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Neuville heads Ogier after first Monte stage

Thierry Neuville sets the early standard for Hyundai from Sebastien Ogier and Toyota's Juho Hanninen as the 2017 World Rally Championship kicks off
Thierry Neuville has set the early standard for Hyundai as the 2017 World Rally Championship kicked off with an interrupted first night-time loop on the Monte Carlo Rally.

The Belgian was classified as the pace setter on both SS1 and SS2 though only after SS1 was cancelled following a crash for his team-mate Hayden Paddon.

Neuville had already completed the stage and was at the time fastest by 0.7secs from new Ford driver Sebastien Ogier, but with Paddon's Hyundai blocking the road after clipping a bank and rolling over, every other driver was granted the same time as the Frenchman.

Nevertheless, Neuville proceeded to stretch his lead to 8.5s from Ogier after topping SS2 as well, the 2016 runner-up establishing a comfortable early advantage in tricky conditions.

Behind Ogier, Juho Hanninen was a competitive third in the new Toyota Yaris just 15secs off the pace, with Citroen's Kris Meeke making it four manufacturers inside the top four in the new C3.

Ott Tanak completed the top five in the second of the Fiestas, ahead of M-Sport counterpart Elfyn Evans in the DMACK-shod machine.

Craig Breen followed up in seventh, the Irishman driving a Citroen DS3 on this event, ahead of Dani Sordo and Jari-Matti Latvala, the experienced Finn 14secs down on his Toyota counterpart.

Andrea Mikkelsen leads WRC2 for Skoda, four seconds ahead of team-mate Jan Kopecky.

Two manufacturer drivers failed to make it to the end of the first loop, with Paddon being joined on the sidelines by Stephane Lefebvre in the second of the new Citroens, the Frenchman having stopped on SS2.

Meanwhile, a spectator 'passed out' on SS1 close to where Paddon's Hyundai rolled, with the stage cancellation allowing emergency crews to reach him.



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