Frenchman Bryan Bouffier will lead into the final day of the Intercontinental Rally Challenge season-opener after four dramatic stages on day two of Rallye Monte Carlo.
The morning run through the stages had seen Skoda driver Juho Hanninen retain a healthy lead as he extended his advantage at the head of the field to 51.5secs ahead of WRC regular Petter Solberg, who jumped ahead of Freddy Loix after the Belgian driver made a slight error on stage six.
However, the arrival of snow for the repeat run in the afternoon caused chaos for the leading runners as Bouffier and fellow Frenchman Francois Delecour both stormed up the order.
Bouffier had lay sixth going into the afternoon but the decision to take snow tyres for the afternoon loop saw him jump into the lead on stage seven before he maintained his advantage on stage eight despite two spins having fitted two studded tyres to his car.
Delecour meanwhile was the only man to tackle the afternoon stages on fully-studded tyres and the veteran made the most of the extra grip to win the final stage of he day and climb to second – just under half a minute off the lead on his first event in eight years.
Loix ended the day in third place despite running the final 12km of stage eight with a puncture while Guy Wilks and Stephane Sarrazin are fourth and fifth, with the trio all using snow tyres for the afternoon stages.
Overnight leader Hanninen meanwhile was left to rue the decision to not fit snow tyres in the afternoon, with intermediate rubber being the wrong choice on stage seven. Although he fitted a pair of snow tyres for the final stage, the Finn could do nothing to match the pace of the cars ahead and slipped to more than two and a half minutes off the lead.
Solberg is now down in seventh place having struggled for grip through the afternoon, while Nicolas Vouilloz, Jan Kopecky and Toni Gardemeister round out the top ten.
Such were the challenging conditions that greeted the crews during the afternoon that a number of local drivers were able to outpace the IRC regulars, with the Renault Clio R3 of Jean-Michel Raoux and the Renault Twingo of Stephane Lefebvre going quicker than the likes of Sarrazin and Hanninen through the final stage.
Rallye Monte Carlo: Overall standings after Stage 8 (Top 10):
1. Bryan Bouffier
Peugeot 207 S2000 02hrs 14mins 38.8secs
2. Francois Delecour
Peugeot 207 S2000 +00mins 28.0secs
3. Freddy Loix
Skoda Fabia S2000 +01mins 05.5secs
4. Guy Wilks
Peugeot 207 S2000 +01mins 20.5secs
5. Stephanie Sarrazin
Peugeot 207 S2000 +01mins 41.1secs
6. Juho Hanninen
Skoda Fabia S2000 +02mins 35.7secs
7. Petter Solberg
Peugeot 207 S2000 +03mins 49.1secs
8. Nicolas Vouilloz
Skoda Fabia S2000 +05mins 31.0secs
9. Jan Kopecky
Skoda Fabia S2000 +07mins 51.7secs
10. Toni Gardemeister
Peugeot 207 S2000 +07mins 52.7secs
11. Giandomenico Basso
Peugeot 207 S2000 +09mins 15.9secs
12. Alex Caffi
Skoda Fabia S2000 +09mins 23.4secs
14. Julien Maurin
Ford Fiesta S2000 +10mins 43.2secs
15. Luca Betti
Peugeot 207 S2000 +14mins 17.3secs
17. Jean-Sebastien Vigion
Peugeot 207 S2000 +17mins 33.8secs
SS1. Chris Atkinson
Proton Satria Neo S2000 Mechanical
SS1. Thierry Neuville
Peugeot 207 S2000 Accident
SS2. Andreas Mikkelsen
Skoda Fabia S2000 Suspension
SS2. Henning Solberg
Ford Fiesta S2000 Suspension
SS2. P-G Andersson
Proton Satria Neo S2000 Suspension
SS2. Andreas Aigner
Mitsubishi Lancer Evo X Fire
all times unofficial