Monte Carlo WRC: Ogier seals win on M-Sport debut
Sebastien Ogier claimed victory on his M-Sport debut in the Monte Carlo Rally, but late drama for Ott Tanak cost the team a one-two and handed Toyota second.
Ogier had been as low as ninth after an early mistake on Friday, but fought back to second before being gifted the lead when the dominant Thierry Neuville broke his Hyundai's suspension on Saturday afternoon.
That put M-Sport on course for first and second, before Tanak's car developed an engine problem on the final morning.
He managed to keep the car going, but had to limp through the last two stages - after SS15 was cancelled for safety reasons to Tanak’s benefit - at a slow pace and just held onto third after a heroic drive over the Col de Turini on the last stage.
Toyota therefore ended up second - with Jari-Matti Latvala taking the spot - on its first top-class WRC appearance since 1999. Its last podium came at the penultimate round in Australia in 1999 with Carlos Sainz.
Juho Hanninen had put the new Yaris in third on the opening night and remained in podium contention until a mistake on Friday broke the car's suspension.
His teammate Latvala got more comfortable through the rally after a slow start and a few early technical gremlins on his first appearance for Toyota, and advanced to second as others hit trouble.
The attrition nearly allowed an old-generation car onto the podium, but Hyundai's Dani Sordo - who had struggled on the more icy stages and also had power steering trouble - managed to overcome Craig Breen's 2016 Citroen by 12s at the end.
Breen was the only works Citroen driver to have a smooth weekend.
Team leader Kris Meeke was in the podium hunt before crashing on Friday, then spent half an hour parked with an ignition problem on Saturday after returning under Rally2.
His weekend ultimately ended when another car crashed into him on the road section back to Monaco on Saturday night.
Stephane Lefebvre's car hit transmission trouble on the first night, but he at least made it back into the points running under Rally2 and took a fastest stage time on Sunday morning.
Elfyn Evans spent Friday running among the WRC2 cars as the DMACK tyres struggled for grip on the ice.
But as conditions improved, the rubber came alive and three stage wins on Saturday allowed him back through to an eventual sixth place.
Having been left without a top-level drive after Volkswagen's exit, Andreas Mikkelsen made the most of stepping back to the WRC2 ranks with Skoda by dominating the class.
The Norwegian, who took VW's final WRC win in Australia last year, beat fellow Skoda man Jan Kopecky by over three minutes to take a comfortable class win.
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