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.