Sebastian Ogier has won the Rallye Monte Carlo, the opening round in the 2009 Intercontinental Rally Challenge.

Ogier inherited the lead at the end of day two, when Juho Hanninen picked up a puncture and slipped down the order.

The Frenchman then began the final leg on Friday with a 32.4 second cushion. However a storming time in SS10, when he took his one and only stage win, allowed him to stretch his cushion to almost two minutes and in the end he took the victory by 1 minute 43.6 seconds.

It was a great result for the reigning Junior World Rally champion, who was making his debut in a Super 2000 car, competing in a Kronos-run Peugeot 207 S2000, thanks to the BFGoodrich Drivers' Team initiative.

"I think the keys to our win were our steady approach and the fact that we chose not to try to match the speed of the early front-runners who set off at a blistering pace," he reflected.

"Given the conditions, we didn't think anybody would be able to keep up that sort of speed for long, so we decided to hold back, not to mention the fact that I wasn't exactly familiar with the car. I tried to stay out of trouble by driving as consistently as possible, while our direct rivals started to make mistakes.

"Given the high level of the entry, I never thought I could win this rally at first attempt. Everything was new to us, and we didn't even know we would be competing until a fortnight ago.

"Thanks to BFGoodrich, however, we were given the opportunity to take part and I would like to say a big thank you to the BFGoodrich Drivers Team programme, as well as to Kronos Racing who provided us with a car that was extremely competitive in conditions I have never seen on any other rally."

Freddy Loix meanwhile secured the runners-up spot, while Stephane Sarrazin was third to give Peugeot a clean sweep of the podium places.

"That was the toughest Rallye Monte-Carlo I have ever contested, if only because of the weather which threw snow, ice, frost and rain at us," said Loix. "I have never competed with such wide snow tyres either, and the stages were particularly treacherous. The slightest mistake could easily cost 20 seconds, so it was vital to keep out of trouble.

"Everything went reasonably well for us over the three days, although we knew there was no way we would be able to catch S?bastien after we dropped two minutes with a puncture. After that, we concentrated on defending second place which is a good result for us in championship terms."

Skoda's Jan Kopecky came in in fourth, followed by the works Abarth of Giandomenico Basso.

Further down the order Frederic Romeyer and Olivier Burri were sixth and seventh, while Luca Betti, Patrik Artru and Damien Daumas completed the top ten.

There were a number of retirements, including Hanninen, who led from SS2 to SS8, but who crashed out in the first stage on Friday while trying to make up time.

Kris Meeke and Toni Gardemeister also went out on the third and final day, joining others on the sidelines, such as 1994 World Rally champion, Didier Auriol, current IRC champion, Nicolas Vouilloz and Luca Rossetti.

The IRC now continues in March when competitors head to Brazil for the Rally Internacional de Curitiba, which runs from March 5-7.

 

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