Sebastien Ogier and Julien Ingrassia notched up their fifth consecutive Rallye Monte-Carlo victory this afternoon, their sixth overall win on home soil. The French reigning FIA World Rally Champions arrived back in the Principality 58.3 seconds ahead of Toyota newcomers Ott Tanak and Martin Jarveoja who finished a career best on the event. Teammates Jari-Matti Latvala and Miikka Anttila rounded out the podium on what has been one of the trickiest and incident-packed “Montes” in years.
After the season opener Ogier takes an eight-point lead over former teammate Tanak in the Drivers’ Championship with Latvala and Kris Meeke on equal points, one point further behind. M-Sport Ford and Toyota are also on equal points at the head of the Manufacturers’ Championship, 15 points ahead of Citroën who are in turn four points ahead of Hyundai, the team having a disappointing start to their Championship campaign.
With just the final two stages to run, Ogier was able to control the pace and the Frenchman was also aware he didn’t have the optimum tires to fight for victory in the Power Stage.
“It’s been a difficult weekend,” he said. “Often in Monte Carlo you have to face hard conditions but this was extremely hard. I’ve never struggled so much with tire choices, but in the end we win and I’m super happy with that. Every driver did mistakes this weekend; I did too – just a few less.”
Tanak was delighted with his performance on his debut outing with the Japanese manufacturer. Not prepared to risk his best finish in Monte Carlo, the Estonian was relieved to start the season with a top result having had a really good feeling with the car and an almost faultless rally. Latvala was also cautious, determined to start the season on a high and kick-start his campaign with important points.
Behind the leading trio, drama unfolded in the closing two stages. Kris Meeke was able to hold off a charging Thierry Neuville, who won the pair of stages and ultimately came to within 10.7 seconds of overhauling the Briton. Both were set to finish fifth and seventh respectively, until Esapekka Lappi dropped time in the first stage with an off into a snow bank, and then crucially threw away fourth in the Power Stage when he went off the road and plummeted to seventh. Both Meeke and Neuville moved up a position and, with the pace Neuville was setting, he also overhauled Elfyn Evans in the Power Stage to take fifth overall by one second. Bryan Bouffier also had an off-road excursion; he finished eighth with Craig Breen ninth for Citroën.
Jan Kopecky claimed 10th overall and maximum points in the FIA WRC 2 Championship category, and Enrico Brazzoli won the FIA WRC 3 Championship for two-wheel drive cars.
The FIA World Rally Championship contenders now head to more snow in the Scandinavian forests for Rally Sweden (15-18 February).