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Ogier closes in on Monte-Carlo win
23 Jan 2015 16:04
Reigning World Rally champion Sebastien Ogier heads into the weekend stages of the Monte-Carlo Rally with victory in his sights following a disastrous final stage for nine-times king Sebastien Loeb.
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Loeb, who retired from rallying 15 months ago but is making a one-off guest appearance in the season-opening event, began day two with a 13.3secs cushion over Ogier.
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It proved to be a nip-and-tuck affair between Loeb and Ogier over the first four stages of the day - stages three to six overall.
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Come the final stage, though, disaster struck for Loeb when he hit a rock in his Citroen DS3 which damaged the left-rear suspension, resulting in him losing six minutes and dropping to 10th overall.
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It means Ogier's nearest challenger heading into day three, and with the prospect of more drama to come given the foggy, icy, and at times snowy conditions, is Volkswagen team-mate Jari-Matti Latvala, albeit with the Finn one minute and 45 seconds adrift.
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Loeb started the day with a storming drive on the opening stage to increase his advantage to 28 seconds over Ogier, which was trimmed to 24 after the next stage headed by Robert Kubica.
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Kubica had finished day one in a miserable 66th position following torment when his Ford Fiesta RS encountered electrical problems.
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That included the Pole being pulled over by the police at one stage for driving without lights.
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But Kubica showed on his day he is a driver to be highly respected as he also won two further stages, only to encounter more trouble on the last of the day via two separate incidents, including hitting a tree.
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Out in front, though, it was proving to be a straight fight between Loeb and Ogier, with the seven-times Monte winner losing 21 seconds on stage five, but then winning stage six to eke out a 6.6secs lead.
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On stage seven, though, Loeb suffered a spin that resulted in him dropping 14.6secs to Ogier, and with it the lead to instead fall eight seconds back, before hitting his major trouble on stage eight.
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Under WRC regulations Loeb may yet be forced to take an additional 10-minute penalty if he is unable to return to the service area.
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Behind the leaders is another Volkswagen driver in Andreas Mikkelsen in third, with Welshman Elfyn Evans sixth in his Ford Fiesta RS, three minutes and 15 seconds back.
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Northern Ireland's Kris Meeke, running fourth after stage seven, endured a wretched stage eight as like Loeb he damaged the left-rear suspension on his Citroen DS3, failing to cross the line.
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