Rallye Monte Carlo got off to a dramatic start this afternoon, with the opening stage up through the famous Col de Turini claiming the scalps of three of the top drivers'.

Evgeny Novikov and Jari-Matti Latvala, who were third and fifth on the overnight leaderboard, were both sidelined early on. Novikov knocked off a wheel on his Qatar M-Sport Ford Fiesta RS WRC car about 1 kilometre into the 23.54 kilometre Moulinet-La Bollene Vesubie test, which is scheduled to be used three times (as SS14, SS16 and SS17), while Latvala also had problems near the start and went off the road in his Volkswagen Motorsport Polo R WRC.

Juho Hanninen in contrast had nearly got to the finish in his Qatar WRT Fiesta RS WRC, but 5 kilometres from the end, he also had an off and was unable to continue.

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Meanwhile, Citroen's Sebastien Loeb continues to lead, from Sebastien Ogier, Dani Sordo, Mikko Hirvonen and Mads Ostberg in positions 2 through to 5.

"It is sh**! Unbelievable - really tricky," Loeb said at the finish of SS14. "There is wet snow. We had absolutely no grip. We were driving very slowly, about 30 km/h on the straight sections. If we had tried to push anymore, we would have destroyed the car. I've made a line all the way through for the cars behind."

"It was really hard," Ogier added, "we had to go at 20km/h on some parts. I hit the barriers two times..."

Prior to SS14, there had been only one major retirement on this year's Monte, with Thierry Neuville going out in SS4, Burzet-St Martial 2, the final test on day one.