Ogier and Tänak began leg three of the season curtain-raiser separated by just under 15 seconds. Although the Frenchman had more than doubled that advantage come day’s end, the figures do not paint the full picture of a see-saw scrap that at one point saw him more than a minute clear. The M-Sport man produced a virtuoso performance on the SS9 opener, maximising his favourable road position in treacherously snowy conditions to extend his lead over Tänak to 1:18.4, but then the Estonian fought back. The gap after the cars headed back to the service point between the two was just 33.5s.
Tänak’s Toyota team-mate Jari-Matti Latvala briefly flirted with second spot himself, closing to barely 20 seconds shy after SS9, before falling away and settling into a solid and lonely third place. The Finn’s cause was aided when Hyundai rival Dani Sordo crashed out of a podium position.
Latvala overhauled compatriot Esapekka Lappi in another Yaris WRC as he moved up the order, with the younger Finn falling behind Citroen’s Kris Meeke when a mistake precipitated a puncture on SS11. Lappi spent the remainder of the day playing catch-up, with his dogged determination paying off as he narrowly reclaimed fourth spot from his Citroën rival on the final stage (SS13).
Ogier’s fellow M-Sport team mate Elfyn Evans sits sixth overnight as the Welshman continues to battle back from opening day misfortune in his Ford Fiesta, with Hyundai’s similarly delayed Thierry Neuville recovering to seventh.
Bryan Bouffier has slipped to eighth ahead of Citroën’s Craig Breen, who suffered for being the ‘road-sweeper’ through the snow of SS9. WRC 2 pace-setter Jan Kopecky completes the overall top 10.
In the finale, crews tackle two identical loops of two stages totalling 63.72km in the steep Alpes-Maritimes hills, including the legendary Col de Turini and the points-paying Power Stage, with no service break in-between. It’s gonna be an Ogier-Tanak fight to the finish…
2018 WRC Rally Monte Carlo leg 3 classification
1. S Ogier FRA Ford Fiesta 3hr 30min 30.9sec
2. O Tänak EST Toyota Yaris + 33.5sec
3. J-M Latvala FIN Toyota Yaris +1min 32.7sec
4. E Lappi FIN Toyota Yaris + 4min 38.5sec
5. K Meeke GBR Citroën C3 + 4min 40.1sec