Sebastien Ogier has extended his lead of 2019 Rallye Monte-Carlo to 4.3 seconds over Thierry Neuville at the end of day three.
The pair continued a close battle after being separated by just two seconds overnight, with the Frenchman at one point increasing the margin to 5.6 seconds, but Neuville responded on the penultimate stage and Ogier’s lead is 4.3 seconds by the end of Saturday.
Almost two minutes behind the leading pair, the fight for third is well and truly on as Ott Tänak, who won all four stages on Saturday, continues his storming drive back through the field with his position being helped with the demise of both Andreas Mikkelsen and Elfyn Evans.
The Hyundai Shell MOBIS World Rally Team driver clipped a wall on the final corner of stage nine that ripped the rear left wheel off his i20 Coupe WRC and he was forced to retire on the road section a few minutes later with no way of continuing with another test still to complete before service.
Evans in the M-Sport Ford Fiesta then ran wide on the next stage and ended up hitting several trees at the bottom of an embankment which also destroyed the rear of his car. Tänak survived a similar mistake after cutting a corner just seconds later.
Third to fifth overall is now separated by just 17.3 seconds, with Sebastien Loeb getting the better of Jari-Matti Latvala on stage 11 and ending the day 2.3 seconds ahead of the Finn, while Tänak is 15 seconds further behind.
Kris Meeke challenged his Toyota GAZOO Racing teammate on all four stages and took second fastest times on each test. After suffering two punctures this weekend, he’s said the Power Stage that closes the event tomorrow afternoon is now his focus as he bids to score his first championship points for his new team.
On top of Mikkelsen’s drama, the first stage on Saturday also caused trouble for both Esapeeka Lappi, who’s Citroen C3 WRC stopped midway through the 30km Agnières-en-Dévoluy – Corps stage and Pontus Tidemand who was forced to change a flat tyre in the M-Sport Fiesta.
WRC2 PRO continues to be led by Gus Greensmith after Kale Rovanperä’s accident on Thursday evening, although he is just 6.6 seconds ahead of usual PRO competitor Yoann Bonato, who is running as a private entry this weekend.
Adrien Fourmaux and Guillaume de Mevius are second and third in WRC2 while experienced Le Mans entrant Stephane Sarrazin is running 11th overall in a Hyundai i20 R5. Enrico Brazzoli sits 44th overall in his Abarth 124 Rally.
Sunday sees four more stages on the 2019 Rallye Monte-Carlo totalling 64km.