued to pull clear of fourth-placed Sébastien Loeb but equally, Loeb increased the distance between him and fifth-placed Esapekka Lappi – who remained unhappy with his performance.
Kalle Rovanperä’s pace was similar to Lappi’s, as it had been in the morning; the Toyota teenager losing a mere two seconds to his M-Sport rival.
But despite this being Rovanperä’s first top-level rally in a World Rally car, the Finn felt he was “still too slow.” He heads the fourth Yaris WRC of Takamoto Katsuta.
Eric Camilli is eighth overall in his Citroen C3 R5 at the head of WRC3 after a “cool” stage.
But there was drama in WRC2 as leader Ole Christian Veiby ran into strife in his Hyundai New Generation i20 R5.
Veiby “didn’t know where it happened” but picked up a puncture, allowing Mads Ostberg back into the lead of the class in his Citroen. Ostberg’s advantage is 10.7s.
Leading positions after SS6
1 Evans (Toyota)
2 Ogier (Toyota) +3.3s
3 Neuville (Hyundai) +7.8s
4 Loeb (Hyundai) +49.3s
5 Lappi (M-Sport Ford) +1m36.1s
6 Rovanperä (Toyota) +2m02.7s
7 Katsuta (Toyota) +4m36.4s
8 Camilli (Citroën) +5m45.6s
9 Ciamin (Hyundai) +7m05.3s
10 Rossel (Citroën) +7m52.4s