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Rallye Monte-Carlo: Day 2 – Evans in control as Toyota dominate

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Credit: Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT

Day 2 of the 2021 Rallye Monte-Carlo got underway with an early start of 6:10am local time and it was another clean sweep for the Toyota Gazoo Racing team as they won every stage of the day, ending with Welshman Elfyn Evans leading home reigning champion Sébastien Ogier ahead of Hyundai’s Ott Tänak.

In WRC2 Andreas Mikkelsen continued to lead the way in his Škoda Fabia Rally2 Evo on all but one stage of the day to extend his lead from 8.9 seconds to an impressive 47.1 seconds over Adrian Fourmaux in the M-Sport Ford Fiesta.

After losing out in the morning to fellow Frenchman Yoaan Bonato, Yohan Rossel fought back in the afternoon to finish the day with a 6.8 second advantage over Bonato, leading home a Citroën C3 Rally2 1-2-3.

SS3 Aspremont – La Bâtie-des-Fonts 1 – 19.61 km

Credit: Toyota Gazoo Racing

With weather and road conditions differing from recce conditions, defending champion Sébastien Ogier led the day away with caution. Despite Ogier ‘playing it safe’ he set the fastest time of the loop with a time of 14:00.9, which would be good enough to stand up to his fellow competitors as he put the Toyota Yaris WRC on top for the stage. “We had to trust the gravel crew – we were definitely a bit too safe, but we’ll see” commented Ogier.

Championship runner-up Evans set a time good enough for second place, just 2.7 seconds slower than his team-mate to move in to second place overall, commenting on the conditions after the stage he said “It’s very changeable. The gravel crew did a pretty good job – I felt I was going too slowly in some places but then too quick in others . A difficult one.”

While 5.7 seconds off of the pace of Ogier, young Finnish star Kalle Rovanperä stole the show as he took the lead of the rally, 2.2 seconds ahead of Evans and a further 5.7 seconds in front of Ogier. “It’s going quite nicely. I made one small error on a hairpin, but other than that it was good. It was a really difficult stage – it didn’t look so bad but it was really tricky.” said Rovanperä.

Thierry Neuville led home a Hyundai 4-5-6 as he experimented with his tyre choice; Tänak took a cautious route through the stage to avoid any trouble as team-mate Dani Sordo commented “In these conditions it’s so difficult to calculate the speed in the corners. At the beginning of the stage the visibility was really low and we slowed down a lot, then after that we drove really bad.” as he finished sixth fastest.

Katsuta Takamoto, Gus Greensmith and Pierre-Louis Loubet rounded out the WRC machinery still running, all three over a minute off of the pace of the leaders as they continue to build their confidence in the top level.

In WRC2 Andreas Mikkelsen took the top honours; despite being held up by a slow running Loubet the Norwegian set a time of 1.3 seconds faster than Adrien Fourmaux. Marco Bulacia Wilkinson set the third fastest time ahead of Eric Camilli; Sean Johnston and Enrico Brazzoli struggled through the stage, end the day 2 opener off of pace.

Yoaan Bonato set a time of 15:21.5, good enough to steal the lead of the class from Yohan Rossel who could only manage third behind Cédric de Cecco. British driver

Tom Williams finished the stage seventh in class and eighteenth fastest of the Rally2 cars in the Ford Fiesta Rally2. Unfortunately for the Brit he was one minute late to the start, resulting in a 10 second penalty being added to his overall time.

Outside of the championship contenders Oliver Solberg was eighth fastest of the Rally2 machinery as he learns the ropes of the Hyundai i20 R5, he managed to survive the stage despite a spin that lost him 30 seconds.

