© Reuters. FIA World Rally Championship – Rally Sweden
(Reuters) – Seven-time world champion Sebastien Ogier was ready for an eighth rally win in Monte Carlo after taking the lead from Toyota team-mate Elfyn Evans at the season opener on Saturday.
The Frenchman, who was born and raised in Gap, where the rally is located north of the Mediterranean Principality, built a 13-second lead over Welshman Evans with the remaining four stages on Sunday.
The Finnish driver Kalle Rovanpera completed a Toyota sweep in third place, 56.8 seconds before the lead after the three stages of the day on snow and ice covered asphalt in the foothills of the French Alps.
"The conditions in the opening phase this morning were very difficult," said Ogier, who won this ninth phase. "In some corners we didn't have the feeling that we had any lugs in our tires.
Evans retired for a while at the end of the stage and won the last stage.
"I really needed that," he said. "I didn't have the money yet, but we'll try to keep the pressure up tomorrow."
Hyundai's Ott Tanak, the 2019 world champion, who won the first two stages on Thursday, retired from the race for the second time in a row after starting the third day.
The Estonian ended with less drama than the severe fall of last year, this time having to retire after two punctures on successive stages and only one replacement.
That left him with tires too worn to continue on public roads and no way to get back on Sunday.
"We tried to put the first damaged tire back on the car to make the stretch of road, but it didn't last long," said Tanak. "We couldn't do much more. We made it to service, but had to take the car out of traffic."
Belgian team-mate Thierry Neuville, last year's Monte Carlo winner, won the middle stage of the day and moved up to fourth overall and seven seconds before the final podium.
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic and in compliance with a French curfew, the rally will take place in the evening without spectators.
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