Sébastien Ogier took the first victory of the new World Rally Championship era with a dominant win on the Rallye Monte Carlo. In his first rally with the M-Sport team, the reigning World Rally Champion, secured a two minute and fifteen second win over Jari-Matti Latvala’s Toyota.
The Finn’s runner-up position was Toyota’s first podium since the 1999 Rally Australia and was the dream start for the new Tommi Makinen-run Toyota team, but Latvala’s success came at Ott Tanak’s expense.
The Estonian was holding second coming into the final day and was on course to deliver M-Sport its first 1-2 since the 2011 Rally Australia, but engine problems in the morning dropped him back to third.
The final powerstage was won by Thierry Neuville, the five bonus points secured, was some reward for a dominant display on the first two days. Neuville had been in a commanding lead throughout the first two days, keeping Ogier at arm’s length, when he damaged the Hyundai’s suspension on the final stage of day two, dropping to fifteenth overall.
Craig Breen was the highest placed Citroen, dragging the 2016 spec Citroen DS3 WRC to fifth overall, just twelve seconds behind Dani Sordo’s 2017 spec Hyundai i20.
The Spaniard had struggled throughout the rally with the icy and snowy conditions and then had to tackle them with no power steering on the final stages of yesterday, dropping him behind Breen.
Breen was the only Citroen to have a clean weekend after Stéphane Lefevre retired with transmission problems on the first night and Kris Meeke retired after breaking his suspension break when he clipped a bank on stage four.
The Northern Irishman and favourite for the rally then broke the same suspension on the road section after a collision with a spectator’s car at the end of day two. Lefevre however managed to gain mileage for the new C3 WRC by finishing ninth overall under Rally 2 rules and was second fastest on the power stage.
Team DMACK runner Elfyn Evans again impressed setting top five times on each of the days three stages (stage 16 was cancelled on safety grounds) to secure sixth position.
Mikkelsen dominates WRC2 on one-off appearance
Andreas Mikkelsen had a dominant one-off WRC2 appearance for Skoda, winning the category by three and a half minutes from team-mate Jan Kopecky.
The two Skodas, carrying the colours of their first ever Rallye Monte Carlo class winning car, were the class of the field throughout the event with Ford’s Bryan Bouffier a further three minutes further back in third, holding a similar margin over next place runner M-Sport’s Éric Camilli.
In WRC3, Raphael Astier put in a giant killing display in his FWD Peugeot 208, securing the category with a nine minute margin finishing eighteenth overall. The podium was rounded out by the Renault Cilos of Luca Panzani and Charles Martin.
In the RGT category current FIA World Endurance Champion Romain Dumas had the rally all to himself, the Porsche 911 driver finishing twenty-six minutes ahead of the only registered finisher Gabriele Noberasco in the brand new Fiat 124 Abarth.
In the new WRC Trophy for old spec WRC cars, the only registered competitor Jourdan Serderidis managed to bring his Citroen DS3 WRC to the finish in twenty-ninth overall.