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Having completed SS12, Kris Meeke's Citroen developed gearbox problems, href=hhttp://www.crash.net/wrc/news/226234/1/heartbreak-as-meeke-retires-from-monte-carlo-rally.html target=_blank>forcing him to retire
Sebastien Ogier is well on course for victory on the Monte Carlo Rally as Kris Meeke and Jari-Matti Latvala are forced to retire.
Having swelled his advantage to 30.1secs over Kris Meeke on the 68km morning loop, though Ogier had his advantage pulled back slightly as Meeke went marginally faster on both SS11, the tables were turned in SS12 as both largely struggled in the icy conditions.
Though the Abu Dhabi Racing Citroen driver suffered a brief off on SS12, with only the leg-concluding Sisteron stage remaining today, the margin between the two stands at 29.1secs.
The big news on the afternoon loop, however, was the exit of third place Jari-Matti Latvala, who was flying through SS11 when he ran wide into a water gully, struck a dirt mound and was pulled into a field. Damaging his front suspension – and even clipping a spectator at low speed as he tried to recover -, Latvala got to the end of the stage with a loss of almost 2mins, but while he attempted to repair the damage, he wouldn't make it to the start of SS12.
His exit has promoted VW team-mate Andreas Mikkelsen back into third place, though the Norwegian's position isn't entirely safe after a storming SS12 effort from Thierry Neuville brought him back to within half a minute of his rival.
A first stage win for the new Hyundai i20, ironically it was Mikkelsen's studded tyre choice on the earlier run through St Leger – which he topped by a mammoth 44secs – that would inspire a few other drivers, including Neuville, to take a similar risk in the afternoon. As a result, the Belgian was quickest from his team-mates Hayden Paddon and Dani Sordo, followed by Mikkelsen and Mads Ostberg. As a measure of the disparate conditions, the more cautious Ogier and Meeke were 46 and 48secs slower than Neuville through the 17km test.
Moving up into the top five is Mads Ostberg, ahead of Stefan Lefebvre, the young Frenchman coming under pressure from his countryman Bryan Bouffier, who is just four seconds behind in seventh. Ott Tanak and Sordo – who was delayed by a puncture earlier in the day – are eighth and ninth.
Rounding out the top ten and heading up WRC2 is Elfyn Evans still, the Welshman carefully working his way through both stages to manage his speed. Fortunately for him, his two closest rivals – Armin Kremer and Yoann Bonato – would hit trouble in SS12, allowing Evans to swell his lead to almost two minutes.