A visitor to the top step of the podium at Rally Spain back in 2018, the result helped Loeb push his win count in a Championship he dominated for nine consecutive seasons, to 80. It was an outcome significant for three other reasons for Loeb, who was making his debut for M-Sport Ford this weekend in their new Puma Rally1 car.

As well as being the Frenchman's first non-Citroen success in the sport’s top flight, he drew level with runner-up Sebastien Ogier on eight Monte triumphs. It was also historic for the fact his co-driver - Isabelle Galmiche - became the first female to win the event since Fabrizia Pons 25 years ago.

“For sure I feel really happy,” said Loeb. “I did not expect so much when I came here. It was a great fight; Ogier was really fast yesterday and I struggled a little bit this morning but we are here.”

Loeb snatched the lead of the event on the penultimate stage when Ogier picked up a front-left puncture, a 24.6 second lead becoming a 9.5 second deficit on completing ‘La Penne’ / ‘Collongues’.

A rally-ending Power Stage that had the makings of a classic failed to materialise when Ogier incurred a penalty for a jump start to leave the final gap to him and Loeb after 17 stages at 10.5 seconds.

“There was a strange noise on the engine at the start – I don’t know if it disturbed things and I released a little earlier,” explained Ogier. “I think I can keep the head up. I did a good job this weekend, but unfortunately when you are on Pirelli’s it [a puncture] can happen so that’s the way it is.

“Well done to the team, it has been a good weekend first time with the hybrid. No problems so that’s a good achievement,” he added.

Craig Breen rounded out the top three places and, in doing so, made it a seventh WRC career podium. He occupies fourth in the standings by virtue of the fact Toyota Gazoo Racing's Kalle Rovanpera collected all five available points on the Power Stages to take his overall tally to 17, two more than the Irishman.

M-Sport Ford's Gus Greensmith and Hyundai Motorsport's Thierry Neuville finished fifth and sixth and Toyota hotshot Takamoto Katusta was the last of the main field Rally1 runners to feature inside the top 10 in eighth.

WRC rookie Oliver Solberg retired on the road section following Sunday’s opener. In a very brief statement released by Hyundai Motorsport, the team said this was due to Solberg and co-driver Elliott Edmondson “not feeling well due to the fumes issue that they experienced in the car in the past days”.

Solberg had indicated earlier in the event that he had considered retiring his I20 N Rally1 car but his employers insisted this was not an option.