Monte Carlo WRC: Ogier beats Neuville in dramatic finish

Sebastien Ogier defeated Thierry Neuville in a breathtaking end to the 2019 World Rally Championship season-opening Monte Carlo Rally.

Monte Carlo WRC: Ogier beats Neuville in dramatic finish

Making his first start since rejoining Citroen for 2019, Ogier took the lead on the second of Friday afternoon's three stages and did not relinquish it thereafter.

But that did not represent how close the battle between the six-time champion and chief rival Neuville was, with the Hyundai driver never more than 5.8 seconds in arrears on Saturday or Sunday.

Ogier consolidated his lead on Saturday, but Neuville started the final day of action strongly by slashing 1.1s from of an overnight deficit of 4.3s on the morning loop.

A stage win by 2.8s on the penultimate test set Neuville up for a final-stage attack against Ogier, who encountered a throttle issue on SS14 and SS15 that was reported to have been fixed before the final La Cabanette-Col de Braus powerstage.

Neuville started the stage just 0.4s behind the rally leader and was 1.5s up on Ogier at split two, but the Citroen driver took control from there - eventually recording the second-fastest powerstage time to seal victory by 2.2s.

The win is Ogier's seventh on the Monte Carlo Rally and sixth in a row.

Early rally leader Ott Tanak salvaged third place with a storming run on Saturday and Sunday, having dropped to seventh when he was forced to change a puncture on SS7 on Friday afternoon.

By the end of the first day proper of the rally Tanak was more than two and a half minutes behind Ogier, but he won all four stages on Saturday, ending the day fifth - after Andreas Mikkelsen and Elfyn Evans retired - and within 20s of a podium place.

Another stage victory on Sunday left Tanak just 5.7s shy of Sebastien Loeb, with a sixth-straight fastest stage time on SS14 hauling him up to third ahead of the squabbling Loeb and Jari-Matti Latvala.

Neuville's fastest time on the penultimate test ended Tanak's streak of stage wins, but he still pulled clear of the pursuing pair to seal third.

Loeb stormed to two stage victories on Friday - both on the 14.94-mile Roussieux-Laborel test - thanks to an inspired tyre choice, and a consistent run on Saturday meant he ended the day in the top three.

But there was no landmark podium on his first WRC start for Hyundai, as he fell away from Tanak on the final three stages and instead consolidated his advantage over Latvala.

Kris Meeke ended up sixth in his Yaris, but his eventual deficit of 5m36.2s to Ogier was not an accurate reflection of his pace.

On his first start for Toyota, Meeke was second after Thursday evening's first stage before a puncture dropped him to fourth.

Meeke's position in the middle of the pack fluctuated on Friday afternoon but he had just climbed up to sixth when a wheel-rim issue struck, costing him more than three minutes in one go.

That ended his realistic hopes of a sizeable points haul, but Meeke kept his Yaris on the road for the remainder of the event and bagged sixth - picking up an additional five points for winning the powerstage.

The rally was a hugely disappointing one for the M-Sport Ford squad, with all three of its drivers hitting trouble.

Evans had been running solidly in the points but dropped his Ford Fiesta WRC off a steep bank and into a tree on SS10 after running wide through a fast left-hander. 

Teemu Suninen crashed on the first stage but recovered to 11th, while Pontus Tidemand was cautious with his pace on his return to the WRC class either side of retiring on Friday with a wishbone failure.

With Hyundai driver Mikkelsen also retiring on Saturday after clattering a wall when he took the final corner on SS9 flat-out, which ripped his left-rear wheel away, leading WRC2 Pro runner Gus Greensmith scored seventh in his R5 M-Sport Ford Fiesta.

Greensmith's had a clear run in the WRC2 Pro category for the majority of the rally after Skoda driver Kalle Rovanpera went off on Thursday's opening stage, but still finished a convincing 51.9s clear of the next runner in the class.

