Citroen team leader, Sebastien Loeb has taken the victory on the Rallye Monte Carlo, the opening round in the 2007 FIA World Rally Championship, to get his season off to the perfect start.

Loeb lead from start to finish, stamping his authority on proceedings from the off on Thursday, when he won both the night stages that made up the very short leg 1. Furthermore while he came under pressure from his team-mate, Daniel Sordo on Friday, in the first loop that made up the second leg, and saw his 20 second cushion cut back to less than 9, he re-established his dominance on the repeat runs through, to end the day 25.2 seconds in front.

Loeb then paced himself through Saturday's six stages and the Monaco circuit super special on Sunday, to take his fourth victory at the Principality and to equal the record held by held by Sandro Munari, Walter Rohrl and Tommi Makinen - all of whom have also won the Rallye Monte Carlo four times.

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In the end the Frenchman won by 38.2 seconds, his first event in the WRC since his mountain bike accident in the autumn last year, which forced him to miss the final four events of the 2006 season.

Sordo meanwhile also went well in the sister car, taking an additional three stages win for the new Citroen C4 WRC, in addition to the five notched up by Loeb.

Like Seb, Dani eased off during the third leg, content to take second - and the eight points that go with it - on his debut with the factory Citroen Total WRT and to give the French marquee, the perfect 1-2 result on its return to the FIA World Rally Championship with the C4. Both Citroen and Seb take the early leads respectively in the manufacturers' and drivers' championships.

BP Ford team leader, Marcus Gronholm took the final place on the podium, and while he set some good times - and was in the top three on 13 stages out of a possible 15, despite gearbox problems on Friday on the first loop and a moment with a bridge in SS12 - he was unable to match the C4's.

Hopefully he will be able to find more speed on gravel - and on the next two winter rounds, which take place on snow. Due to mild weather the 2007 Rallye Monte Carlo was reduced to a plain asphalt event.

Gronholm's team-mate, Mikko Hirvonen and Chris Atkinson were locked in a tight battle for fourth spot right to the end, with the latter eventually coming out top in his Subaru.

Atkinson took fourth on the third stage of the event and while he initially came under pressure from Manfred Stohl, Hirvonen was to prove his biggest challenger.

Indeed on Saturday the Finn closed the gap considerably on the first loop, cutting it from 17.2 seconds to 8.9 seconds going into the mid-day service. Furthermore while Mikko went in front on SS12, after taking his second stage win of the event, Atkinson bounced back in SS13, to win his second test and re-take fourth. Mikko wasn't finished though and stormed through SS14, to take another stage win and beat Atkinson, who was second quickest in his Subaru by 8 seconds. As such it all went down to the wire, with Atkinson finally triumphing after taking the win on the Monaco circuit super special - although only just, with just 0.2 seconds between them.

Further-down the order, Petter Solberg was sixth in the second Subaru WRT Impreza WRC, the Norwegian grabbing seventh from Toni Gardemeister in the first test on Saturday and then proceeding to pull out a 30-odd second gap. Petter has been reasonably pleased with his form and while he has been unable to match the top four, he still set some good stage times - eight times in the top six. He blamed a slow time in SS3 on Friday for his failure to finish any higher.

Gardemeister lost time on the third day with brake problems and while he set four top five stage times, he was still getting to grips with his privately run Mitsubishi Lancer WRC05 - and effectively using the event as a giant test.

Jan Kopecky rounded out the provisional points' scorers in eighth, the Czech again showing the Skoda Fabia WRC has potential. Indeed he matched Sebastien Loeb's time in SS11, when he was joint fourth fastest with the Frenchman. All-in-all, Jan managed two fourth quickest times and was been in the top ten on every single stage, bar one.

Of the rest, local ace, Jean-Marie Couq was just outside the points in ninth, in his Peugeot 307 WRC, 1 minute 20 seconds off Kopecky, while Manfred Stohl completed the top ten in his OMV Kronos-run Citroen Xsara WRC, having lost time with brake problems.

Ford's Gareth MacHale and Matthew Wilson were eleventh and twelfth respectively, the latter the best placed Stobart driver at the finish, although Wilson Jr was entered in the third car and was therefore not eligible to score manufacturers' points.

Henning Solberg was therefore left to open the teams account for 2007, bringing his car home in 14th place - and taking the final manufacturers' point. Henning has very limited experience on asphalt and struggled to match the front-runners throughout, setting only two top ten stages times.

In the Group N category, Olivier Burri, who lead the class from start to finish, was 17th overall, while Martin Prokop, who took the A6 class 'win', was one place further down the leaderboard.

There were only two significant retirements, namely Stobart's Jari-Matti Latvala and Red Bull's Andreas Aigner. Aigner was the first to go out, when he retired on Saturday before SS9 with driveshaft problems. The Austrian had been using the event to get use to his Group N Mitsubishi Lancer, ahead of his first Production Car WRC event next month.

Latvala also went out on Saturday, but in the final test of the day - SS14. The Finn, who had been going well and who was running ninth, hit a bridge and damaged his car. Although he completed the test he was forced to retire after as the incident damaged the roll cage.

The FIA World Rally Championship now takes a three week break before heading to Sweden. The Uddeholm Swedish Rally runs from February 8-11 and is paired with the Rally Norway, which will take place the weekend after, running from February 15-18.