Volkswagen's Sebastien Ogier has taken the victory on Rallye Monte Carlo, the 2015 WRC season opener, as he bids to secure the WRC Drivers' title for a third year in succession.

It is his third victory on the Monte having won the event last year - and in 2009, when it was part of the now defunct IRC.

Ogier took the spoils in the end with relative ease, although early on he was engaged in a fierce battle with Sebastien Loeb, the nine-time WRC champion making a one-off return for the Monte and pushing his compatriot and arch rival hard until he damaged the left-rear suspension on his DS 3 WRC in the final test on Friday.

Ogier seized the lead in SS7, when Loeb spun and after the Citroen man had to retire post-SS8, he had a commanding 1m 45.4s cushion. That meant he could take it relatively steady on Saturday and Sunday, eventually winning by just under a minute.

"Victory in Monte Carlo means a lot - especially for me, so close to my home town, and at the first rally of the season," Ogier told the official WRC site.

"It is a huge challenge but the satisfaction is even more when you make it. Conditions were so tricky this year, but it has been the best atmosphere I have ever known. The atmosphere has been just magic."

Meanwhile, Jari-Matti Latvala took the runners-up spot, running in the top-three almost all the way through and exceeding his pre-event targets: "I am delighted," said the Finn. "This is much more than I expected, before the rally I was thinking fourth or fifth. I must thank my ice crew for their information."

Andreas Mikkelsen completed the rostrum, giving Volkswagen a clean sweep of the podium, only the second time the manufacturer has managed the feat and the last time a manufacturer took a 1-2-3 on the Monte was back in 2003, when Loeb headed home Colin McRae and Carlos Sainz for Citroen.

"A great rally for us," said Mikkelsen. "A 1-2-3 in Monte Carlo for Volkswagen - it is not every day you do that..."

Behind, Mads Ostberg was fourth for Citroen, 31.3s off P3, after a mistake free drive and despite some engine gremlins.

Thierry Neuville snatched fifth overall from his Hyundai team-mate Dani Sordo in the final test, the two split by just 0.8 seconds at the finish.

M-Sport's Elfyn Evans ended up seventh, losing two places on Saturday afternoon when he hit a wall and damaged the suspension: "I am happy to finish, but there is also a feeling of what could have been," noted the Welshman. "In some places it has been pretty good, but in others it has been very frustrating. We were much stronger than last year and have shown good speed. But we need to work on consistency and being a bit cleverer."

Loeb was next up in eighth, having re-started in P15 under Rally 2 on Saturday, and demoting Ford privateer Martin Prokop to ninth in the penultimate test.

Kris Meeke rounded out the top ten, like Loeb retiring on Friday in SS8 after damaging the suspension, but ending on a positive with victory in the Power Stage.

Henning Solberg finished just outside the top-ten and one place ahead of WRC2 victor Stephane Lefebvre.

Ott Tanak came home in 17th, left ruing his off in SS10, which saw him lose over 18 minutes and P4 on the overall leaderboard.

As for retirements, former F1 driver Robert Kubica and Bryan Bouffier were the two most notable casualties.

Bouffier, who put in a sensational performance on this event twelve months ago and who finished second then, crashed out in SS2. Kubica retired today, going off with one stage to go when his brake pedal failed.

The WRC now heads to Sweden next month (February 12-15) for the only winter event of the season.

To view the result for Rallye Monte Carlo 2015 - CLICK HERE.



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