What a battle! The third and penultimate day of the Monte-Carlo Rally offered a superb duel between Thierry Neuville (Hyundai) and Sébastien Ogier (Toyota), who was just three seconds behind the Belgian leader on Saturday evening.
Third at the start of the day, 16 seconds behind Briton Elfyn Evans (Toyota), Neuville was uncompromising in the morning and took control from the second of the six special stages contested on Saturday.
Ogier, the local hero who is aiming for a record tenth success in the Principality, lost more than 18 seconds during the first morning special and had to chase the Belgian all day. “My information was probably too conservative,” he explained. The Belgian consolidated his lead during the following special, before the Frenchman began his comeback by winning the fourth then the fifth special, taking the lead of the rally by less than a second.
But the back-and-forth continued at nightfall in the last special and Neuville had the last word by achieving his second scratch of the day to regain the leadership position with 3.3 seconds ahead of Ogier. Neuville indicated that he “had fun” feeling an “excellent feeling”, while Ogier stressed that we will have to “do more tomorrow (Sunday)” during the last three stages of the rally. Evans, victim of “small problems”, is now almost 35 seconds behind and has almost said goodbye to victory.
The Estonian Ott Tänak (Hyundai), author of the scratch on SS 11, is fourth, almost two minutes behind the leader, ahead of the Frenchman Adrien Fourmaux (M-Sport Ford). His Luxembourg teammate Grégoire Munster made a mistake in SS12 and had to retire.