Motor Sport News - - Monte Carlo Rally -

Day one: 98.26 miles; 8 stages

Weather: Sunny -9 to 6 cel­sius

■ Se­bastien Ogier and Kris Meeke en­gage in a fas­ci­nat­ing bat­tle, with the lead swap­ping four times in the early go­ing.

■ A par­tic­u­larly icy right-han­der on Fri­day morn­ing’s opener rules Robert Ku­bica and Hay­den Paddon out of pro­ceed­ings. Ku­bica’s ap­proach is slightly more com­mit­ted, he’s un­der­steered off at jog­ging speed. Paddon oversteers, dinks the tree at walk­ing speed and stops half a mile up the road.

■ Jari-matti Lat­vala is stead­fastly re­fus­ing to be pulled into the scrap for the lead and sits a minute down at the end of the day in third place. His rally is go­ing to plan, but his plan’s re­ally not very fever. An­dreas Mikkelsen suf­fers a big spin in SS7, but re­mains fourth.

■ Shock­ing day for Hyundai, with the New Gen­er­a­tion i20 WRC not look­ing any quicker than the old car. The ver­dict is the wrong sus­pen­sion set-up, the cars are run­ning much too soft. Thierry Neuville is quick­est of the soft­ies in fifth.

■ M-sport’s first full day of the sea­son is an in­dif­fer­ent one, with Mads Ost­berg tak­ing time to bed in with new co-driver Ola Floene. Eric Camilli sets a crack­ing fifth fastest time on only his fourth stage in a World Rally Car, but then rolls two stages later. Elfyn Evans is fly­ing in the new R5 car – pum­melling the op­po­si­tion de­spite a punc­ture in SS1. End of day one: 1 Ogier/ In­gras­sia 1h29m06.1s; 2 Meeke/ Nagle +9.5s; 3 Lat­vala/ant­tila +1m08.1s; 4 Mikkelsen/jaeger +1m33.8s; 5 Neuville/ Gil­soul +1m47.8s; 6 Ost­berg/ Floene +2m18.5s.

Day two: 108.90 miles; 5 stages

Weather: sunny -8 to 9 cel­sius

■ Ogier leads through­out the day, af­ter Mikkelsen’s tyre gam­ble fails to pay div­i­dends through the morn­ing loop.

■ Lat­vala re­tires from a rel­a­tively com­fort­able third place at the end of the se­cond run through the long stage, mov­ing Mikkelsen up to third.

■ Third be­comes se­cond for Mikkelsen when Meeke be­comes the se­cond podium re­tiree in as many stages at the end of SS12.

■ Mikkelsen’s grip on that se­cond place is loos­ened by a fast-im­prov­ing Neuville. Thierry hooks his new i20 WRC up to win the last two stages (two min­utes ahead, Ogier has be­gun a cruise to the fin­ish fol­low­ing Meeke’s de­par­ture), slash­ing the gap be­tween the two Monaco mates from a minute to 12.5s. “Keeps it in­ter­est­ing for to­mor­row…” of­fers Mikkelsen af­ter ad­mit­ting he’d been too cau­tious. End of day two: 1 Ogier/ In­gras­sia 3h19m05.7s; 2 Mikkelsen/ Jaeger +1m59.7s; 3 Neuville/ Gil­soul +2m12.2s; 4 Ost­berg/ Floene +4m25.9s; 5 Lefebvre/ Moreau +7m29.4s; 6 Tanak/ Molder +10m42.3s. Day three: 28.27 miles; 3 stages

Weather: sunny 1 to 12 cel­sius

■ Ogier wins at a can­ter, cel­e­brat­ing a Monte hat-trick with an un­trou­bled fi­nal-day dash through the Alpes-mar­itimes.

■ The race for the place be­hind him fails to ma­te­ri­alise; Neuville re­ports a trans­mis­sion noise on the way out of Monaco. A cen­tre bear­ing prob­lem man­i­fests it­self and robs the Bel­gian of drive to the rear wheels for the fi­nal stage and a bit. Mikkelsen is sure of se­cond.

■ The ail­ing Neuville has enough in hand to re­main on the podium, bring­ing his car home 1m30s ahead of Ost­berg’s Ford Fi­esta RS WRC. Ost­berg has taken a sen­si­ble ap­proach to his first event back with M-sport. As the rally un­folds, he feels in­creas­ingly com­fort­able with new co-driver Ola Floene – but the pair ad­mit it’s round two and the trip around Swe­den and Nor­way for their WRC day at home that is the real tar­get.

■ Stephane Lefebvre and Dani Sordo round the top six out. It’s fair to say the French­man’s hap­pier with his score in the DS 3 than the dis­grun­tled Spa­niard, who sim­ply couldn’t get to grips with the New Gen­er­a­tion…

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