Rally results

Cla # Driver/Codriver Car Class Gap
1 1 France Sébastien Ogier
France Julien Ingrassia
Citroën C3 WRC RC1 3:21'15.9
2 11 Belgium Thierry Neuville
Belgium Nicolas Gilsoul
Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC RC1 2.2
3 8 Estonia Ott Tanak
Estonia Martin Jarveoja
Toyota Yaris WRC RC1 2'15.2
4 19 France Sébastien Loeb
Monaco Daniel Elena
Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC RC1 2'28.2
5 10 Finland Jari-Matti Latvala
Finland Miikka Anttila
Toyota Yaris WRC RC1 2'29.9
6 5 United Kingdom Kris Meeke
United Kingdom Sebastian Marshall
Toyota Yaris WRC RC1 5'36.2
7 21 United Kingdom Gus Greensmith
United Kingdom Elliott Edmondson
Ford Fiesta R5 RC2 13'04.6
8 22 France Yoann Bonato
France Benjamin Boulloud
Citroën C3 R5 RC2 13'56.5
9 34 France Stéphane Sarrazin
France Jacques-Julien Renucci
Hyundai i20 R5 RC2 14'06.8
10 26

France Adrien Formaux

Belgium Renaud Jamoul

Ford Fiesta R5 RC2 16'03.4
shares
comments
Monte Carlo WRC: Neuville sets up Ogier showdown

Previous article

Monte Carlo WRC: Neuville sets up Ogier showdown

Next article

Ogier felt "incredible relief" to win despite throttle drama

Ogier felt "incredible relief" to win despite throttle drama
Load comments
Why WRC's hybrid path could leave it at a crossroads Prime

Why WRC's hybrid path could leave it at a crossroads

With all three major manufacturers committing to the World Rally Championship’s hybrid era from 2022, the future of the series is assured for now, but it could lead to trickier twists and turns further down the road

WRC
Apr 1, 2021
How Tanak froze out the competition at the Arctic Rally Prime

How Tanak froze out the competition at the Arctic Rally

Ott Tanak made up for a disastrous Monte Carlo Rally by leading all the way on the snow-kissed stages of the Arctic Rally Finland and in the process hit back at an event Toyota had been expected to dominate…

WRC
Mar 1, 2021
What to look out for in the 2021 WRC Prime

What to look out for in the 2021 WRC

As the 2021 World Rally Championship prepares to launch amid tight COVID-19 restrictions in Monte Carlo, here are the eight things unrelated to the pandemic that you should keep an eye on this year

WRC
Jan 21, 2021
Evans on the talking points of WRC 2021 Prime

Evans on the talking points of WRC 2021

He came close to the title last year, and now Toyota's Elfyn Evans gives his verdict on what to expect from 2021 as the World Rally Championship prepares to reconvene for the Monte Carlo season opener.

WRC
Jan 20, 2021
Why Britain's continued WRC absence is a wake-up call Prime

Why Britain's continued WRC absence is a wake-up call

With Rally GB dropping off the World Rally Championship calendar for the second year in a row, one of Britain's best-attended sporting events faces an uncertain future. It's an unfortunate situation that points to troubling times ahead

WRC
Jan 12, 2021
The Top 10 WRC drivers of 2020 Prime

The Top 10 WRC drivers of 2020

A drastically-shortened 2020 season gave the World Rally Championship protagonists precious little stage mileage to strut their stuff, but as ever the cream rose to the top across the seven events. We rank the year's best performers

WRC
Jan 4, 2021
The twists and turns of a turbulent 2020 WRC season Prime

The twists and turns of a turbulent 2020 WRC season

The 2020 World Rally Championship bestrode all 12 months of the Gregorian calendar, and in terms of the competition it was a cracker. Moreover, it was an inspiration in dark days for the world and our industry.

WRC
Jan 1, 2021
The early setbacks that shaped the WRC's greatest driver Loeb Prime

The early setbacks that shaped the WRC's greatest driver Loeb

A series of close calls in his formative years threatened to leave rallying's top echelon tantalisingly out of reach for the man who would go on to claim nine WRC titles. In an exclusive interview, Sebastien Loeb recalls the key steps on his road to dominance.

WRC
Dec 11, 2020