SÉBASTIEN OGIER OVERCAME A 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 2.2sec 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 4.3sec overnight deficit in his Hyundai i20 to trail the six-time world champion by 0.4sec 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 is the rally I want to win the most in the season, that is why I am 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 15sec 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 2min 30sec.
He eased clear of Sébastien Loeb’s i20 and Jari-Matti Latvala’s Yaris, split by 1.7sec in fourth and fifth. Kris Meeke rounded off the top six in another Yaris and claimed maximum bonus points after winning the final Wolf Power Stage.
WRC 2 Pro winner Gus Greensmith finished seventh ahead of WRC 2 frontman Yoann Bonato. Stéphane Sarrazin and Adrien Fourmaux completed the leaderboard.
Rally Sweden, the only pure winter round of the series, hosts the second round next month. It is based in Torsby on 14 – 17 February.