Volkswagen's Sebastien Ogier has got his WRC title defence off to the best possible start by claiming victory on Rallye Monte Carlo.

The Frenchman eventually swept through to take the win - his second on the Monte, as he also won the event in 2009, albeit when it was part of the IRC and not WRC, by 1 minute 18.9 seconds, taking seven stage wins in total from a possible 14 (SS14 was cancelled).

Ogier was always the favourite to triumph, but looked to have his work cut out after losing time on Thursday morning, when he failed to take any snow tyres. That cost him over a minute in SS3 and dropped him from second to ninth, 1 minute 19.4 seconds off then rally leader, Bryan Bouffier. He also had a lucky escape in SS1 too, when he slid into a wall in the very first corner...

Ogier fought back though and on the repeat loop in the afternoon won the final two stages to end the day fourth - 47.3 seconds off the lead.

On Friday, the VW man continued to push, winning three more stages and finishing second in the other two. That combined with the fact Bouffier spun in SS9 and lost over 40 seconds handed the initiative back to Ogier and after that he was never really troubled, although he had to settle for second in the Power Stage, as team-mate, Jari-Matti Latvala was 0.2 seconds quicker.

"It's been tough," said Ogier. "There was so much fog in this [final] stage. We're happy to finish. I wasn't in the mood to take risks for bonus points on this stage, [the result is] already perfect."

Bouffier meanwhile took the runners-up spot in his privately entered M-Sport Ford Fiesta RS WRC. The 35-year-old put in a super impressive performance and posted eleven top-five stage times - including winning SS3 and SS8.

"I'm very satisfied with the car," said Bouffier. "It is absolutely fantastic to be on the podium."

Kris Meeke also did very well and took third ahead of what is his first full-season in the WRC. It was also his first-ever WRC podium result and bodes well for the Brit.

"I've never seen so much water and I don't think I've ever driven so slowly [as I did in that last test]. I'm happy and delighted to be on the podium on my first [proper] event with the Citroen factory team," Meeke noted. "It's a great result for us and I really have to thank [team principal] Yves Matton for the faith that he's shown in me. If I can finish this rally with no mistakes then I really think I can do it anywhere."

Meeke's team-mate Mads Ostberg was next up and fourth and said the result 'felt like a victory'. It was his first run in the DS3 WRC following three years behind the wheel of a Fiesta RS WRC.

"It's been unreal," said Ostberg, "really tough with so many big challenges. A great weekend though for the first time in this car. Feels like a small victory. I would like to thank my fantastic team."

Latvala completed the top five, albeit more than 2 minutes further back. The Finn had a mixed event, and while he took three stage wins, he also had a number of issues, including a puncture in SS9 on Friday. He was also well off the pace in SS1 and SS3 - although in the latter test it was more down to tyre choice.

"I tried to push hard [in the last test]. I had problems with my lights, only three major lights switched on. There was a lot of fog and standing water so it was really tough. It's been a tough rally overall and I am really happy to see the 'Finnish' line, so pleased about that," Latvala remarked.

Behind, Welshman Elfyn Evans achieved his aim of getting to the finish and was sixth in his M-Sport WRT-run Fiesta RS WRC.

Then came Volkswagen Motorsport II driver, Andreas Mikkelsen in P7 with Jaroslav Melicharek, Matteo Gamba and Yuriy Protasov in positions 8 through to 10, the latter also securing the WRC2 victory, just under eight minutes up on Lorenzo Bertelli.

In terms of retirements, Mikko Hirvonen was halted by mechanical problems in the final stage. He had been running sixth on his return to the M-Sport fold.

"A difficult weekend for us and unlucky at the end," Hirvonen reflected. "I hope that we have a better rest of season. We can't wait to be in Sweden now."

Fellow M-Sport man Robert Kubica also went out, but on Friday. The Pole crashed out in SS9, while battling for third.

Other notable retirees included Hyundai duo Thierry Neuville and Dani Sordo, as well as Francois Delecour and Martin Prokop - they all retired on day one. Neuville went off just 7 kilometres into SS1, while mechanical issues stopped the other three. Sordo was halted in SS5, while in third place.

The 2014 FIA World Rally Championship now heads to Sweden next month for the only full winter rally of the year, running from February 5-8.

To view the result for the 2014 Rallye Monte Carlo - CLICK


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