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Ogier leads on home soil at Rallye Monte-Carlo

M-Sport Ford World Rally Team’s Sébastien Ogier and Julien Ingrassia continue to lead Rallye Monte-Carlo behind the wheel of their EcoBoost-powered Ford Fiesta WRC. Having led the rally from the very first stage, the Fiesta has also claimed more stage wins than any other manufacture – three courtesy of Ogier and a further two from Welshman Elfyn Evans.

Team Principal, Malcolm Wilson OBE, said: « It’s fantastic to be here in the lead and to see both Sébastien and Elfyn proving the pace of the Fiesta with a number of stage victories. But we cannot forget that this is Rallye Monte-Carlo and that there is still a very long way to go. « With more stage wins than anyone else, Sébastien is delivering another fantastic drive – although we have to admit that we were pretty lucky this afternoon! He made a very simple mistake but thanks to the quick thinking of the fans we didn’t lose too much time. It puts us under a bit of pressure for tomorrow which won’t be easy, but Sébastien has the speed and the experience on his side. Elfyn has had a much better day after what was a really unlucky start last night. With the puncture on the opening stage he lost more than three minutes, but has refocused and shown some great speed – especially when the conditions were at their most challenging. Bryan also hasn’t put a foot wrong. He’s making his debut with the Fiesta WRC in less than ideal circumstances, but using all of his experience and learning more about the car with every stage. »

OGIER AND INGRASSIA LEADERS AFTER STAGE EIGHT Sébastien Ogier and Julien Ingrassia know better than most what it takes to secure victory at Rallye Monte-Carlo. Knowing that anything can happen amongst the unpredictable conditions, the pairing have delivered speed, strategy and a little bit of luck to maintain the lead of the rally. Setting three fastest stage times, the Frenchmen established a 33.9 second lead ahead of a rain-soaked penultimate stage (SS7) – and it was needed. Spinning at a hairpin, their EcoBoost-powered Ford Fiesta WRC became stuck in a ditch. The dedicated fans came to their rescue, but more than 30 seconds were lost and their lead reduced to 14.9 seconds at the end of the day. With more than half distance left to contest, an epic battle awaits but Ogier has experience – as well as his loyal band of supporters – on side. Stage performances: SS1: 1st SS2: 1st – SS3: 2nd (+3.9) SS4: 1st SS5: 4th (+2.4) SS6: 2nd (+6.5) SS7: 7th (+34.9) SS8: 8th (+12.5)

Sébastien Ogier (1st) said: « Today was not so bad – and it’s always good to be in front at the end of the day – but it’s true that the afternoon was not the best for us. We lost almost 40 seconds due to a spin which put us in the ditch, and I have to thank the guys who helped get us out. It was a shame as we would have had quite a comfortable lead without that. Now we have to fight with Ott [Tänak] and the battle is definitely on with the gap being so small. We’ll have to be on it right from the start and be clever with our tyre choices as there will be no room for error. »

BOUFFIER AND PANSERI SEVENTH AFTER STAGE EIGHT Despite making their debut with the EcoBoost-powered Ford Fiesta WRC in less than ideal circumstances, Bryan Bouffier and Xavier Panseri have not put a foot wrong and continue to deliver in the face of adversity. Currently holding seventh place overall, the Frenchmen have put their vast experience to good use – making the right calls on the tyres and reading the conditions well. Thanks to a highly intelligent drive as they get to grips with the top-specification Fiesta, the pairing are on course to secure a good result. Stage performances: SS1: 8th (+1:15.6) SS2: 11th (+35.4) – SS3: 9th (+29.6) SS4: 9th (+34.7) SS5: 8th (+9.8) SS6: 10th (+28.1) SS7: 10th (+41.4) SS8: 10th (+20.2)

Bryan Bouffier (7th) said: « I’m really enjoying driving this car on these stages. We still have a long way to go before we reach the limit of the car, but the feeling is better and we’re in the right range for our objectives. There’s still a long way to go, and anything can happen, so we’ll keep focused and see where we are at the end of the rally. »

EVANS AND BARRITT EIGHTH AFTER STAGE EIGHT Elfyn Evans and Daniel Barritt might have endured an unfortunate and disappointing start to this year’s Rallye Monte-Carlo, but the Brits have proven their speed and quickly climbed the time sheets as a result. Having lost more than three minutes with a puncture yesterday evening, Evans didn’t lose focus. Setting two fastest times behind the wheel of his EcoBoost-powered Ford Fiesta WRC, the Welshman hinted at what could have been. Excelling in the difficult conditions, he and Barritt climbed from 16th to eighth place overall and their tally of stage wins can only be bettered by that of teammates Ogier and Ingrassia. Stage performances: SS1: 19th (+3:48.0) – puncture SS2: 8th (+24.9) – SS3: 3rd (+5.4) SS4: 5th (+12.4) SS5: 1st SS6: 8th (+5.0) SS7: 1st SS8: 5th (+11.1)

Elfyn Evans (8th) said: « It’s been an okay day for us with two stage wins, but not perfect. We’re in a bit of a battle with Thierry [Neuville] now, although it’s not the battle I wanted to be in this weekend. I’m sure Thierry will push hard like always, and for sure it will make for a bit of excitement tomorrow. It will be an interesting day, so let’s wait and see what we get. »

ELSEWHERE IN THE TEAM There was disappointment in the WRC 2 category as Teemu Suninen was forced to retire his EcoBoost-powered Ford Fiesta R5 after going off the road on SS4. The former category-leader, Éric Camilli, then followed suit just two stages later on SS6.

Eric Camilli said: « We had the setup a bit too soft this morning and wanted to come back and reclaim the lead. But we slid wide on a left-hand corner and touched the bank with the rear. It wasn’t a hard impact, but it was enough to make us stop. We are really disappointed because the pace was good and we had a good chance of battling for the win. »

Teemu Suninen said: « There was a mid-speed, left-hand corner that was much more slippery than I was expecting. We ran wide and there was a bridge on the exit so I had to decide whether to hit the bridge or go down the bank towards the stream. I choose the stream, but our feet are dry at least! We had a pretty hard impact with a tree as we went down the bank, so a big thanks to the mechanics for getting the car repaired for tomorrow – when I can get more kilometres under my belt and learn more about Rallye Monte-Carlo. »

OVERALL CLASSIFICATION 1. Sébastien Ogier / Julien Ingrassia (Ford Fiesta WRC) +2:07:15.4 2. Ott Tänak / Martin Järveoja (Toyota Yaris WRC) +14.9 3. Dani Sordo / Marc Marti (Hyundai 120 Coupe WRC) +59.7 4. Esapekka Lapp / Janne Ferme (Toyota Yaris WRC) +1:09.9 5. Jari-Matti Latvala / Miikka Anttila (Toyota Yaris WRC) +1:10.1 6. Kris Meeke / Paul Nagle (Citroen DS3 WRC) +2:45.5 7. Bryan Bouffier / Xavier Panseri (Ford Fiesta WRC) +3:34.6 8. Elfyn Evans / Daniel Barritt (Ford Fiesta WRC) +4:01.7 9. Thierry Neuville / Nicolas Gilsoul (Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC) +4:04.1 10. Craig Breen / Scott Martin (Citroen DS3 WRC) +5:06.6

Press release M-Sport ; pictures Jean-Baptiste Lassaus/


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