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Ogier edges Loeb after first day of Monte Carlo Rally

AFP logo AFP 1/20/2022 AFP
The cars line up in Monaco for the 90th Monte Carlo Rally © Valery HACHE The cars line up in Monaco for the 90th Monte Carlo Rally

Reigning world champion Sebastien Ogier, who is only taking part in a few events this season, led the way after the first two stages of the World Rally Championship (WRC) season-opener in Monte Carlo on Thursday.

The eight-time world champion clocked the first win in the new hybrid engine era in his Toyota, winning both stages to edge out another great champion of the past, Sebastien Loeb.

Ogier was 6.7 seconds quicker than his fellow Frenchman (M-Sport Ford) after the night stages which had their share of pitfalls with slippery turns, frost, and the famous Col de Turini, with Toyota teammate Elfyn Evans third fastest at 11.2sec. 

"Sensation not great (in the first special) a little better (in the second)," said 38-year-old Ogier, adding he was "happy to have finished" the challenging opening stages.

Loeb, who is only making a 'guest' appearance in Monte Carlo, won nine straight WRC titles between from 2004 to 2012 while Ogier has won eight of the last nine.

"We had fun, but it was very hard on the tyres, they overheated and afterwards I struggled to keep the car on track," said Loeb, competing less than a week after finishing second in the Dakar Rally in Saudi Arabia. 

"We had a good second stage, whereas in the first I was more careful, I was a little afraid of the frost," explained 47-year-old Loeb.

The rally marks the start of a new era with the cars switching to hybrid engines which, according to the WRC, use "100 per cent fossil-free fuel and sustainable energy supplies". 

The chassis specifications have also been changed so cars must be built round an "upgraded safety cell".

The rally resumes with a vengeance on Friday morning with six specials, including the ascent of the Col de la Couillole, the highest point of the event at 1678m.

ole/bsp/ea

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