Toyota GAZOO Racing World Rally Team’s Ott Tänak leads Rallye Monte-Carlo at the end of Friday’s two stages.
The Estonian has a 9.1 second advantage over Sebastien Ogier and won the opening La Bréole – Selonnet stage ahead of Toyota team mate Kris Meeke.
SS2 however was to prove trouble for the Irishman as he picked up a puncture on his Yaris WRC and he had to drive “7 or maybe 9km” with the flat tyre. He dropped over a minute in lost time to stage two winner Thierry Neuville.
The Belgian’s tyre gamble was a talking point on Friday night, especially after finishing 26.8s behind Tänak at the end of the opening test, but he recovered to take a strong win on the second stage. He sits third overnight, 14.3s behind the Estonian.
Esapekka Lappi is fourth at the end of day one on his first appearance for Citroen with the second Toyota of Jari-Matti Latvala and the leading M-Sport Ford of Elfyn Evans completing the top six overall.
Meeke dropped to seventh after his puncture, while Sebastien Loeb, making his first appearance for the Hyundai Shell MOBIS World Rally Team, is eighth and 55.2s behind Tänak. Andreas Mikkelsen and Pontus Tidemand complete the top 10 while Teemu Suninen in the third M-Sport Ford went off into a ditch on the opening stage and couldn’t continue.
WRC2 PRO is being led by Gus Greensmith after his rival in the class, Kalle Rovanperä, went off the road on the same corner as Suninen with the Skoda driver hitting the back of the stricken Fiesta.
The Finn managed to restart, albeit with a damaged front end and two smashed wheels and he continued to lose time throughout the following stage. He is almost a minute and a half down on the Brit at the end of Friday.
WRC2 after Friday’s action meanwhile is led by Belgian Guillaume de Mevius, who has a 4.8 second advantage over fellow Citroen driver Yoann Bonato with Nicolas Ciamin a further 6s behind in third.
Tomorrow sees six more stages totalling 125.12km await the crews with a large part of the stages being new for this season’s event.