Ott Tänak lies a way down in 31st place at the season-opening Monte Carlo WRC rally after an unlucky morning which saw him lose over a minute due to a puncture tire, only to have to pull out two stages later as a result of an impact which damaged the front of the car.
One more day remains in the race, the first to use new hybrid regulations imposed by the FIA on all WRC cars.
Saturday comprised a total of five stages, with the final day of the race meeting, Sunday, adding four more.
Tänak and co-driver Martin Järveoja went in to Saturday's events in fifth place, but the day did not start well for the pair as the Hyundai i20 picked up a flat tire half-way through stage one at Le Fugeret.
Tänak opted not to change it and limping home more than a minute behind the leading pack. Elfyn Evans won the stage.
In the third stage on Saturday, the 11th of the race overall, the 20.79-kilometer Saint-Geniez / Thoard 1 section, Tänak was forced to pull out after a front impact. The Estonian had opted for soft tires, which worked well at lower altitudes in the dry but ran into trouble on snow higher up.
The two Sebastiens, Ogier and Loeb, are in first and second place going into day four, with Craig Breen in third, Finn Kalle Rovanperä (Toyota) in fourth Englishman Gus Greensmith (M-Sport Ford) in fifth place and Tänak's teammate at Hyundai Thierry Neuville in sixth place.
Thursday and Friday
On Friday, Tänak and co-driver Martin Järveoja finished seventh in the first shakedown stage, going back to service on two occasions to fix something with the new car, but all manufacturer teams had some issues.
Tänak and Järveoja could not find their proper footing in the two stages held in the evening, finishing ninth in the first stage and eighth in the second stage, trailing reigning world champion Sebastien Ogier (Toyota) by a total of 41.1 seconds.
"It was a tough start," Tänak said after the second stage. "We had some problems with the engine and then the hydraulics. Anyway, the list [of problems] is long. But at least we finished."
Tänak had passed Irishman Craig Breen in the Ford Puma on the last stage of Friday, saying afterwards that: "The biggest development is in terms of reliability. The car works relatively well," Tänak commented of the i20, modified in-line with the new hybrid regulations the sport imposed ahead of the 2022 season.
"Some experiments have a very high hold and we don't have the resources to develop it, but we're driving and that's positive."
Veteran driver Sebastien Loeb finished the day in first place in the Ford Puma, followed by another Sebastien, another veteran and Loeb's compatriot, eight-time and reigning WRC champion Sebastien Ogier (Toyota), Welshman Elfyn Evans (Toyota) and Tänak's teammate at Hyundai, Belgian Thierry Neuville, with Tänak next in fifth place and Breen in sixth.
The season sees new hybrid tech made mandatory for the first time, and the Estonians already got a chance to try out the modified Hyundai i20 along with their teammates late on last year.
Tänak missed the season finale in Monza, due to personal issues, and the last time he was in action was in October last year.
While the past two seasons with Hyundai have yielded disappointment at Monte Carlo, Tänak, 34, from Saaremaa, made the podium the preceding three seasons: 2017, 2018 and 2019 – the latter two with Toyota, the team he won the 2019 drivers' title with.
Readers with Estonia can follow ERR's sports portal's live blog here for updates.
The race stage timetable is as follows (stage name, distance, start time; completed stages in italics, with winners):
Test Sainte-Agnes / Peille 2.29 km 10.31 Ogier
SS1 Luceram / Lantosque 15.20 km 21.18 Ogier
SS2 La Bollene-Vesubie / Moulinet 23.25 km 22.31 Ogier
SS3 Roure / Beuil 1 18.33 km 10.14 Loeb
SS4 Guillaumes / Peone / Valberg 1 13.49 km 11.17 Loeb
SS5 Val-de-Chalvagne / Entrevaux 1 17.11 km 12.35 Loeb
SS6 Roure / Beuil 2 18.33 km 15.16 Loeb
SS7 Guillaumes / Peone / Valberg 2 13.49 km 16.19 Greensmith
SS8 Val-de-Chalvagne / Entrevaux 2 17.11 km 17.37 Ogier
SS9 Le Fugeret / Thorame-Haute 16.80 km 9.17 Evans
SS10 Saint-Jeannet / Malijai 1 17.04 km 11.08 Ogier
SS11 Saint-Geniez / Thoard 1 20.79 km 12.16 Ogier
SS12 Saint-Jeannet / Malijai 2 17.04 km 15.08 Rovanperä
SS13 Saint-Geniez / Thoard 2 20.79 km 16.16 Rovanperä
SS14 La Penne / Collongues 1 19.37 km 9.45
SS15 Brianconnet / Entrevaux 1 14.26 km 11.08
SS16 La Penne / Collongues 2 19.37 km 11.53
SS17 Brianconnet / Entrevaux 2 (PK) 14.26 km 13.18
The rest of the 2022 WRC calendar, including Tänak's own home rally in July, looks like this:
February 24-27: Rally Sweden.
April 21-24: Rally Croatia.
May 19-22: Rally de Portugal.
June 2-5: Rally Italia Sardegna.
June 23-26: Safari Rally Kenya.
July 14-17: Rally Estonia.
August 4-7: Rally Finland.
August 18-21: VENUE TO BE ANNOUNCED.
September 8-11: Acropolis Rally Greece.
September 29-October 2: Rally New Zealand.
October 20-23: Spain RACC Rally Catalunya de España.
November 10-13: Rally Japan.
Rally Sweden returns after a one-year absence, constituting the obligatory snow race held by Arctic Rally Finland last year, which Tänak won. Rally New Zealand returns after a 12-year absence and cancellation in the coronavirus-blighted 2020 season.
The new regulations for 2022, dubbed "Rally 1", require more standardization of components as well as the installation of a 100Kw e-moter fitted to the standard 1.6-liter inline four-cylinder turbo engines.
While the e-motor can be used, subject to FIA regulations, to provide additional power in-race, it MUST be used on its own when traveling through built-up zones between stages, and while traversing service parks.
Changes have also been made to safety regulations.
As last season, Tänak's teammates at Hyundai are Thierry Neuville (Belgium), Dani Sordo (Spain) and Oliver Sollberg (Sweden), competing against M-Sport Ford WRT and Toyota Gazoo Racing.
Tänak finished fifth in the 2021 season, winning one race, the Arctic Rally Finland in February.
This article was updated to include results from Thursday, Friday and Saturday's stages at Rally Monte Carlo.
Editor: Andrew Whyte