Sebastien Ogier secured Citroen’s 100th World Rally Championship win after beating Thierry Neuville by just 2.2 seconds on 2019 Rallye Monte-Carlo.
Ogier, who returned to the French team over the winter, continued his rally-long battle with Shell MOBIS World Rally Team’s Neuville right up until the Power Stage where incredibly just 0.4s separated the two drivers.
Trailing the Frenchman by 4.3s coming into Sunday’s remaining four tests, the Belgian posted a trio of quicker times than the Citroen driver including a 2.8s faster run on the penultimate La Bollène-Vésubie – Peïra-Cava 2 stage.
But his mounting pressure was to no avail and Ogier, who had reported a throttle response on his Citroen C3 WRC on Sunday morning, actually extended his overall lead by the end of the event after finishing second La Cabanette – Col de Braus 2 Power Stage behind Kris Meeke and secured his sixth Monte win in a row.
A delighted Ogier said on his victory: “You know it is the rally I want to win the most in the season, that is why I am so happy now. We had this problem with the throttle and it was pushing the car on the brakes so it was tough. I am very happy. Six years in a row with three different cars!”
Second placed Neuville added: “It was a close fight, but we gave him a nice present on Friday when we made a mistake and gave him the lead. It was still a good weekend and we won’t be first on the road for Sweden. We can take the positives from this and look forward to the next round.”
Third overall went to the recovering Ott Tänak, who won six stages in a row, as he leapfrogged both Sebastien Loeb and Toyota GAZOO Racing teammate Jari-Matti Latvala on the leaderboard on Sunday morning, eventually finishing 13s ahead of the Frenchman with Latvala just 1.7s behind in fifth.
Kris Meeke, who won the Power Stage ahead of Ogier and Neuville secured his sixth-place finish in his first appearance back in the WRC while Ford M-Sport pair Teemu Suninen and Pontus Tidemand recovered to 11th and 20th overall with Suninen scoring a championship point with a 5th quickest Power Stage time.
Gus Greensmith, who’s battle with Kalle Rovanperä was realistically over after the Finn’s accident on Thursday evening, made no mistake in his pursuit for the first WRC PRO class win in the M-Sport Ford Fiesta and was also the highest placed R5 spec finisher on the event overall in seventh.
Yoann Bonato, who will battle Greensmith later in the season in WRC2 PRO, took the WRC2 win in the Citroen C3 ahead of Adrien Fourmaux and Ole Christian Veiby and finished 51.9s behind the British driver in the overall standings.
Stephane Sarrazin in a Hyundai i20 R5 finished a fine ninth overall in a non-WRC2 entry, while Enrico Brazzoli finished 41st overall in the RGT spec Abarth 124 Rally.
Round two of the 2019 World Rally Championship is Rally Sweden, which takes place between February 14-17.