Reigning FIA World Rally champion Sebastien Ogier claimed his sixth victory in a row at Rallye Monte-Carlo — and his first race for his new Citroen team — after a thrilling season opener which maintained drama all the way to the finish.
Ogier won the rally by only 2.2 seconds ahead of Hyundai’s Thierry Neuville, having started the final Power Stage with a fragile lead of 0.4s. On the event’s final day, the Frenchman also had to battle a defaulting throttle which affected the behavior of the car. Nonetheless, he finished second on the Power Stage, 1.7s faster than Neuville, to claim the championship’s lead on his first rally back with Citroen. It was also the manufacturer’s 100th WRC win, in the company’s 100th anniversary year.
Neuville fought hard in the intense battle at the front but he admitted that he definitely gave Ogier a bit of a present on Friday, when he made a small mistake on SS7. The Belgian’s little consolation is that he won’t be opening the road at the next event in Sweden.
On the Monte-Carlo podium for the third consecutive year was Ott Tanak. The Estonian was the leader of the rally up to the end of SS3 and scored seven stage wins with his Toyota over the course of the event, beating Sebastien Loeb and Jari-Matti Latvala in the fight for the podium.
Loeb, a seven-time winner on Rallye Monte-Carlo with his long-time partner Citroen, was putting his new Hyundai to the test for the first time in competition. The Frenchman, who had just returned from the Dakar Rally in Peru, set two fastest stage times and finished fourth overall.
Latvala was fifth, dropping in the rankings on the final day. The Finn said he wasn’t feeling happy with his driving and the setup of the car.
His new teammate Kris Meeke finished sixth in his Toyota debut after facing tire trouble on Saturday. Nonetheless, the driver from Northern Ireland won the final Power Stage to secure five bonus points, which put him fourth in the championship.
Gus Greensmith claimed seventh overall as well as the winner’s spot for M-Sport Ford WRT in the newly created FIA WRC 2 Pro category, one place ahead of Yoann Bonato in eighth, who took the FIA WRC 2 win. Stephane Sarrazin and Adrien Formaux completed the top 10.
Retirements included Esapekka Lappi, who faced mechanical problems, as well as Andreas Mikkelsen and Elfyn Evans, who both made driving errors.
Next up on the FIA Rally Championship calendar is Rally Sweden, February 14-17.
Rallye Monte-Carlo – Final unofficial results (subject to scrutineering):
|1||Sebastien Ogier / Julien Ingrassia||Citroen C3 WRC||3hr 21min 15.9sec|
|2||Thierry Neuville / Nicolas Gilsoul||Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC||3hr 21min 18.1sec|
|3||Ott Tänak / Martin Järveoja||Toyota Yaris WRC||3hr 23min 31.1sec|
|4||Sebastien Loeb / Daniel Elena||Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC||3hr 23min 44.1sec|
|5||Jari-Matti Latvala / Miikka Anttila||Toyota Yaris WRC||3hr 23min 45.8sec|
|6||Kris Meeke / Sebastian Marshall||Toyota Yaris WRC||3hr 26min 52.1sec|
|7||Gus Greensmith / Elliott Edmondson||Ford Fiesta R5||3hr 34min 20.5sec|
|8||Yoann Bonato / Benjamin Boulloud||Citroen C3 R5||3hr 35min 12.4sec|
|9||Stephane Sarrazin / Jacques-Julien Renucci||Hyundai i20 R5||3hr 35min 22.7sec|
|10||Adrien Fourmaux / Renaud Jamoul||Ford Fiesta R5||3hr 37min 19.3sec|