Motorsport

Neuville leads tragedy-hit Monte Carlo Rally

2017-01-20 21:50
Thierry Neuville (Getty Images)

Gap - Hyundai's Belgian driver Thierry Neuville held his overnight lead at the Monte Carlo Rally through Friday's series of specials, a day after a spectator was killed when struck by a car.

The 50-year-old Spanish fan was hit by the Hyundai driven by New Zealander Hayden Paddon as he took photos in a banned area.

Paddon's car was withdrawn from the race by Hyundai as a mark of respect, said the team.

Neuville led after Thursday night's abandoned special and started Friday poorly before clinching three straight specials to lead Ford's Sebastien Ogier by 45 seconds.

Local resident and four-time world champion Ogier slid off the road and got stuck in a ditch early Friday losing 40 seconds as he needed a push from spectators to get his Ford Fiesta going.

But he rallied when the race ran through his own neighbourhood by winning the seventh and eighth specials.

"We started the afternoon well but in SS7 we found our pace notes to be set up more for ice and snow, when the terrain was, in fact, more slushy," said Neuville.

"We lost too much time there. Then, in the final stage, we were going well until an engine stall at a hairpin that cost us around ten seconds during the restart procedure.

"It was not the best end to the day but we have to be happy to lead this rally by such a margin. It's never enough around Monte-Carlo, though, and we know that Seb and Ott will push us tomorrow. There's a long way to go, so we're not getting carried away."

Ott Tanak, in another Ford Fiesta, sits third overall and the Estonian won the tricky, opening third special on icy roads in the morning.

Monte Carlo is the first leg of the 2017 world rally championship.

Standings after SS8:

1. Thierry Neuville-Nicolas Gilsoul (BEL/Hyundai i20) 2hrs 05 min 24.6secs, 2. Sebastien Ogier-Julien Ingrassia (FRA/Ford Fiesta RS) at 45.1sec, 3. Ott Tanak-Raigo Molder (EST/Ford Fiesta RS) 45.4, 4. Jari-Matti Latvala-Miikka Anttila (FIN/Toyota Yaris) 2:09.7, 5. Dani Sordo-Marc Marti (ESP/Hyundai i20) 2:57.8, 6. Craig Breen-Scott Martin (IRL-GBR/Citron DS3) 3:04.1, 7. Elfyn Evans-Daniel Barritt (GBR/Ford Fiesta RS) 8:12.1

Retired

Hayden Paddon-John Kennard (NZL/Hyundai i20) SS1, Stphane Lefebvre-Gabin Moreau (FRA/Citron C3) SS2, Kris Meeke-Paul Nagle (GBR-IRL/Citron C3), broken suspension (SS4), Juho Hanninen-Kaj Lindstrom (FIN/Toyota Yaris), damaged wing (SS5)

Stage winners:

Ogier (SS7, SS8), Tanak (SS3), Neuville (SS2, SS4, SS5, SS6)

Note: SS1 cancelled

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