Monte Carlo WRC: Neuville takes unofficial overnight lead
Thierry Neuville is the unofficial leader of the 2017 World Rally Championship-opening Monte Carlo Rally, after a first night that was disrupted by a crash for his Hyundai teammate Hayden Paddon.
Neuville beat Sebastien Ogier – now driving for M-Sport – by 0.7s in SS1. But Paddon’s crash behind meant the stage was cancelled sending the classification for the rally into disarray.
Not far from the end of the first stage of the WRC’s dramatic new rules package, Paddon crashed on a medium-speed left hander as he lost control on a patch of ice. A spectator was involved and taken to hospital but Paddon and co-driver John Kennard went unscathed.
Neuville the increased his advantage dramatically on SS2, managing a time 7.8s quicker than Ogier to cement his lead.
The order behind is clouded as drivers are likely to receive a notional time for SS1 after they were held up by Paddon’s crash.
Therefore the drivers are likely to be classified in the order they finished SS2.
That being the case, Juho Hanninen will hold a shock third place after running way down the order. He was reshuffled behind the WRC2 cars after the SS2 disruption, and made the most of his position on the road and his new Toyota Yaris WRC. Kris Meeke will likely hold fourth.
Ott Tanak – teammate to Sebastien Ogier this year – was fifth after reporting difficulty in finding a rhythm on the stage. His teammate Elfyn Evans – returning to top class WRC machinery with DMACK after a year competing in WRC2 – was also shuffled down the order with Hanninen but could only manage sixth quickest.
Incredibly, Craig Breen completed SS2 less than 10s down on his teammate Meeke in a 2016-spec DS3 WRC on the event, putting him seventh.
Dani Sordo took eighth, while Jari-Matti Latvala rued not pushing hard enough on the icy sections of the tricky test on his Toyota debut on his way to ninth.
WRC2 leader Andreas Mikkelsen rounded out the Top 10 in his Skoda Fabia R5.
Standings after SS2:
Monte Carlo WRC: First stage cancelled after Paddon crash
Spectator dies after Monte Carlo WRC crash