WRC top three after SS3

  1. Kalle Rovanperä – Toyota Yaris WRC – 38:27.4
  2. Elfyn Evans – Toyota Yaris WRC – 38:29.6 (+2.2)
  3. Sébastien Ogier – Toyota Yaris WRC – 38.35.3 (+8.7)

SS4 Chalancon – Gumiane 1 – 21.62 km

Credit: Jaanus Ree/Red Bull Content Pool

While the conditions on SS4 were still tricky, Ogier made the most of things to lead the way on the second stage of the day, setting a time of 13:36.8 in another Toyota 1-2-3. “The conditions were not so easy – the narrow parts were pretty greasy and slippery but I tried my best. The last five kilometres were very nice.” said Ogier.

Rovenperä’s overall lead wouldn’t last for long, despite finishing the stage second fastest ahead of Evans, he would drop to third place after receiving a ten-second penalty for being 1 minute late to the start of the stage.

Tänak led a train of three Hyundais ahead of Neuville and Sordo as they consolidated best of the rest outside of the three lead Toyotas. The former champion felt like he could have done better but suffered from mechanical issues, “I don’t know. Generally an okay stage, but the engine has a problem in the hairpins. There is low boost and we just have to manage it.” he commented.

Gus Greensmith finished in seventh place, the Brit had a tough opening day and it looked like day two was not going to be any better, he commented at the end of the stage, “Just not driving well at all. It was getting really muddy and when there’s no grip I have no confidence. I don’t know…” Katsuta and Loubet rounded out the nine WRC car field.

WRC2 brought more of the same as Mikkelsen stamped his dominance on the rally ahead of Eric Camilli and Adrien Fourmaux. Bulacia Wilkinson, Johnston and Brazzoli continued to lose time on the leading pack as they finished fourth, fifth and sixth in class.

Bonato was winning the battle in the WRC3 class, setting the fastest stage time to increase his class lead to fourteen seconds. Hermann Neubauer took the third fastest time of the WRC3 cars, but it was Nicolas Ciamin who held on to third in class. Tom Williams lost just under three minutes to the frontrunners as he experimented with his tyre choices.

Solberg’s pace was increasing throughout the day and picked up the fifth fastest time of the Rally2 car cars through the stage despite a small mistake.

WRC top three after SS4

  1. Sébastien Ogier – Toyota Yaris WRC – 52:12.1
  2. Kalle Rovanperä – Toyota Yaris WRC – 52:15.4 (+3.3)
  3. Elfyn Evans – Toyota Yaris WRC – 52:21.8 (+9.7)

SS5 Montauban-sur-l’Ouvèze – Villebois-les-Pins 1 – 22.24 km

Credit: Škoda

The third stage of the day saw Tänak break into the Toyota stronghold at the top of the table. With Ogier setting the fastest time of the stage of 13:35.8 and team-mate Evans coming in eight seconds behind, Tänak was third fastest. Despite making up enough time to leap-frog Rovenperä, the Estonian commented, “We are having some kinds of surprises and I am not very happy with that.”

Rovenperä explained following the stage that the road conditions had affected his pace, “It was really dirty and the guys in front have a much cleaner road. In this stage there are a lot of cuts which meant more gravel on the road and I was not able to push.”

Thierry Neuville suffered a frustrating time to end the stage in fifth place as the Hyundai tyre gamble continued to cause problems, along with missing additional pace notes from his gravel crew. The Belgian explained his issues at the end of the stage, “First of all, I have a snow tyre on the car. Also, in stage four, my gravel crew wasn’t able to do the stage as they had an incident on the road section which meant I had no pace note corrections. I was really struggling on the snow tyre in here and we had a spin towards the end.”

Dani Sordo blamed his tyre selection for a loss of pace, “We don’t have the speed. With the snow tyre, the car is moving a lot and we lost a lot of time. I don’t know – I can’t give an explanation.”

Loubet finished seventh ahead of Katsuta who moved in to eighth overall ahead of Greensmith. The M-Sport drivers’ nightmare rally continued as he finished slowest of the WRC cars, 59 seconds off of the pace of Ogier, “From the data we had on the test, it seemed like it could work, but once we hit the wet parts we just had zero grip in the tyres. It’s a lesson learned.” he commented.

