Ogier set for victory as Meeke and Latvala retire


Triple defending world champion Sebastien Ogier appears destined to begin the 2016 WRC campaign with a comfortable victory after opening up an advantage of almost two minutes at the Monte Carlo Rally.

Ogier led by nine seconds coming into Saturday's five stages, but the retirements of both Kris Meeke and Jari-Matti Latvala mean he goes into Sunday's action one minute and 59.7 seconds ahead of Andreas Mikkelsen.

Citroen's Meeke pulled out after sustaining gearbox damage on Saturday's penultimate stage, while Latvala was forced to withdraw with a suspension problem.

Ogier's Volkswagen team-mate slid into a water-filled ditch on stage 11 and damaged his front-left suspension, but after fitting a replacement he had to retire after realising he would be late for the start of stage 12.

After taking the opening stage to extend his lead over Meeke to 20 seconds, Ogier came second behind Volkswagen II's Mikkelsen on the next.

Meeke clawed back 3.4secs by winning stage 11, but lost further time on the Frenchman on the next and subsequently retired after going off the road briefly.

"[It was] something in the middle of the road touched the underneath of the car and ripped off the sump guard. This also damaged the gearbox," Meeke said.

Stage 13 went the way of  Hyundai's Thierry Neuville, with Ogier happy to take seventh place, safe in the knowledge that only a dramatic turn of events can prevent him beginning his quest for a fourth straight title with a victory.

"It's a shame for Kris," said Ogier. "He deserves better than that.

"It would have been better to carry on - it was an exciting fight. Well done to him. Now it is a different race for me - just to get to the end."

"I enjoyed driving here, the car was working perfectly," added Neuville, who is 12.5secs adrift of Mikkelsen.

"Can I get second tomorrow? That's not the aim. Third would be good for the team. I'm learning, finding the balance. The car has a lot of potential."