Thierry Neuville celebrated his 20th world rally win at Rallye Monte-Carlo on Sunday afternoon, banking a perfect score of 30 points alongside co-driver Martijn Wydaeghe.
The Hyundai i20 N star opened his 2024 FIA World Rally Championship title bid with a sublime performance in the French Alps, mastering the ice-patched mountain roads to head Toyota Gazoo Racing rival Sébastien Ogier by 16.1sec.
Neuville shrugged aside early engine issues before launching an attack on Saturday, overtaking both Ogier and his GR Yaris team-mate Elfyn Evans to storm into the lead with a slender 3.3sec advantage. A clean sweep of fastest times in Sunday’s final leg cemented his position ahead of the nine-time Rallye Monte-Carlo winner.
“I don’t have the words, to be honest,” beamed an elated Neuville after finishing the final stage on the iconic Col de Turini. “It was just so great this weekend, I felt so comfortable in the car.
“The whole team was doing an amazing job and I think the whole package was working really well. There are always things to improve so of course we need to continue working, but we are very happy to win this rally,” he added.
Ogier led for a single stage on Saturday afternoon, but the Frenchman could not repel Neuville despite his best efforts. “It’s been a nice battle with Thierry. Well done to him, he has been really fast this weekend,” he admitted.
Evans held the upper hand after the first two legs but time ebbed away from him on Saturday, not helped by a hybrid unit problem. He eventually finished 29.1sec behind his team-mate Ogier.
Ott Tänak placed fourth on his first rally back in Hyundai colours. Mystery engine problems hindered the 2019 WRC champion throughout the rally although a stage win on Saturday morning proved his potential with the i20 N car.
Adrien Fourmaux equalled his career-best result by finishing fifth overall in his M-Sport Ford Puma. Behind him was Hyundai’s Andreas Mikkelsen, with Takamoto Katsuta almost three minutes further back after sliding off the road on Friday.
Yohan Rossel claimed the WRC2 victory with a last-gasp Wolf Power Stage push, climbing to eighth overall in the process. He passed Pepe López in the finale while Nikolay Gryazin rounded out the top 10. Jan Černý took victory in WRC3 and Mauro Miele won the WRC Masters Cup, while López topped the WRC2 Challenger standings.
Round two of the WRC takes place on the snow and ice of Sweden. The series’ only pure winter fixture is based in Umeå on 15 – 18 February.
1. T Neuville / Martijn Wydaeghe BEL Hyundai i20 N 3h 9m 30.9s
2. S Ogier / V Landais FRA Toyota GR Yaris +16.1s
3. E Evans / S Martin GBR Toyota GR Yaris +45.2s
4. O Tänak / M Järveoja EST Hyundai i20 N +1m 59.8s
5. A Fourmaux / A Coria FRA Ford Puma +3m 36.9s
6. A Mikkelsen / T Eriksen NOR Hyundai i20 N +5m 34.6s
Drivers’ championship standings (after round 1 of 13):
1. T Neuville 30pts
2. S Ogier 24pts
3. E Evans 21pts