Sebastien Ogier leads the Monte Carlo Rally after a dramatic opening night of the 2018 World Rally Championship, despite a spin on the opening stage.
Ogier spun his Fiesta in a slow right-hander on the tricky first test but was still quickest as his rivals hit more significant trouble.
He beat Hyundai’s Andreas Mikkelsen by 7.7 seconds on the opening stage and then edged Thierry Neuville by 1.4s to win the second of two-night stages.
His main 2017 title rival Neuville lost over four minutes on the opening stage, after a lengthy stoppage in the ditch.
“I got stuck on a snow bank,” he said at the stage end.
“I pulled the handbrake but locked all four wheels and went off wide. There were only a few people around. I had to wave some over to help so it took time to get back again. It’s part of the game.”
He has dropped among the WRC2 runners in the overall classification.
His Hyundai team-mates Andreas Mikkelsen and Dani Sordo sit second and third in the standings.
Ogier leads Mikkelsen by 17.3s, with 2018 part-timer Sordo 25.6s adrift of the Frenchman.
Toyota young gun Esapekka Lappi was third fastest on the opening test, he dropped to fourth after the second stage but is still the highest-placed Toyota.
His new team-mate Ott Tanak completes the top five in the overall classification, he hit a bank and took damage to the front of his Yaris.
Jari-Matti Latvala made it three consecutive Toyota’s in the order in sixth place. He also hit trouble in the first test, with a brace of spins and stalls. He also caught the wounded Neuville in the icy section.
Craig Breen was fastest through the opening stage, but he admitted he ‘made a mess.’ He sits seventh with Kris Meeke ninth behind Monte specialist Bryan Bouffier.
Meeke said “a stupid mistake in the first one. A stupid spin. I had a choice to handbrake but I chose to stop and reverse and backed into a ditch. Okay, that’s behind me now. A long rally to go.”
Evans was another big loser on a ‘disastrous’ night. He was forced to stop and change a punctured tyre on the first stage.
Eric Camilli leads the WRC2 class in his Fiesta R5.
The rally continues tomorrow with six further stages.