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Thierry Neuville has taken the lead of Rallye Monte Carlo after a spectacular time on the second stage of the event. Neuville had initially lost time on the first stage before going 25 seconds faster than his nearest rival on the icy Bayons-Breziers test. “We have started the new season with some very tricky conditions on these opening Monte stages," Neuville said at the end of the day. "At the beginning of the first one the road was dirty, and I was a bit confused. There were a lot of cuts I didn’t have in my notes. The second stage was much better; I felt comfortable. "The conditions towards the end changed quite a lot compared to the information we had, but I just tried to analyse the situation, to keep calm and to read the road as best I could. I thought our tyre choice would be good for the second run; our car was set up quite soft and, in the end, we could set a good time,” he added. Six-time champion, Sebastien Ogier relinquished his lead from SS1 but was still able to finish the day in second position. Ott Tanak sits third, and is rapidly trying to adjust to the Hyundai i20 in brand new conditions. The snow and ice forced many to take studded tyres, with the gamble not paying off over the loop. Elfyn Evans was the main front runner to take studs, and subsequently sits in fourth. Although a relatively uneventful start to the event, M-Sport's drivers all suffered big time loss in the Monte night. Each car picked overheating issues on the first stage after stageside leaves blocked the car's intake.

Teemu Suninen's Rallye Monte Carlo didn't last long. He was forced to retire with transmission issues. Photo: Leo Francis

The second stage did not fare any better for them as Teemu Suninen and Jarmo Lehtinen were forced to stop with transmission issues forcing their retirement. Youngster Gus Greensmith also lost a huge chunk of time after being forced to stop midway through the stage and is now almost three minutes off leader Neuville. Teenager Kalle Rovanpera finished the day in seventh ahead of the WRC3 leader Eric Camilli in eighth. Friday's stages begin at 8:30am local time, and will include six challenging stages.

LEADERBOARD AFTER SS2

1. Thierry Neuville/Nicolas Gilsoul (Hyundai) 26m 23.5s 2. Sebastien Ogier/Julien Ingrassia (Toyota) +19.1s 3. Ott Tänak/Martin Jarveoja (Hyundai) +25.1s 4. Elfyn Evans/Scott Martin (Toyota) +25.4s 5. Sebastien Loeb/Daniel Elena (Hyundai) +51.0s 6. Esapekka Lappi/Janne Ferm (M-Sport Ford) +1m07.8s 7. Kalle Rovanperä/Jonne Halttunen (Toyota) +1m18.5s 8. Eric Camilli/Francois-Xavier Buresi (Citroën) +1m58.6s 9. Mads Ostberg/Torstein Eriksen (Citroën) +1m59.6s 10. Stephane Sarrazin/Kevin Parent (Hyundai) +2m19.6s  
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