Thierry Neuville gobbled five seconds from Rallye Monte-Carlo leader Elfyn Evans on Sunday morning’s first stage to overhaul Sébastien Ogier into second and trail Evans by just 1.2s.
Neuville began the La Bollène-Vésubie / Peïra Cava stage 6.4s shy of Evans’ Toyota and 1.5s back from the similar machine of Ogier and woke up in determined mood; grabbing his sixth stage win of the weekend.
The Hyundai driver is now 4.7s ahead of Ogier and has Evans firmly in his sights with three stages left.
“It looks like he had a very, very good run,” Evans commented about Neuville. “Ours wasn’t bad; not perfect but that’s a good run from him.”
Ogier lost 6.2s to Neuville on the stage, admitting he wasn’t entirely comfortable in the Yaris WRC, and is now 6.1s off his rally-leading team-mate.
“Yeah it’s not a really good stage for us,” he said. “[We were] not perfectly comfortable [with the car but] I try. As I say I never push when I don’t feel [confident]. There are things we can try it’s not over yet.”
Despite taking significant chunks of time out of him on Saturday afternoon, Esapekka Lappi reckoned he couldn’t catch fourth-placed Sébastien Loeb on pace alone.
The M-Sport Ford trailed the Hyundai by 14.1s on Sunday morning and pressed ever closer on SS13, taking another 1.7s to sit 12.4s behind in fifth overall.
But Lappi was lucky not to significantly damage to the rear of his Fiesta WRC after a wild moment over the top of the famous Col de Turini.
“It was too slippery for me, it didn’t feel so good,” he chuckled. “At the beginning it felt like ‘OK this is going to be spectacular’ but as the wall got closer and closer it was not so fun anymore.”
Loeb “tried my best” but admitted he was just “a bit too careful”.
“We had a lot of snow information [from the gravel crew] but in the end it was nothing,” Loeb added.
Toyota drivers Kalle Rovanperä and Takamoto Katsuta both took it easy on La Bollène-Vésubie / Peïra Cava as they looked to cement their sixth and seventh positions and learn the conditions.
Teemu Suninen’s recovery mission brought him back into the top 10 on Sunday morning.
The M-Sport driver retired on Thursday night with transmission failure and began the leg in 11th, 25.2s off Nicolas Ciamin. Suninen deposed the WRC3 runner from the position to claim a potentially vital championship point.
Ciamin is second in WRC3 behind leader Eric Camilli, who is eighth overall. Mads Ostberg is ninth and continues to lead WRC2 for Citroen.
Gus Greensmith did not restart on Sunday morning as he finished outside the top 60 places on Saturday after his early Friday retirement.
Unique rules on Rallye Monte-Carlo dictate that only the top 60 crews can participate in Sunday’s stages in the hills above Monaco due to space restrictions at the harbour where the rally was based on Saturday night.
Leading positions after SS13
1 Evans (Toyota)
2 Neuville (Hyundai) +1.4s
3 Ogier (Toyota) +6.1s
4 Loeb (Hyundai) +2m32.6s
5 Lappi (M-Sport Ford) +2m45.0s
6 Rovanperä (Toyota) +3m39.5s
7 Katsuta (Toyota) +10m43.7s
8 Camilli (Citroën) +11m54.4s
9 Ostberg (Citroën) +12m46.1s
10 Suninen (M-Sport Ford) +13m02.2s