Sebastien Ogier achieved a childhood ambition by winning Rallye Monte-Carlo for a third consecutive season. The Frenchman joined an exclusive club of drivers to have won the legendary event, the opening round of the 2016 FIA World Rally Championship, three times in a row. Only Sandro Munari (Lancia), Walter Röhrl (Opel), Tommi Mäkinen (Mitsubishi) and Sébastien Loeb (Citroën) have done likewise. The latest victory marked the 35th triumph in 40 rallies for the Polo R WRC and the 33rd career win for Ogier.
Ogier, who was born in the rally base of Gap, was greeted by his parents at the finish of the final speed test in the mountains above Monaco to celebrate a 1 min 54.5sec victory in his Volkswagen Polo R. Team-mate Andreas Mikkelsen finished second – his 15th podium – with Thierry Neuville overcoming transmission troubles to secure a debut podium for Hyundai‘s new-specification i20, a further 1 min 23.4sec back.
“This rally is the most important of the season for me and it’s so emotional to win here for a third time,” said Ogier. “I’ve been dreaming of this since I was a kid. To win such a difficult rally three times in a row is fantastic, and a real team effort from everyone.”
Ogier and Kris Meeke swapped the lead on several occasions during the first two days on mountain roads in the French Alps that ranged from clear asphalt to snow and ice. Ogier edged clear and the outcome was decided when Meeke damaged his gearbox after hitting a rock and retired. Ogier eased through the final legs, which included the famous Col de Turini, one of the highlights of the WRC season, and ensured maximum points from the first of the 14 rounds by also winning the final live TV Power Stage.
Hyundai Motorsport’s Neuville commented: “I am very excited and pleased with our podium winning during the weekend. The New Generation i20 WRC has shown its high performance potential and it is good to be back on the podium, particularly after the difficulties we had at the end of last season. To register the first stage wins and now first podium with the new car is a great feeling and this result is for the whole team.”
For Jari-Matti Latvala, the Rally Monte Carlo came to a disappointing end. The duo came off the road, skidding into a ditch and out into a field on the other side. In the process, light impact was made with a spectator, who was thankfully unhurt. Damage to the car resulted in Latvala arriving late at the check point ahead of the following special stage, bringing their rally to a premature end. The Finnish duo was subsequently fined for not stopping at the scene of the incident, as stipulated in the regulations. The stewards also handed Latvala a suspended sentence, which will only come into effect should they be found guilty of another breach of regulations.
Norwegian Mikkelsen survived a high-speed spin on Friday to start the final leg 12.5sec ahead of Neuville. But a broken propshaft bearing troubled the Belgian all day and he limped through the final stage with only two-wheel drive. Mads Østberg finished fourth in the Ford Fiesta RS on his return to the M-Sport squad, ahead of Stéphane Lefebvre, for whom fifth was a career-best result. Dani Sordo overcame handling and suspension problems to complete the top six in another Hyundai i20. Ott Tänak finished seventh, despite rolling his car, with WRC 2 winner Elfyn Evans, Esapekka Lappi and Armin Kremer completing the top 10.
Broken suspension sidelined Bryan Bouffier while Robert Kubica and Eric Camilli both retired after accidents. The championship heads to Karlstad next month for Rally Sweden, the only pure winter round of the FIA World Rally Championship.
FIA World Rally Championship (WRC), Rally Monte Carlo – Final Results
1. S. Ogier / J. Ingrassia (Volkswagen Polo R WRC) 3:49:53.1
2. A. Mikkelsen / A. Jaeger (Volkswagen Polo R WRC) +1:54.5
3. T. Neuville / N. Gilsoul (Hyundai New Generation i20 WRC) +3:17.9
4. M. Østberg / O. Floene (Ford Fiesta RS WRC) +4:47.7
5. S. Lefebvre / G. Moreau (Citroën DS3 WRC) +7:35.6
6. D. Sordo / M. Martí (Hyundai New Generation i20 WRC) +10:35.5
7. O. Tanak / R. Molder (Ford Fiesta RS WRC) +11:39.9
8. E. Evans / C. Parry (Ford Fiesta R5) +18:30.8
9. E. Lappi / J. Ferm (Škoda Fabia R5) +20:41.0
10. A. Kremer / P. Winklhofer (Škoda Fabia R5) +20:43.9