Sébastien Ogier held station on the fourth and final day of Rallye Monte-Carlo to claim victory in his first rally since changing to the M-Sport World Rally Team with co-driver Julien Ingrassia.
The four-time FIA World Rally Champion and local hero managed the tricky conditions through the final day, with unpredictable weather forcing difficult decisions on tyre choice.
The Frenchman was cautious throughout the day’s three stages and took his fourth consecutive Monte win, fifth in total, and the first for an M-Sport built WRC car since Rally Great Britain in over four years.
Behind him, the drama of the first event of the FIA World Rally Championship’s new era continued.
Ogier’s team mate Ott Tänak, who began the day in second place, suffered problems on the first stage, reporting that he was down to just two cylinders by the end of SS14. He was late into SS15 by six minutes, before losing over a minute on stage too. After his time penalty, the Estonian had dropped to third behind the Toyota of Jari-Matti Latvala by 34.8 seconds.
There was ultimately only one stage remaining after SS15, as the penultimate stage was cancelled for safety reasons due to too many spectators. Tänak had recovered some power by the start of the 21.36 kilometre Power Stage and drove spectacularly in the ever-worsening snowfall and icy roads. He finished with a massive slide out of the final corner of the rally to hold off a fast-finishing Dani Sordo in the lead Hyundai i20 Coupe, who picked up his first stage win of the event.
Jari-Matti Latvala delivered Toyota an amazing podium on the manufacturer’s return to the WRC from a 17-year hiatus. The TOYOTA GAZOO Racing driver inherited second after Tänak’s earlier woes, and managed the Yaris WRC on the treacherous roads to hold the position to the end.
It was a successful rally for all of the former Volkswagen drivers, with Andreas Mikkelsen taking the WRC 2 category win for Škoda by three minutes - and finishing an impressive seventh outright. The FIA WRC 3 Championship was won by Raphael Astier in his Peugeot 208.
In the FIA World Rally Championship, Ogier tops the standings with 25 points, heading Latvala and Tänak in second and third respectively. With the top two cars scoring points for the Manufacturers’ Championship, M-Sport takes a 16 point lead over TOYOTA GAZOO Racing. In the Power Stage, the early runners made the most of their much better conditions before the snow started falling heavily. Long-time rally leader, Hyundai’s Thierry Neuville, took the stage win by an impressive 30 seconds and collects five points towards the Drivers’ Championship, some consolation after such a fine run from the outset. With points available for the top five crews this year, Stéphane Lefebvre in the new Citroën C3 WRC picked up points ahead of Juho Hänninen, Eflyn Evans and Dani Sordo.
The second round of the FIA World Rally Championship takes the contenders to the only true winter event of the season, Rally Sweden (9-12 February).
Rallye Monte-Carlo – Final Unofficial Classification (subject to scrutineering)
1. Sébastien Ogier/Julien Ingrassia Ford Fiesta WRC 4hr 00min 03.6sec
2. Jari-Matti Latvala/Miikka Anttila Toyota Yaris WRC 4hr 02min 18.6sec
3. Ott Tänak/ Martin Järveoja Ford Fiesta WRC 4hr 03min 01.4sec
4. Dani Sordo/Marc Marti Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC 4hr 03min 39.4sec
5. Craig Breen/Scott Martin Citroën DS3 WRC 4hr 03min 51.4sec
6. Elfyn Evans/ Daniel Barritt Ford Fiesta WRC 4hr 06min 48.6sec
7. Andreas Mikkelsen/Anders Jæger Škoda Fabia R5 4hr 09min 36.3sec
8. Jan Kopecky/Pavel Dresler Škoda Fabia R5 4hr 13min 01.7sec
9. Stéphane Lefebvre/Gabin Moreau Citroën C3 WRC 4hr 14min 47.4sec
10. Bryan Bouffier/Denis Giraudet Ford Fiesta R5 4hr 16min 13.0sec