BFGoodrich Drivers' Team man Sebastien Ogier leads the Rallye Monte Carlo at the end of the second leg, having moved up into top spot in his Kronos-run Peugeot 207 S2000 in the final stage of the day.

Ogier, who is making his debut in the Intercontinental Rally Challenge this week, began Thursday's proceedings in fourth, but he benefitted this morning when Stephane Sarrazin, Nicolas Vouilloz and then Kris Meeke all hit trouble.

The Frenchman thus went into the mid-day service 'best of the rest' - over a minute behind long term rally leader, Juho Hanninen and around 12 seconds up on fellow Kronos runner, Freddy Loix in third.

In the afternoon Ogier continued to push on and was second quickest in SS7 and fifth in SS8, as he defended his runners-up spot. That then began first, when Hanninen suffered a front left puncture in SS9 and lost over 2 minutes.

Ogier will now go into the third and final leg on Friday with a 32.4 second cushion over Loix.

"It's been another good day but the biggest difficulty we consistently had was predicting how much grip was available," said Ogier. "Everything is constantly changing and it's impossible to have the information to cover every single possibility.

"We have already seen that this rally is completely unpredictable, and while I am obviously happy to be in the lead, there is no guarantee that this situation will last. I'm very aware of my own inexperience, both with the car and this event."

"I've got some experience of the Monte Carlo Rally from the past but actually it doesn't help me so much as every Monte Carlo is really different," added Loix. "This one is no exception.

"It's not been such a bad day for us but the conditions have been very tricky indeed and it's been hard to make the correct tyre choices. Tomorrow we have the Turini stages at night, which are sure to be a very big challenge, so the surprises are by no means over yet. We've got a good chance so we will push if the conditions suit us."

Hanninen meanwhile, despite winning three of the day's six stages in his Skoda Fabia S2000, now finds himself down in third - 54.8 seconds off the lead and 22.4 seconds off P2. He is also only fractionally in front of Britain's Kris Meeke, and only 4.4 seconds split the two going into service D tonight at Valence.

"It was a good day for us but a very disappointing way to end it," said Juho. "We picked up a front puncture not long after the start of the last stage but we decided not to stop and change it. That was actually the right decision, as we lost less time by continuing but of course it made the handling really unpredictable.

"We just drove carefully through the stage and back to service but although two minutes were lost everything is not over yet and we still have a chance so we will be pushing hard tomorrow. We have shown that our car has a competitive speed even in these really difficult conditions."

Toni Gardemeister is next up, albeit 40 seconds further back in his Astra Racing-run Fiat Grande Punto S2000.

Stephane Sarrazin ends the day sixth, having lost out big time this morning in SS4, when he went off the road. That incident cost him nearly 5 minutes and leaves him in a lonely position - 2 minutes off P5 and 30 seconds or so up on Jan Kopecky in seventh.

Of the rest Giandomenico Basso rounds out the top eight, the lead Abarth runner and only 7.2 seconds adrift of Kopecky, while Anton Alen and Franz Wittman Jr are ninth and tenth respectively.

In terms of retirements, the big scalp today was 2008 IRC champion, Nicolas Vouilloz. Having lost time this morning in SS4, he went out this afternoon after he hit a rock in SS7 and damaged the steering on his Peugeot Belgium 207 S2000. Vouilloz joins the likes of Didier Auriol and Luca Rossetti on the sidelines - both of whom retired on day 1 in the opening test.

The action now continues on Friday and the final leg includes five special stages and 138.04 competitive kilometres.



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