The third day of the Rallye Monte-Carlo has taken its toll on three of the front running teams, Volkswagen Motorsport, Abu Dhabi Total World Rally Team and the M-Sport World Rally Team. All three teams still have cars fighting in the top ten but the hopes of the Citroen outfit in particular were dashed when Kris Meeke struck a rock on SS12, damaging his DS3 WRC beyond his ability to repair it at the roadside.
After a quiet morning, problems began on SS11 when Jari-Matti Latvala limped through final splits of the stage with a deranged front wheel. The #2 Volkswagen Polo R WRC was damaged when the Finn dropped a rear wheel into a gully, which dragged the front end in too. Latvala was forced to retire on a road section before SS12 after an attempted repair failed from third place on the rally. Video which has emerged after the end of the action shows the Polo hitting a spectator on the way out of the ditch, though the gentleman appears to be unharmed.
Problems also began on the first stage of the second leg for the privately entered Peugeot 207 S2000 of François Delecourt who came to the stop line with a throttle stuck wide open. Despite this problem he completed the next two stages, placing 16th on the 36.60km Sisteron-Thoard stage which ended the day. Delecourt and his co-driver Sabrina de Castelli are attempting the 200km liaison to Monaco with the throttle still jammed, failure means retirement as there is no Rally2 on the final day of a WRC event.
The biggest retirement of the day came after SS12 though as the #7 Citroen DS3 WRC of Meeke ripped the sump guard from his car in a high speed moment. The Briton completed the stage and made it to tyre change but the gearbox failed leaving the crew to find another way back to the service park at Monaco.
The biggest surprise of Rallye Monte-Carlo day 3 came from Andreas Mikkelsen who blitzed SS10, the 17.13km St Leger Les Melezes – La Batie Neuve stage, after taking a tyre gamble and running four studded tyres. The Volkswagen Motorsport II driver was the only car on the rally to take this gamble and it paid of handsomely, with a 43.9 second advantage over the rally leader through the stage. A change in conditions when the stage was run a second time as SS12 denied anyone else the chance to make the same gamble.
Day 3 was also the day that Hyundai Motorsport finally got to grips with their New Generation i20 WRC rally car, netting two stage wins, including their first ever 1-2-3 thanks to Hayden Paddon in the Hyundai Motorsport N run 2015 spec machine. Two stage wins, combined with the dramas for Volkswagen and Citroen put Belgian driver Thierry Neuville into a podium spot for the Korean manufacturer. Neuville was backed up on both his stage wins by Dani Sordo who finally showed his pace with the new car but languishes in eighth place after two trying days sealing a 1-2 on SS13, the final stage of the day.
The rally looks very different on the overall time sheet after the longest day of the event. 173.96 km of grueling stages, capped by a 200km road section to Monaco has Sebastien Ogier in overall control but with the ‘junior’ VW team in second place thanks to Mikkelsen’s brave move in the first loop of the day. Neuville holds third on the rally, 2:13.7 behind the #9 Polo R WRC but with over three minutes to the first of the Ford’s, M-Sport World Rally Team‘s Norwegian pace setter, Mads Ostberg.
Stephane Lefeßvre is the best of the Citroen runners in fifth place after Meeke’s disappointing exit with Bryan Bouffier a tenuous sixth. The #17 M-Sport Fiesta crossed the final flying finish with its left rear wheel pointing in completely the wrong direction and as coverage of the days event ended, the Frenchman and his co driver Victor Bellotto were attempting to ratchet strap the damaged upright and hub to the chassis for the long drive into the principality.
Seventh overall is Ott Tanak for M-Sport with Dani Sordo only 2.2 seconds behind after the Hyundai’s impressive afternoon. WRC2 runners fill the top ten with Re Felice in a Citroen DS3 WRC in 23rd Hayden Paddon’s Hyundai in 32nd overall as 9th and 10th in the WRC class.
In WRC2 Elfyn Evans continues to hold on to the top spot for M-Sport despite not winning a stage all day. The Welshman actually extended his lead over second placed runner Armin Kremer‘s Skoda Fabia R5 as three new names shared stage wins on Saturday. Third placed Quentin Gilbert took SS11 and SS13 in his Citroen DS3 R5 while Spaniard Jose Antonio Suarez triumphed on SS10 and SS12 to finish the day sixth in WRC2. Yoann Bonato took the opening stage of the day in his R5 spec Citroen and holds fifth in class going into the final day of action.
WRC3 saw overnight leader Oli Christian Veiby take a clean sweep of the morning loop in his DS3 R3T Max before problems in the monster 51.55km Lardier et Valenca – Faye stage handed a win to Fabio Andolfi of ACI Team Italy. Andolfi also took the top time through Sisterton-Thoard to finish the day third in WRC3. Jordan Berfa‘s Peugeot Rally Academy 208 took the win on SS12 to lie second as the cars head to Monaco.