Thierry Neuville ended the first full day of the 2017 Rallye Monte Carlo with a commanding lead over world champion Sébastien Ogier.
The Hyundai driver dominated day one, carrying his lead from the previous night and building on it by winning three stages to end the day with a 45 second lead.
Ogier finds a long way behind partly due to sliding into a ditch on an icy bend on stage 3.
The world champion lost 43 seconds as he tried to extricate himself from the snowy bank.
His other problem was that being first on the snow and ice covered roads of the South of France was a big disadvantage.
“The conditions have been really tricky and being first on the road makes it especially challenging,” he admitted.
“I’m still not 100 percent happy with the set-up so we have some work to do there but we will continue to try our best and this rally is far from over.”
Team-mate Ott Tanak held second for most of the day in a deeply impressive performance which included fastest time on the day’s first stage, but fastest times on the final two stages saw his world champion team-mate overhaul him to take the position for the overnight halt, if only by 0.3 seconds.
Citroen and Toyota both showed pace but were hampered by retirements. Kris Meeke was lying second overall going into stage 4, but a high speed off broke the C3 WRC’s suspension and forced him to retire.
“The conditions were difficult, as is often the case in Monte-Carlo.” said Meeke. “Some corners were covered with a layer of sheet ice and it was difficult to judge the level of grip. I got caught out on a left-hand corner. The car drifted towards the outside and the right-hand side of the car hit a bank.
“With the front suspension arm broken, we couldn’t go any further. It was disappointing for me and for the team. This is obviously not the sort of start we were hoping to make. Clearly, we can no longer aim for a good result, but we’ll keep going tomorrow to try and learn more about the C3 WRC.”
Toyota runner Juho Hanninen impressed throughout the day and going into stage five he was in third place, 24 seconds and two places ahead of his team leader Jari-Matti Latvala.
However, during the stage, the Finn retired due to accident damage.
After Stéphane Lefebvre’s retirement last night with clutch problems, the only Citroen remaining is Craig Breen in the old DS3 WRC.
The Irishman is an impressive sixth place however, only seven seconds behind Dani Sordo’s Hyundai.
Latvala had minor engine problems in the morning but finishes the day fourth, but over two minutes off the lead.
Mikkelsen dominates WRC2 and Delecour on top in RGT
In WRC2 Andreas Mikkelsen has dominated proceedings and holds of nearly three minutes over Skoda team-mate Jan Kopecky and is seventh outright in the standings.
While his competitors played it safe and struggled for grip and confidence, the Norwegian was peerless, fastest on all but the first stage of day often by gaps as big as 46 seconds.
Rounding out the podium is the first of the non-Skoda competitors of Bryan Bouffier’s Ford Fiesta but the former Rallye Monte Carlo winner is two minutes down on Kopecky.
In WRC3 Peugeot driver Raphael Astier holds a commanding nine minute lead over a fleet of Renault Cilos.
The Frenchman made the most of the treacherous conditions to win every stage of the day.
Luca Panzani and Surhayen Pernia hold second and third going into day two.
In the RGT Cup, 1994 Rallye Monte Carlo winner Francois Delecour used all his experience to good use in the brand new RWD Fiat 124 Abarth.
The French rally legend proclaimed it to be a great car, but tricky to drive on the snow and ice.
Nevertheless he leads team-mate Fabio Adolfi by five and a half minutes with current World Endurance Champion Romain Dumas third in a Porsche 911.