Loeb finished at the top of the timesheets by 10.5 seconds after 17 pulsating stages spread over one night and three days of competition in the French Alps last week.

“I am really happy for sure,” said Loeb, who tested the Puma Rally1 hybrid car only a handful of times before the season opener, the most recent coming in the days leading up to it following a second-place finish on this month’s Dakar Rally.

“I didn’t know what to expect [coming here]. I had a good feeling since the first test and this give me some confidence. But then to know which level will I be? I don’t know. The level in WRC is sometimes really, really high but we decide to come here and the result is amazing.”

Loeb’s eightieth career win – his first since Rally Spain 2018 and the first in colours other than Citroen Racing – was achieved alongside Isabelle Galmiche – a 50-year-old maths teacher who was making her first start in the sport’s highest echelon.

The result was the first time a female navigator visited the top step of the podium since Italian Fabrizia Pons in 1997. Despite having limited seat time together, Loeb was full of praise for the approach and professionalism of his team-mate.

“It’s more than we expected, but the team, and with Isabelle – everything has been really amazing with our first rally together. It’s really great,” he said. “She did it really well. It was just one or two times she went a little bit late [with her note deliver], but then it was just a little bit.

“This car is really difficult for the co-driver, we are flying in the stages and she had a lot to say. She was in the perfect rhythm and she understands how to do it really well.

“There are a lot of things to check and she did it all really well. She has a lot of experience in the French Championship, but in the WRC you have a lot more to do around [the car]. She did a great job.”

Loeb’s victory, coupled with Craig Breen’s third place finish, means M-Sport Ford head the manufacturers’ standings from Toyota Gazoo Racing, the two squads separated by three points.

M-Sport Ford Team Principal Richard Millener admitted the toil and sweat his team have put in over the Christmas and new year periods to be ready for Rallye Monte Carlo has been repaid handsomely.

“It’s been difficult for the last couple of seasons. We knew that we would put everything into this year and we had a very competitive package and the whole team has worked incredibly hard,” he said.

“This is at the forefront of what we want to do, we had the complications of competing last year, but we knew we could get these results.

“Everybody worked so hard up to and through Christmas to get cars ready," he added. "We’ve ended up with a fantastic team, great drivers and a result we could only dream of.”