Gap (AFP)

Estonian Ott Tänak took the lead on Thursday in the Monte-Carlo Rally by winning the first two specials on the program for the first day of the event, which opens the World Rally Championship (WRC) behind closed doors.

Ott Tänak (Hyundai), 2019 world champion, leads the Toyota of young Finnish Kalle Rovanperä and Briton Elfyn Evans, 2020 runner-up, after the two races totaling 41.36 km timed on wet roads in the Massif du Dévoluy, near Gap (south-eastern France).

"The first stage was not that bad, but the second was still very demanding with a lot of surprises. Overall the car is a lot more stable than last year and I had a much better feedback", appreciated Tänak, who had retired during the 4th special of the "Monte" last year after a spectacular accident.

Seven-time world champion and title holder Sébastien Ogier has not started in the best possible way.

On his home soil, the native of Gap is 5th 16.9 seconds behind Tänak after having a brake problem in the middle of the first special.

"From there it was difficult to let go, I was not confident," said the 37-year-old Toyota driver.

"I had my foot on the brake all the time because it was a bit untimely, it's weird what happened. We must not panic but it sure does not is not the ideal start to rally ".

The Belgian Thierry Neuville, winner of Monte-Carlo last year but who has just changed co-driver, is just ahead of Ogier in 4th place.

The other Frenchman entered in the WRC Pierre-Louis Loubet (Hyundai), finished 7th at 1 min 7 sec 8 / 10th for his first Monte-Carlo.

French too but starting with a WRC2, the lower category, Adrien Fourmaux started very well, in 9th place at 1 min 27 sec 2 / 10th.

With a less efficient car, Fourmaux is ahead of his M-Sport Ford teammates who started with a WRC, Gus Greensmith (10th), and Teemu Suninen, who rolled off the road while he held the best time in SS1.

The serious things will start on Friday with 104.70 km timed in five stages.

The first will start very early, at 6:10 a.m., in order to respect the curfew in force at 6:00 p.m. (5:00 p.m. GMT) in France.

© 2021 AFP