Reigning FIA World Rally Champions Sébastien Ogier and Julien Ingrassia fought back from a difficult opening day of Rallye Monte-Carlo to claim victory in the first round of the FIA World Rally Championship this evening. The French duo finished one minute 18.9 seconds ahead of fellow countrymen Bryan Bouffier and Xavier Panseri, while Kris Meeke and Paul Nagle claimed an impressive third overall in their first full season with Citroën.
In the FIA World Rally Championship, Ogier kicks off the defence of his title with near maximum Championship points and the Volkswagen Motorsport team – adding the points from team-mate Jari-Matti Latvala – heads the leaderboard in the Manufacturers’ Championship by four points over the Citroën Total Abu Dhabi World Rally Team.
“It’s been a tough weekend,” the Frenchman told WRC.com. “I had it in my mind that victory was still possible when I lost a lot of time on the first day, but I’m happy the rally is finished.”
Ogier started the day in control of the field and set fastest time in the opening two stages to consolidate his lead. Unfortunately, however, as the crews headed through the re-run of the opening test, organisers were forced to neutralise the snow-covered Turini stage when Jaroslav Melicharek blocked the route, stuck in the snow. As a consequence, crews headed directly to the Power Stage for the final run through this treacherously wet and foggy mountain stage.
“This rally has been so crazy,” Meeke told WRC.com. “If I can finish this rally with no mistakes, I think I can do it on any rally.”
Mads Østberg claimed fourth, despite a puncture in the first stage, and Latvala maintained fifth. Mikko Hirvonen had got ahead of M-Sport team-mate Elfyn Evans earlier in the day, but the Finn was forced to retire in the final stage with a broken alternator. Andreas Mikkelsen finished seventh in his debut Rallye Monte-Carlo and, despite blocking the penultimate stage, Melicharek rounded off the top eight.
As is customary on Rallye Monte-Carlo, crews will head to the Place du Palais Princier in the morning for the podium and prize-giving ceremony.
The FIA World Rally Championship crews now head to yet another specialised rally and the only event run exclusively on snow and ice, Rally Sweden (5-8 February).