Racing calendars change from year to year, but most series have a race they couldn’t do without: the Monaco Grand Prix for F1, the Daytona 500 for NASCAR and for the World Rally Championship, the Monte Carlo Rally. Winning the Monte brings its own measure of bragging rights, but locking out the podium is another story altogether. And that’s just what Volkswagen did this weekend on the Côte d’Azur.
The 2015 Rally Monte Carlo marked the first competitive outing for the new Polo R WRC, and promptly became a success story. For the first two days of the Rally Monte Carlo, fans were kept on the edge of their seats by the duel raging between the two Sebs. The double world champion Sébastien Ogier saw off an initial challenge from rally legend Sébastien Loeb, seven times a winner of this opening round of the FIA World Rally Championship, before skillfully managing his pace in snow and ice to win the four-day event by 58.0 sec.
“Winning Monte-Carlo means a lot for every driver, but especially for me,” he said. “It’s the most important rally of the season. The weather makes it a huge challenge but the satisfaction is great when you make it. This event had the best atmosphere I have experienced on a rally,” added Ogier, who grew up near the host town of Gap. “When I drove the stage close to my home village the atmosphere was magical.”
Ogier, driving a Volkswagen Polo R, headed team-mate Jari-Matti Latvala with Norway’s Andreas Mikkelsen securing a 1-2-3 for the German manufacturer a further 1min 14.3 sec behind. This makes Volkswagen only the fifth manufacturer ever to have achieved this feat at the “Monte”.
The Frenchman traded times with fellow countryman Loeb over the first seven special stages until the Citroen driver hit a rock and broke his DS 3’s rear suspension.
The one-two-three at the 2015 Rally Monte Carlo was Volkswagen’s 23rd victory with the Polo R WRC and the eleventh time the manufacturer has had more than one car on the podium since it joined the series in 2013.
Jari-Matti Latvala and Miikka Anttila enjoyed an almost perfect end to the Rally Monte Carlo. They clocked the third fastest time on the closing Power Stage. With bonus points on offer to the fastest three cars, the Finnish duo picked up another valuable point towards the World Championship.
Tire selection proved as tricky as ever in the frequently changing conditions, but Latvala never put a foot wrong and was delighted to finish runner-up after admitting before the start he would be satisfied with a top five finish. After a cautious opening, Mikkelsen surged into third and finished 31.3 sec ahead of Mads Ostberg’s DS 3, the Norwegian suffering engine issues that twice forced him to stop mid-stage to reset the power unit.
The Hyundai Shell World Rally Team drivers Thierry Neuville and Dani Sordo were embroiled in one of the closest battles of the entire rally, as they fought for fifth place right up to the final stage of the rally. Just 0.2s separated the team-mates heading into the Power Stage but it was Neuville who eventually took the position by 0.8s. Elfyn Evans fought back from broken suspension on his Ford Fiesta RS to take seventh, ahead of the recovering Loeb.
Robert Kubica showed blistering pace to win four stages. However, an opening night retirement when he stopped with electrical issues after hitting a tree was followed by a second retirement when he crashed at the finish of the penultimate test after brake problems.
FIA Rally World Championship (WRC),
Rally Monte Carlo – Final Results
1. Sébastien Ogier/Julien Ingrassia (F/F), Volkswagen 3h 36m 40.2s
2. Jari-Matti Latvala/Miikka Anttila (FIN/FIN), Volkswagen + 58.0s
3. Andreas Mikkelsen/Ola Fløene (N/N), Volkswagen + 2m 12.3s
4. Mads Østberg/Jonas Andersson (N/S), Citroën + 2m 43.6s
5. Thierry Neuville/Nicolas Gilsoul (B/B), Hyundai + 3m 12.1s
6. Dani Sordo/Marc Martí (E/E), Hyundai + 3m 12.9s
7. Elfyn Evans/Daniel Barritt (GB/GB), Ford + 5m 23.7s
8. Sébastien Loeb/Daniel Elena (F/MC), Citroën + 8m 34.7s
9. Martin Prokop/Jan Tománek (CZ/CZ), Ford + 9m 54.8s
10. Kris Meeke/Paul Nagle (GB/IRL), Citroën + 10m 55.6s
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