Andreas Mikkelsen managed to hold on to the lead of the WRC2 class despite losing the stage to Adrien Fourmaux; The Frenchman set a time of 14:31.6, which placed him in ninth place overall on the stage. While Mikkelsen didn’t take the stage victory he only dropped 1.5 seconds to Fourmaux. Eric Camilli remained in third place ahead of the trio of Bulacia Wilkinson, Sean Johnston and Enrico Brazzoli.

Nicolas Ciamin claimed top honours in WRC3 as he set the fastest stage time of the trio of French drivers at the front. Despite the slight shake up in the stage results the overall order remained the same with Bonato leading Rossel and Ciamin. Tom Williams finished the stage ninth.

WRC top three after SS5

  1. Sébastien Ogier – Toyota Yaris WRC – 1:05:47.9
  2. Elfyn Evans – Toyota Yaris WRC – 1:05:59.2 (+11.3)
  3. Ott Tänak – Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC – 1:06:12.7 (+24.8)

SS6 Aspremont – La Bâtie-des-Fonts 2 – 19.61 km

Credit: Jaanus Ree/Red Bull Content Pool

Following a 40 minute break at the Gap service area the rally got back underway at 12:17 local time, SS6 didn’t disappoint as it brought a shake up to the results.

Rally leader Sébastien Ogier would drop to third overall as he suffered a puncture on stage, the Frenchman finished 34.7 seconds behind stage winner Elfyn Evans. Ogier commented “Puncture… there are so many cuts that it’s very hard to know where the line is.”

Evans had a clean run through the tricky conditions to set the fastest time of the stage, 13:32.5. As a result of his team-mate’s misfortune he moved in to the overall lead of the rally. “It was alright. The grip is changing much more extremely – one minute there’s good grip and the next there’s nothing at all.” he said at the end of the stage.

2019 champion Tänak made the most of the opportunity to move in to seconds place in the overall standings, finishing 6.9 seconds off of the pace of Evans as he took things easy, “It was tricky. The ice is very polished and there is low grip, so I tried to do my best. Not the place to be a hero, really.”

Neuville took the third fastest time of the stage as co-driver Martijn Wydaeghe continued to get to grips in his new role, marking only his sixth time in the Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC with Neuville. “There was a lot of rain in the stage. The car and tyres were working fine and we made some changes in the service. We did a nice stage and made a bit more rhythm than this morning – also Martijn has done a good stage. It was more enjoyable than this morning.” commented Neuville at the end of the stage to move in to fourth place overall.

Rovanperä lost time on the stage as he took a detour, “I made a mistake in the beginning. There was a really muddy cut and I lost the car – we went in a field and we had to reverse out which took a lot of time. A stupid mistake.” He finished the stage 47.6 seconds slower than Evans, dropping one place in the overall standings down to fifth.

Hyundai’s Sordo was fourth fastest through the stage as he consolidated his sixth place overall, the Spaniard was happier with his performance compared to the morning tests. “It was better for me because we had more light! Some parts are a little bit icy, but I feel more confident because I have all the same tyres.” he commented.

Katsuta thanked his gravel crew as he set the fifth fastest time of the loop, moving the Japanese driver up to eight in the overall results. “The conditions were very difficult but we could drive smooth with no risks – I didn’t push but the time is pretty okay. Thank you to the gravel crew!” he told the waiting media the stage end.

Loubet and Greensmith finished at the bottom end of the WRC field, The Brit commented “There wasn’t too much vision and the intercom is failing, so that was very tricky!

Andreas Mikkelsen was back on pace after the break, taking the fastest time of the WRC2 field with a time of 13:47.7, finishing an impressive sixth overall on the stage.“There was a lot of mud, but I enjoyed it. The car is very stable, so it’s really enjoyable even in the tricky conditions.” he said.

Fourmaux lost 8.2 seconds to the charging Mikkelsen on SS6, but did enough to take second place ahead of Camilli, Johnston, Bulacia Wilkinson and Brazzoli.

