CAUTIOUS OGIER EYES MONTE WIN

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CAUTIOUS OGIER EYES MONTE WIN

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Monte15-Neuville

PHOTO: A helicopter shadows Thierry Neuville through the snowy French alps (Hyundai pic)

AN ultra-cautious Sébastien Ogier surrendered more than a minute of his Rallye Monte-Carlo lead on Saturday but still has a comfortable advantage going into Sunday’s final leg.

Holding a 1min 45sec lead, Ogier refused to take risks on ice- and snow-covered roads in the mountains near Gap. His advantage shrank to 42.8sec as teammate Jari-Matti Latvala closed in with just three speed tests remaining near Monaco on the final day.

The first of Saturday’s four special stages was cancelled for safety reasons, due to too many spectators, but Ogier conceded 40sec in the next.

After matching Latvala on dry roads in the following test, Ogier dropped 20sec in the final Sisteron stage, which was mostly dry but contained 4kms of snow at the mountain top.

“We were safe with our tyre choices today and I was very slow on every icy part. My studded tyres weren’t the fastest option, but they were the safest for the snowy section in the final stage. I had nothing to risk by trying to drive quickly,” the two-time Rally Australia winner reported.

Latvala was surprised to gain so much time on his colleague.

“I don’t understand it. I have no intention to try to catch him. There’s a little bit of pressure on him now, but I don’t want to risk too much in my position,” said Latvala.

Andreas Mikkelsen maintained Volkswagen’s 1-2-3, the Norwegian 1min 07.0sec behind after an incident-free day.

Mads Østberg climbed to fourth in Citroen’s DS 3 despite stopping for 15sec in the final stage to reset the engine when it dropped to three cylinders. He capitalised on a mistake by Ott Tänak, who dropped 18min after sliding into a ditch.

Dani Sordo moved from eighth to fifth in his Hyundai i20, the Spaniard 4.7sec ahead of teammate Thierry Neuville. Elfyn Evans slipped to seventh after limping through the final stage with damaged rear left suspension in his Ford Fiesta RS.

Martin Prokop, and recovering teammates Sébastien Loeb and Kris Meeke completed the leaderboard. Meeke set fastest time in the final stage despite a spin at a hairpin.

Robert Kubica again displayed blistering speed in his Fiesta RS. The Pole crushed the opposition to win the Saturday opener by 33sec and was second in the other two stages.

Sunday’s final leg starts from Monaco and drivers face three stages covering 51.98km before the finish, including the crossing of the legendary Col de Turini. The final lunchtime test from Col St Jean to St Laurent forms the live TV Power Stage with bonus points to the fastest three drivers.