Although Sébastien Ogier (Volkswagen) only won one of the five stages that made up the third leg of Rally Monte Carlo 2016, he goes into the final day with a lead of almost two minutes thanks to the retirement of two of his closest rivals.

Kris Meeke, who was running in second place at the time, went off the road during stage 12. Although the Northern Irishman made it to the tire fitting zone ahead of the final stage, he was forced to retire with a broken gearbox in his Citroen.

Jari-Matti Latvala dropped out of third place after he slid into a water-filled ditch in stage 11, the longest stage of the day, and broke th  front left suspension arm on their Volkswagen Polo R. He and co-driver ??? managed to fit  a replacement after the finish, but retired after realising they would be too late to start stage 12.

Both will not restart tomorrow as there is no Rally 2 service facility ahead of the final leg.

“It’s a shame for Kris as he was very fast this weekend and we had to produce a big performance to stay ahead of him,” said Polo R driver Ogier. “It was an exciting fight. Now it’s a different rally for me, I just have to concentrate on getting to the finish.”

As the rally leader Ogier had to open the road today but he didn’t let that worry him on the opening stage this morning. He set the fastest time on the 51.55km stage 9, 10.6 seconds faster than Meeke, to extend his overall lead to 20.1 seconds.

Latvala was third with Thierry Neuville fourth in his Hyundai i20.

Andreas Mikkelsen had fitted four studded tyres to his Volkswagen at the start of the day. While it was the wrong choice for the opening stage, it proved to be exactly right for stage 10. The Norwegian won the stage by 43.9sec from Ogier with Latvala in third to give Volkswagen a lockout of the top three positions on the stage. Meeke lost another 10 seconds to overall leader Ogier.

“We slid wide and hit something on the outside of a corner,” said the Briton. “It was an incredibly difficult stage and after that I lost confidence.”

In stage 11 Meeke  took his first stage win of the day. He was 3.4 seconds quicker than Ogier in second. Mikkelsen and Neuville climbed to third and fourth after Latvala’s mishap in the ditch.

Stage 12 was all about Hyundai with the Korean manufacturers car filling the top three times. Neuville was fastest by 13.4sec from Hayden Paddon with Dani Sordo third.

Hyundai continued their winning ways on the final stage of the day although they couldn’t repeat the one-two-three of stage 12. Neuville won from Sordo with Mikkelsen in third.

Top Ten After SS13

Pos Driver Team Car Gap
1 Sebastien Ogier Volkswagen Motorsport Volkswagen 3h19m05.7s
2 Andreas Mikkelsen Volkswagen Motorsport II Volkswagen 1m59.7s
3 Thierry Neuville Hyundai Motorsport Hyundai 2m12.2s
4 Mads Ostberg M-Sport World Rally Team Ford 4m25.9s
5 Stephane Lefebvre Abu Dhabi Total WRT Citroen 7m29.4s
6 Bryan Bouffier M-Sport World Rally Team Ford 9m12.9s
7 Ott Tanak DMACK World Rally Team Ford 10m42.3s
8 Dani Sordo Hyundai Motorsport Hyundai 10m44.5s
9 Elfyn Evans M-Sport World Rally Team (WRC2) Ford 17m14.5s
10 Armin Kremer BRR Baumschlager Rallye & Racing Team (WRC2) Skoda 19m26.4s

 

Sunday’s final leg contains three stages covering 45.50km. Two passes over the 12.07km Col de L’Orme – St Laurent sandwich the 21.35km test from La Bollene Vesubie to Peira Cava. The latter contains the famous Col de Turini, one of the highlights of the WRC season, where huge crowds will gather to watch competitors cross the famous mountain.

Jari-Matti Latvala and Miikka Anttila slid into a ditch and broke their suspension during stage 11

Speaking afterwards Latvala said, “I would first like to stress that I am very sorry about what happened today. We came off the very slippery road after a right turn, skidded into a ditch and came out in a field. My visibility was hampered briefly by thick steam from the engine and mud that had sprayed up from the ditch. I saw a spectator jump to the side and drove slowly back to the road. The team contacted me after the stage and informed me that I had touched a spectator. As I said, I am very sorry about the whole incident.”