M-Sport Ford Fiesta RS WRC runner Bryan Bouffier remains on top at the close of day one of Rallye Monte Carlo, the opening round in the 2014 FIA World Rally Championship.

Bouffier surged into the lead this morning in SS3, making the most of having fitted two snow tyres to jump from fourth to P1, 13.6 seconds up on Britain's Kris Meeke. He then extended that lead this afternoon on the repeat loop, despite only going 5th, 3rd and 6th in SS4, SS5 and SS6 respectively. The Frenchman will now take a 38.8 second cushion into the second leg on Friday.

"It is fantastic for me to be here - competing with the world's best and in a really good position at the end of the first day," said Bouffier. "The conditions have been really difficult, so to come out on top - here at Monte-Carlo - it's a very good feeling. Although I have to say that I am lucky to be here! On the first corner of the first stage we hit a bridge and I thought that our race was over. Thankfully, the Fiesta is very strong, so thanks to her!
"Of course this will not be an easy position to hold on to as we know that anything can happen. We need to keep concentrated and be aware of the conditions. We'll just try to keep the same pace, and see what happens tomorrow."

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Meeke holds second in his Citroen DS3 WRC car, albeit only 0.7 seconds up on former F1 pilot, Robert Kubica. Meeke also used some winter tyres in SS3, along with Dani Sordo and Elfyn Evans.

Kubica meanwhile stunned by winning the opening two stages and while the Pole lost a lot of time in the heavy snow at the end of SS3, he is currently well placed to get his 'senior' WRC campaign off to a brilliant start.

"I'm pretty pleased with our performance today. At the beginning of the year I set myself a target to win at least one stage throughout the season, and I have already achieved that in the first two! We still have a lot to learn and there is a long way to go in this event, but I think we have had a good day," said Kubica.

"Of course when you are leading after two stages and then get caught-out by a lot of snow in the next, it's always painful, but I also have to be realistic. If someone had told me before the event that I would be in this position, I would have taken it straight away. It could have been better, but honestly I think we have to be very satisfied with the job we have done today.

"I nearly opted for spare snow tyres this morning, but when we didn't expect snow - like a lot of other drivers - I thought that there was no reason [to do so]. Unfortunately for us, it turns out that there was a reason!

"Tomorrow will be another tough day with some really long stages - maybe the toughest day of the event - so I hope that we can keep up our good form and make it down to Monaco with no problems and all four wheels still on the car."

Behind, defending WRC champion, Sebastien Ogier lies fourth - and like Kubica, and a lot of other runners, lost out in SS3 as he was on the wrong rubber. Ogier consequently slipped down to ninth in his Volkswagen Polo R WRC, but won the final two stages to end up just 7.8 seconds off third.

"A classic start to the 'Monte', with absolutely crazy weather conditions. Nobody in our team had anticipated snow on the stages. Unfortunately this meant we had completely the wrong tyres in the morning," Ogier lamented. "There was absolutely no snow on the road on the way to the start of the first stage, but everything was white less than a hundred metres later. When you are the first car onto the route with slicks, it is anything but an advantage.

"I slid into a wall with the left side of the car in the first corner. Fortunately there was only minor damage, and I was able to continue. The guys were then able to fix the Polo up perfectly in the 30-minte midday service. Despite being on winter tyres, we still had a few hairy moments in the afternoon, as the conditions were extremely unpredictable today. It is still a long way to the finish in Monaco. The motto for the next couple of days is: attack, but not at any cost. If you are not careful, your 'Monte' can easily be over sooner than you think."

Further back, Mads Ostberg rounds out the top five on his maiden outing with the Citroen Total Abu Dhabi WRT.

Elfyn Evans and Jari-Matti Latvala are next up in sixth and seventh, followed by Mikko Hirvonen, Andreas Mikkelsen and Olivier Burri.

"The snow caught us out this morning, having fit slicks. On snow, they feel like completely bare summer tyres - and that is anything but fun," said Latvala. "As I did not want to lose sight of my goal of finally finishing in the points after many disappointments at the 'Monte', I was very cautious and unfortunately lost a lot of time in the morning.

"In the afternoon, we were spot on with the winter tyres [and quickest in SS4]. They worked superbly on the roads, which were very dirty in places. There is still a long way to go, and there could still be a lot of surprises in store. We will continue to try to bring the car home safely and pick up as many points as possible."

Yuriy Protasov heads WRC2 - and is 15th overall, 36.1 seconds up on Armin Kremer, while Quentin Gilbert holds the WRC3 lead, although he is the only runner in the class.

As for retirements, day one claimed both Hyundai drivers, Thierry Neuville and Dani Sordo. Neuville crashed out in SS1, while Sordo was sidelined by mechanical issues in SS5. He had been running third. Francois Delecour and Martin Prokop also went out. None will be able to re-start as there is no Rally 2 on the Monte.

The action now continues on Friday, with five stages on the bill. SS7, the 49.03 km run through Vitrolles-Faye 1 - the longest test of the event - is due to start at 08.48 hours local time [07.48 hours UK time].

Rallye Monte Carlo: Overall standings after Stage 6 (Top 10):

1. Bryan Bouffier M-Sport Ltd Ford Fiesta RS WRC 1h 25m 36.6s
2. Kris Meeke Citroen Total Abu Dhabi WRT DS3 WRC +00m 38.8s M
3. Robert Kubica RK M-Sport WRT Ford Fiesta RS WRC +00m 39.5s M
4. Sebastien Ogier Volkswagen Motorsport Polo R WRC +00m 47.3s M
5. Mads Ostberg Citroen Total Abu Dhabi WRT DS3 WRC +01m 20.7s M
6. Elfyn Evans M-Sport WRT Ford Fiesta RS WRC +01m 38.6s M
7. Jari-Matti Latvala Volkswagen Motorsport Polo R WRC +02m 20.8s M
8. Mikko Hirvonen M-Sport WRT Ford Fiesta RS WRC +02m 47.2s M
9. Andreas Mikkelsen Volkswagen Motorsport II Polo R WRC +04m 06.2s M
10. Olivier Burri Ford Fiesta S2000 +04m 47.4s

Others

11. Jaroslav Melicharek Slovakia WRT Ford Fiesta RS WRC +05m 23.4s
12. Matteo Gamba Peugeot 207 S2000 +06m 01.7s
13. Matthieu Margaillan Skoda Fabia S2000 +06m 18.8s
14. Sebastien Chardonnet Citroen DS3 R3T +07m 04.1s
15. Yuriy Protasov Ford Fiesta R5 +07m 25.2s WRC2

WRC2 standings after Stage 6 (Top 3):

1. Yuriy Protasov Ford Fiesta R5 1h 33m 01.8s WRC2
2. Armin Kremer Ford Fiesta R5 +00m 36.1s WRC2
3. Lorenzo Bertelli Ford Fiesta R5 +02m 00.0s WRC2

WRC3 standings after Stage 6:

1. Quentin Gilbert Citroen DS3 2h 22m 52.8s WRC3

Notable retirements:

SS1. Thierry Neuville Hyundai Motorsport i20 WRC Went off the road M
SS1. Francois Delecour Ford Fiesta RS WRC Retired
SS2. Martin Prokop Jipocar Czech National Team Ford Fiesta RS WRC Mechanical M
SS5. Dani Sordo Hyundai Motorsport i20 WRC Mechanical M

M denotes Manufacturer entry

all times unofficiali>