With Yoaan Bonato leading the WRC3 in the morning, it was the turn of Yohan Rossel to take control of the field, finishing with a time of 14:06.1. Nicolas Ciamin claimed second place with Bonato in third. Tom Williams continued his consistent run, picking up the ninth fastest time of the stage again.

WRC top three after SS6

  1. Elfyn Evans – Toyota Yaris WRC – 1:19:31.7
  2. Ott Tänak – Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC – 1:19:52.1 (+20.4)
  3. Sébastien Ogier – Toyota Yaris WRC – 1:19:55.1 (+23.4)

SS7 Chalancon – Gumiane 2 – 21.62 km

Credit: Jaanus Ree/Red Bull Content Pool

SS7 was close affair for the WRC frontrunners, Sébastien Ogier set the fastest time but the tricky conditions meant for a more even playing field with just 20.9 seconds covering the fastest seven drivers.

While Ogier made the best of what he had following his SS6 puncture to move ahead of Tänak (who finished seventh fastest), Evans struggle a little, despite finishing in sixth place, the close stage results meant that he would keep hold of the lead of the stage. Following the end of the stage bringing the day to a close he commented, “It’s very tricky. I was too careful in some places, but the car has a mind of its own sometimes. Not specifically the car, but the conditions are just so tricky.”

Sordo was on form for SS7 as he found his groove, “I had more confidence. I am in more control of the car.” he commented as he took the second fastest time of the stage; Despite his push he remains in sixth place heading in to Saturday.

It was a strong stage for Toyota’s younger drivers as Rovenperä took third fastest and Takamoto Katsuta took fourth place, Rovenperä commented “We need to fight back. This one was difficult and it was my first time with the new winter tyres in these kind of conditions.”. The stronger stage saw him move up a place in the overall standings to fourth overall.

Neuville was happy with the run through the stage as he ended up 14 seconds down, talking at the stage end he said, “That was a really nice stage for us. Martijn did an incredible job and I was more confident as well. It will be tricky for us to catch back the time we lost this morning, but I tried to have a clean stage and it worked quite well.”

Gus Greensmith was the last of the WRC runners to finish the stage, 41.9 seconds behind Ogier. Pierre-Louis Loubet suffered a lock-up under heavy braking resulting in a slide head-on into a rock face. Both crew were out of the car and OK, the team hope to be back tomorrow for more action.

Andreas Mikkelsen ended the second day with a 47.1 second lead over Adrien Fourmaux, the former WRC rally winner was happy with his performance so far and relishing the Škoda Fabia Rally2 Evo. “I’m really enjoying it. The gap is quite good now and it’s a nice feeling, because in the car we don’t feel like we’re pushing very hard. I think the Skoda is fantastic in these conditions especially and my gravel crew is also doing a great job.”

Eric Camilli took the second fastest stage time to end day two in third place with Bulacia Wilkinson, Johnston, and Brazzoli completing the WRC2 class.

1.5 seconds covered the top three cars of the WRC3 field, Nicolas Ciamin topped the times with a stage time of 15:09.5, closely followed by Bonato and Rossel. Tom Williams was tenth fastest and remains in ninth place.

Oliver Solberg pushed on for the fourth fastest time of the Rally2 cars.

WRC top three after SS7

  1. Elfyn Evans – Toyota Yaris WRC – 1:33:57.5
  2. Sébastien Ogier – Toyota Yaris WRC – 1:34:04.9 (+7.4)
  3. Ott Tänak – Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC – 1:34:22.8 (+25.3)

SS8 Montauban-sur-l’Ouvèze – Villebois-les-Pins 2 – 22.24 km

Due to the ongoing Coronavirus pandemic the 22.24km Montauban-sur-l’Ouvèze – Villebois-les-Pins was dropped so that the rally would fall in line with the local curfew restrictions. As a result of the loss of the stage, the 2021 edition of Rallye Monte-Carlo becomes the shortest overall distance in history for the event.

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