Bryan Bouffier continues to lead Rallye Monte Carlo following the opening loop this morning, although Sebastien Ogier has closed and is now second overall.

Bouffier began the second day with a 38.8 second advantage, and while he conceded 11.7 seconds to Ogier in SS7, he was quicker than the reigning WRC champion in SS8, edging him out by 0.2 seconds.

The M-Sport Ford Fiesta RS WRC pilot now heads back to Gap for the 30 minute service with his lead standing at 35.8 seconds.

"We had a really good morning. We've been able to set some really competitive times and I am really happy with that," said Bouffier. "Of course Ogier is very quick so we need to keep an eye on him, but I think that we can be very pleased with the job we have done this morning.

"It is great to be in the battle. I'm doing my best and the times have been good. There is a long way to go so we will need to be a little bit clever, but at the moment, everything is perfect."

Ogier concluded day one in fourth - 47.3 seconds off P1, but moved up to second in the first test when he was fastest in his Volkswagen Polo R WRC. He reported some 'big slides' in SS7 and also had a moment at the end of SS8 and went off at the finish as there was a slippery patch of asphalt. Mads Ostberg also had a similar problem at the end of Selonnet-Breziers - he remains fifth in his Citroen DS3 WRC.

Meanwhile, Britain's Kris Meeke and former F1 pilot Robert Kubica are locked in a close fight for third, now split by just 0.8 seconds. Meeke pulled ahead a bit in SS7, but then Kubica came back in the next test.

"We were a bit unlucky on the long stage [SS7] - I think that the tyre pressures we opted for were a bit too low," Kubica said back in service. "We thought that the conditions would be drying. We set some really good times in the beginning when the tyre temperature was good, but then there was some really having rain. The surface became really slippery and there was a lot of aquaplaning. We lost a lot of time there, but I still have to be pleased because the pace was very good.

"We're not taking any risks and when I don't feel confident I'm backing off quite a lot. Although we did have one moment at a really bumpy corner. We landed awkwardly after the crest and were very lucky not to have any significant damage. But everything is OK and that is the most important thing.

"To be so close to the world champion, I am of course very happy, but there is still a long way to go. Our primary aim is to be here at the end of the event, and I hope to achieve that."

Behind, Jari-Matti Latvala has moved up to sixth, demoting Elfyn Evans to seventh. Evans however, remains in front of team leader, Mikko Hirvonen - the Finn 55.5 seconds adrift in the other M-Sport WRT-run Fiesta RS WRC. Hirvonen had visibility issues in SS8.

"It's really frustrating to have a problem like this. There was an issue with the windscreen towards the end of the first stage [SS7] but it didn't affect me too badly. Then the temperature was so much lower on the next one [SS8] that the windscreen was completely misted for the whole stage," he noted. "We need to look on the positive side though. The pace was better at the beginning of the long stage [SS7], so I am a little bit happier with that. We're still here, and that is the main thing."

"It's been another difficult morning for us with very tricky conditions," Evans added. "We opted for the supersoft tyre for both stages, but certainly on the last stage [SS8], the snow cross would have been the more favourable option. Unfortunately we were too late making the decision and suffered as a consequence of that."

Andreas Mikkelsen and Jaroslav Melicharek round out the top ten, the latter gaining a position after Olivier Burri retired in the opening stage of the day.

In the support categories, Yuriy Protasov continues to head the WRC2 class, despite having to stop in SS7 and change a puncture. He slipped to third as a result, with Armin Kremer taking over at the top, until he too had a puncture, but in SS8. Kremer now lies third, with Lorenzo Bertelli second - 11 seconds off Protasov. In WRC3, Quentin Gilbert remains on course for the 'victory' - although there are no other runners in the class.

Friday's action now continues at 13.09 hours local time, with a second run through the 49.03 km Vitrolles-Faye test (SS9) - the longest of the event. Competitors then tackle Sisteron-Thoard (SS10, 36.85km) before heading to a re-group and on to Culmanc-Lambruisse (SS11, 20.77 km) - the last stage of the day. SS11 is due to start at 18.00 hours local time.

Rallye Monte Carlo: Overall standings after Stage 8 (Top 10):

1. Bryan Bouffier M-Sport Ltd Ford Fiesta RS WRC 2h 08m 58.4s
2. Sebastien Ogier Volkswagen Motorsport Polo R WRC +00m 35.8s M
3. Kris Meeke Citroen Total Abu Dhabi WRT DS3 WRC +00m 59.6s M
4. Robert Kubica RK M-Sport WRT Ford Fiesta RS WRC +01m 00.4s M
5. Mads Ostberg Citroen Total Abu Dhabi WRT DS3 WRC +02m 17.1s M
6. Jari-Matti Latvala Volkswagen Motorsport Polo R WRC +02m 57.1s M
7. Elfyn Evans M-Sport WRT Ford Fiesta RS WRC +03m 55.3s M
8. Mikko Hirvonen M-Sport WRT Ford Fiesta RS WRC +04m 50.8s M
9. Andreas Mikkelsen Volkswagen Motorsport II Polo R WRC +05m 06.2s M
10. Jaroslav Melicharek Slovakia WRT Ford Fiesta RS WRC +09m 49.0s

Others

11. Matteo Gamba Peugeot 207 S2000 +10m 46.9s
12. Sebastien Chardonnet Citroen DS3 R3T +13m 35.2s
13. Yuriy Protasov Ford Fiesta R5 +14m 33.0s WRC2
14. Lorenzo Bertelli Ford Fiesta R5 +14m 44.0s WRC2
15. Armin Kremer Ford Fiesta R5 +16m 33.9s WRC2

WRC2 standings after Stage 8 (Top 3):

1. Yuriy Protasov Ford Fiesta R5 2h 23m 31.4s WRC2
2. Lorenzo Bertelli Ford Fiesta R5 +00m 11.0s WRC2
3. Armin Kremer Ford Fiesta R5 +02m 00.9s WRC2

WRC3 standings after Stage 8:

1. Quentin Gilbert Citroen DS3 3h 13m 20.0s 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 unofficial