Sebastien Ogier’s lead of the 2018 World Rally Championship season opener has been cut back to under 40 seconds by Ott Tanak as the hunt for victory intensifies at Rallye Monte-Carlo.

The M-Sport Ford driver and defending WRC champion enjoyed a clean pair of stages to retain his lead despite a charge from Toyota debutant Tanak but sees his general classification lead trimmed down to 39.5 seconds with five stages remaining.

Tanak clinched his fourth stage victory of the event on SS11 Agnieres-en-Devoluy – Corps 2 despite being one of four different WRC front-runners to go wide into a field at the same point on the stage.

Jari-Matti Latvala has been allowed to strengthen his grip on third place after Toyota team-mate Esapekka Lappi picked up a puncture on SS11 and was forced into a quick wheel change which saw the Finn drop to fifth behind Citroen’s Kris Meeke.

M-Sport Ford’s Elfyn Evans has continued his climb up the overall order after a disastrous opening pair of stages at Rallye Monte-Carlo to take sixth place off of fellow M-Sport driver Bryan Bouffier, while Hyundai’s Thierry Neuville is closing in on Bouffier for seventh place after winning SS12.

Craig Breen remains a distant ninth place for Citroen with WRC2 leader Jan Kopecky keeping hold of a top ten finish for Skoda.