Frenchman wins closest Monte Carlo finish in history to open season in style.
Sébastien Ogier overcame late drama to secure his sixth consecutive Rallye Monte-Carlo victory in a spellbinding final stage shootout on Sunday afternoon.
He fended off Thierry Neuville by 2.2s in the closest Monte Carlo finish in history to clinch an emotional debut win on his return to Citroën. It marked the 100th world rally success for the French manufacturer.
A throttle sensor problem on his C3 World Rally Car hampered Ogier throughout the fourth and final leg of this opening round of the FIA World Rally Championship in the mountains above Monaco.
Neuville clawed back a 4.3s overnight deficit in his Hyundai i20 to trail the six-time world champion by 0.4s starting the final speed test.
Despite dropping behind the Belgian on the clock before the midpoint, Ogier battled back to extend his slender lead and claim his seventh Monte Carlo win in total, with four different manufacturers.
“It’s the rally I want to win the most in the season, that’s why I’m so happy now,” said Ogier, whose home town of Gap hosted the opening three days of the rally.
“It was tough today because we had a problem with a sticking throttle which was pushing the car when I was on the brakes. Six years in a row with three different cars – that’s not so bad!” he added.
Neuville could only reflect on a second-day overshoot which cost 15s and, ultimately, victory. “It was a close fight, but we gave him a nice present on Friday when we made a mistake and gave him the lead,” he said.
Snow, ice and dry asphalt in the French Alps prompted frequently contrasting tyre choices by the pair, but they were never split by more than a handful of seconds during a captivating final two legs of the four-day encounter.
Ott Tänak filled the bottom step of the podium in a Toyota Yaris. After a clean sweep of four stage wins on Saturday, the Estonian was fastest in today’s opening two tests to climb from fifth and leave him regretting a broken wheel rim on Friday which cost almost 2m 30s.
He eased clear of Sébastien Loeb’s i20 and Jari-Matti Latvala’s Yaris, split by 1.7s in fourth and fifth. Kris Meekerounded off the top six in another Yaris and claimed maximum bonus points after winning the final Wolf Power Stage.
Rally Sweden, the only pure winter round of the series, hosts the second round next month. It’s based in Torsby from February 14 – 17.
1. S Ogier / J Ingrassia FRA Citroën C3 3h 21m 15.9sc
2. T Neuville / N Gilsoul BEL Hyundai i20 +2.2s
3. O Tänak / M Järveoja EST Toyota Yaris +2m 15.2s
4. S Loeb / D Elena FRA Citroën C3 +2m 28.2s
5. J-M Latvala / M Anttila FIN Toyota Yaris +2m 29.9s
6. K Meeke / S Marshall GBR Toyota Yaris +5m 36.2s
FIA World Rally Championship (after round 1 of 14):
1. S Ogier 29pts
2. T Neuville 21pts
3. O Tänak 17pt
GUS GREENSMITH SECURED AN EMPHATIC WRC 2 PRO VICTORY AT RALLYE MONTE-CARLO AFTER A CLEAN RUN THROUGH SUNDAY’S FINAL FOUR STAGES.
The M-Sport Ford World Rally Team driver started the day with a lead of more than 14 minutes in his Fiesta after chief rival Kalle Rovanperä lost time following a crash on Thursday evening’s opening test.
Rovanperä won all of the day’s stages at the wheel of a Skoda Fabia R5 but couldn’t make a significant dent in Greensmith’s advantage. The Briton adopted a risk-free approach to secure his maiden world championship win by 13min 27.8sec.
Greensmith dedicated victory to former co-driver Craig Parry, who was forced to retire from rallying after a crash in testing for last year’s ADAC Rallye Deutschland.
“I’m dedicating this win to one man who deserves it as much as me. We did this together,” Greensmith said.
Bonato takes maiden WRC 2 win
Yoann Bonato took a comfortable first victory in the WRC 2 category after a trouble-free run in his Citroën C3.
The Frenchman finished more than two minutes ahead of Ford Fiesta pilot Adrien Fourmaux, on his first WRC appearance, after Guillaume de Mevius retired his C3 from second on SS14 with broken suspension.
De Mevius’ exit promoted Ford Fiesta pilot Adrien Fourmaux to the runner-up spot on the Frenchman’s first WRC appearance.
Ole Christian Veiby had a solid run in his Volkswagen Polo to finish third, more than two minutes ahead of Rhys Yates’ Skoda Fabia.
Nicolas Ciamin won all four of Sunday’s tests on his way to fifth in his Volkswagen Polo while Skoda Fabia driver Manuel Villa rounded out the top six.