The fourth and final day of the 2018 Rallye Monte-Carlo saw crews tackling some of the most iconic stages in the FIA World Rally Championship, with the full 67.7km of stage mileage undertaken without the aid of a service. The stages in question, La Bollène-Vésubie – Peïra-Cava (over the infamous Col de Turini) and La Cabanette – Col de Braus, have been a fixture of the championship for years, the second run through the latter forming the Power Stage.
Much of the parc ferme chatter on Saturday night concerned the gap between Sébastien Ogier in first and Ott Tanak in second, the formers advantage having been steadily eroded over the course of the day. Sunday’s opening loop served to all but quash any remaining speculation however, with Ogier’s largely faultless performance enough to draw his advantage out to 46.2 seconds.
The killer blow fell on SS16, where the Frenchman was comfortably faster than his closest challenger and able to extend his leas as a result, all of which left Ogier to cruise through the Power Stage to yet another victory in his M-Sport Ford. The popular result, Ogier’s fifth on the trot, gets his title defence off to the best possible start.
Tanak settled for second place and the valuable points haul it brought, no doubt quietly satisfied by his debut performance in the Toyota Yaris. He was consistently the quickest of the three Toyota drivers throughout the event, finishing a full 53.7 seconds ahead of Jari-Matti Latvala, the man who (on paper at least) is team leader. Latvala capped off a relatively quiet rally with a solid third, precisely what the Finn required after the late-season, Power Stage-based drama of Australia last year.
The oft cruel nature of World Rallying came back to haunt Esapekka Lappi on the Power Stage; some loose gravel caused him to slide wide on an innocuous looking right-hander, and he went off the stage for an agonising 30 seconds. The most painful half-minute of the youngster’s career saw him plummet down the order, dropping from fourth, right past Kris Meeke, Thierry Neuville and Elfyn Evans. He’d end the rally a despondent seventh, a disappointing end to what was otherwise an impressively mature performance on one of the WRC’s most specialised events.
Lappi’s loss was music to the ears of those crews battling for mid-table positions, with all jumping up the order without having to break a sweat – the Northern Irishman, the Belgian and the Welshman were all out of their respective cars when it happened. Neuville was second quickest through the Power Stage and robbed Evans of a place in the process, though any hopes he might have had of toppling Meeke were soon dashed; Citroen’s lead driver was comfortably fastest through the stage, claiming the full 5 bonus points as a result.
Bryan Bouffier ground out a solid eighth from a less than ideal rally, one which saw him forced to change co-drivers at the very last moment, while Citroen’s Craig Breen came home a frustrated ninth after a rally in which bad luck seemed to stalk the Irishman at every hairpin.
Andreas Mikkelsen attacked La Cabanette – Col de Braus with a set of the Michelin soft tyres, banking on their extended durability serving him well in the closing kilometres of the Power Stage. The gamble didn’t quite work out however, and the Norwegian came home third fastest and fourteenth overall, a harsh price to pay for a faulty alternator.
WRC2 was all but decided come Sunday morning, meaning Jan Kopecký could cruise home to an emphatic victory from Guillaume de Mevius, the Peugeot drive a distant second.
WRC Standings After SS17
1 Sébastien Ogier Ford Fiesta WRC 4:18:55.5 2 Ott Tanak Toyota Yaris WRC 4:19:53.8 3 Jari-Matti Latvala Toyota Yaris WRC 4:20:47.5 4 Kris Meeke Citroen C3 WRC 4:23:38.6 5 Thierry Neuville Hyundai i20 WRC 4:23:49.3 6 Elfyn Evans Ford Fiesta WRC 4:23:50.3 7 Esapekka Lappi Toyota Yaris WRC 4:23:53.0 8 Bryan Bouffier Ford Fiesta WRC 4:26:35.0 9 Craig Breen Citroen C3 WRC 4:28:02.2 14 Andreas Mikkelsen Hyundai i20 WRC 4:55:47.8
WRC2 Standings After SS17
1 Jan Kopecký Skoda Fabia R5 4:35:38.5 2 Guillaume de Mevius Peugeot 208T16 4:50:24.6 3 Eddie Sciessere Citroen DS3 R5 4:58:26.2 4 Teemu Suninen Ford Fiesta R5 5:09:09.6
WRC3 Standings After SS17
1 Enrico Brazzoli Peugeot 208 R2 5:22:03.0 2 Amaury Molle Peugeot 208 R2 5:44:27.8 3 Taisko Lario Peugeot 208 R2 5:55:00.2
RGT CUP STANDINGS AFTER SS17
1 Nicolas Ciamin Fiat 124 Abarth Rally RGT RET (mechanical) 2 Andrea Nucita Fiat 124 Abarth Rally RGT RET (off-road)