(Reuters) - Toyota’s Sebastien Ogier seized the Monte Carlo Rally lead on Friday while world champion Ott Tanak faced a night in hospital after rolling his Hyundai spectacularly out of the season-opening event.
Hyundai said in a statement that the Estonian and co-driver Martin Jarveoja, who were able to exit the car unassisted after the accident 9.2km into the 20.68km fourth stage, were fine.
“The Estonians will be kept in hospital overnight for precautionary monitoring and will take no further part in Rallye Monte-Carlo,” the team added.
Camera footage showed the Hyundai careering off the road and barrel-rolling into trees before coming to rest more than 100m down the French Alpine hillside.
Tanak won the championship with Toyota last season and the season-opening Monte Carlo rally is his competitive debut with Hyundai, the reigning manufacturers’ champions.
The Estonian had been third overall after Thursday’s opening night stages.
“We are recovering well and will be fit soon,” said Tanak.
“We had some moments already before the accident... in the first stage this morning, we were caught out by black ice where we had a spin,” he added.
“I must say it was proper Monte-Carlo; we really had some tricky conditions and it’s been challenging. I’m sure everyone had some moments and it’s normal in these kinds of conditions.”
Tanak’s Belgian team mate Thierry Neuville had led overnight but Toyota debutant Elfyn Evans ousted him from the top after going fastest in the three morning stages.
Team mate Ogier, a seven-times Monte Carlo winner, then took over by winning two stages to take a slender 1.2 second margin following the afternoon loop.
“This morning I was a little bit cautious and was also having cautious information from my gravel crew,” said the Frenchman, who left Citroen at the end of last season.
“This afternoon we made some changes to the set-up and had a talk with our gravel crew and we were feeling more comfortable.”
Neuville won the day’s final stage and was third, 6.4 seconds behind, in a tight three-way battle at the top.
Saturday involves four timed stages totalling 75.20km.
Reporting by Alan Baldwin in London, editing by Toby Davis and Pritha Sarkar