Ogier closes in on Monte Carlo, Latvala knocks down fan

Triple world champion Sebastien Ogier eased closer to a fourth Monte Carlo Rally title on Saturday as his rivals faltered in spectacular fashion with teammate Jari-Matti Latvala accidentally mowing down a spectator.

French driver Ogier, behind the wheel of a Volkswagen Polo, will go into Sunday’s final day with the best part of a two-minute lead over Norwegian teammate Andreas Mikkelsen.

Hyundai’s Belgian driver Thierry Neuville is third, 2min 12.2sec off the lead.

It was a miserable day in the Alps for fellow VW driver Latvala and Citroen’s Kris Meeke who had been placed second behind Ogier on Friday.

Latvala retired from the race with a broken suspension after planting his car in a water-filled ditch on the 11th stage.

Although the Finn managed to repair the damage, he was eventually forced to withdraw after realising he would not be able to make the start of the 12th stage in time.

That was not the end of his problems, however, as footage soon emerged of him accidentally crashing into a spectator as he exited the ditch before continuing on his way.

The fan did not appear to be injured although the incident became an instant internet hit.

Meeke retired his Citroen on the 12th stage after damaging his gearbox when he too slipped off the track.

“It’s a shame for Kris as he was very fast this weekend and we had to produce a big performance to stay ahead of him,” said Ogier, who captured just one of the day’s five stages in the tricky muddy, icy conditions.

“It was an exciting fight. Now it’s a different rally for me, I just have to concentrate on getting to the finish.”

Ogier’s astute tactics also paid dividends, driving with two studded tyres for better grip, especially on the tough descents.

Meeke had cut the gap on Ogier to just 26.8sec when he claimed the 11th stage.

“Your instinct is to try to read the road but it’s difficult here. There was a lot of black ice but in other areas it was melting and quite wet,” said the Northern Irishman.

Three stages will be raced on Sunday morning.

Standings:

1. Sebastien Ogier-Julien Ingrassia (FRA/VW Polo-R) 3hr 19min 05.7sec, 2. Andreas Mikkelsen-Anders Jaeger Synnevag (NOR/VW Polo-R) at 1:59.7, 3. Thierry Neuville-Nicolas Gilsoul (BEL/Hyundai i20) 2:12.2, 4. Mads Ostberg-Ola Floene (NOR/Ford Fiesta RS) 4:25.9, 5. Stephane Lefebvre-Gabin Moreau (FRA/Citroën DS3) 7:29.4, 6. Bryan Bouffier-Victor Bellotto (FRA/Ford Fiesta RS) 9:12.9, 7. Ott Tänak-Raigo Molder (EST/Ford Fiesta RS) 10:42.3, 8. Dani Sordo-Marc Marti (ESP/Hyundai i20) 10:44.5, 9. Elfyn Evans-Craig Parry (GBR/Ford Fiesta R5) 17:14.5

Retired:

Robert Kubica-Maciek Szczepaniak (POL/Ford Fiesta RS), Jari-Matti Latvala-Miikka Anttila (FIN/VW Polo-R), Kris Meeke-Paul Nagle (GBR-IRL/Citroën DS3)

Stage winners:

Ogier 6 (SS1, SS3, SS5, SS6, SS8, SS9), Meeke 4 (SS2, SS4, SS7, SS11), Mikkelsen 1 (SS10), Neuville 2 (SS12, SS13)

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