(18/1/2014) WORLD champion Sebastien Ogier edged a step closer to victory on Rallye Monte-Carlo with a near-perfect day-two performance on Friday.
The Volkswagen driver, fighting back after a forgettable opening day, passed Bryan Bouffier for the lead on the morning’s third stage and reached the final control with a 51 second advantage.
Bouffier made his rival’s job easier by sliding off the road and landing in a field in his Ford Fiesta RS.
A win for Ogier would bring to 10 out of 13 his tally of WRC rounds he has conquered in the year since Volkswagen made its debut.
That he finished second in the 2013 Monte only to nine-time champion Sebastien Loeb was impressive enough, but Ogier will be using all his experience on the final day on Saturday to ensure he bags the most historic trophy in world rallying for 2014.
“Today was much better than yesterday. Tomorrow will be difficult with some snow expected on the Col de Turini. But for now I can be happy,” he said.
Kris Meeke put in another assured performance in his Citroen DS3 WRC to retain third place. His main threat at the start of the day came from ex-Formula 1 star Robert Kubica; however, his rally came to an abrupt end 32km into SS9.
“There was a sudden change of grip,” the Pole explained.
“We needed to be cautious because we had it marked by our ice crew, but unfortunately I misjudged how big that change would be. We went into the corner, the front went straight on and we hit a bridge.”
That took the pressure off Meeke and he carved out a 1m 10s lead over his teammate Mads Ostberg at the final control.
Jari-Matti Latvala edged past impressive M-Sport World Rally Team driver Elfyn Evans to claim fifth place on the final stage, while Mikko Hirvonen’s frustrating rally continued in seventh.
Volkswagen’s Andreas Mikkelsen completed the top eight in his Polo R WRC. His progress was hindered when he slid off the road on SS10 and dropped more than four minutes while pleading with spectators to help him retrieve the car.
There are four stages left to contest on Saturday, including two runs over the famous Col du Turini, before the event finishes late in the evening in Monaco.