Latvala holds on to lead after day 2 at WRC Rallye Monte Carlo

  As the WRC Rallye Monte Carlo enters the second-to-last leg on Saturday, the Teams faced a full range of difficulties on Leg two. Thierry Neuville of the Hyundai WRT leads all challengers, after two days of rallying. Neuville started the day with a 7.8s lead over their nearest challenger, reigning WRC Champion Sébastien Ogier.

The second leg featured two loops of three stages, held in the Hautes-Alpes department. With two thirds of the stages covered in ice and snow, all of the crews decided to opt for studded tyres.

A strong first half loop helped the Hyundai WRT crew increase his hold on the top spot. Even with some difficulties in the second half, the Belgian heads into Saturday’s penultimate day with a 45-second advantage. “I felt really comfortable with the car in this morning’s loop,” said Neuville. “We started the afternoon well but in SS7 we found our pace notes to be set up more for ice and snow, when the terrain was actually slushier. Then, in the final stage, we had an engine stall. It was not the best end to the day but we have to be happy to lead this rally by such a margin.”

Ogier on his first outing with the M-Sport WRT squad finished the day’s trials in third overall. “It’s not how we wanted to start the day, but we’re in third position now which isn’t so bad. We slid off the road on a very icy section on SS3 and got stuck in a ditch. I’m not exactly sure how it happened but we lost around 40 seconds as a result. The conditions have been really tricky and being first on the road makes it especially challenging. 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.”

Behind Neuville and Ogier was the second M-Sport Ford Fiesta WRC of Ott Tanak, who topped the likes Toyota Racing’s Jari-Matti Latvala and Hyundai’s second crew Dani Sordo. Sordo did not come across any major issues in his no.6 Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC, he struggled to match the pace of his team mate. Nonetheless, the Spaniard persevered to hold a battling fifth place by the end of the day.

Citroën WRT has not escaped unscathed, Kris Meeke got into some problems and had to retire after going off on SS4. A day prior, team mate Stéphane Lefebvre had to stop due to a clutch failure on his DS3 WRC. Both Citroën C3 WRCs will nonetheless continue with their race on the final day, as they go in search of Manufacturers’ championship points.

Fifth after the short opening leg, Meeke moved into second place after the day’s first stage, SS3. However, he went off the road on the next stage after sliding on a sheet of ice. With his DS3 WRC’s suspension broken, he was unable to go any further. Lefebvre improved steadily as he completed more stages. Most notably, he set the fourth fastest time on SS5 and moved ahead of around fifty competitors during the course of the day. He ended the leg twelfth overall.

Despite the tricky conditions, the Citroen crew Craig Breen produced a fine performance in his previous generation WRC. He seized fifth place from Sordo on SS7, before dropping back down a place after taking a bit of scenic route on the day’s final stage.

After this long leg, day three will take the competitors from Gap to Monaco. En route, the crews will have to complete five stages covering a total of 121.39km.

2017 WRC Rallye MOnte Carlo classifications, after day 2

1 T. Neuville / N. Gilsoul (Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC) 2:05:24.6
2 S. Ogier / J. Ingrassia (Ford Fiesta WRC) +45.1
3 O. Tanak / M. Jarveoja (Ford Fiesta WRC) +45.4
4 J. M. Latvala / M. Anttila (Toyota Yaris WRC) +2:09.7
5 D. Sordo / M. Martí (Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC) +2:57.8
6 C. Breen / S. Martin (Citroën DS3 WRC) +3:04.1
7 A. Mikkelsen / A. Jaeger (Škoda Fabia R5) +5:50.8
8 E. Evans / D. Barritt (Ford Fiesta WRC) +8:12.1
9 P. Tidemand / J. Andersson (Škoda Fabia R5) +8:22.4
10 J. Kopecky / P. Dresler (Škoda Fabia R5) +8:38.2