Sebastien Ogier has produced the perfect start to the defence of his World Rally championship title with a fifth consecutive victory at Rallye Monte-Carlo after seeing off a sustained charge from Toyota Gazoo Racing debutant Ott Tanak.

The M-Sport Ford driver charged into the lead on the opening stage and it would become a position he would never release as he measured his momentum and pushed at the right times to keep clear of former team-mate Tanak.

Despite an off on SS7 which required a push from spectators to get Ogier back on the road, the French driver looked rarely troubled and clinched victory with a comfortable 58.3-second margin over Tanak who impressed on his Toyota debut.

Behind the top two Jari-Matti Latvala in the sister Toyota claimed a distant third place – almost one minute behind Tanak – but his finish hands the Japanese brand the early lead in the WRC manufacturers’ championship.

While the podium order remained unchanged during the latter half of Rallye Monte-Carlo there was late drama on the Power stage with Kris Meeke’s stage victory handing him fourth place for Citroen after Esapekka Lappi slipped off and lost over half a minute to drop from a provisional fourth place to an eventual seventh place.

Thierry Neuville, runner-up on the Power stage, jumped up two place on SS17 La Cabanette – Col de Braus 2 to take fifth place for Hyundai after a disastrous opening pair of stages with an off and a puncture which pushed him four minute behind the front-runners.

M-Sport Ford’s Elfyn Evans held on to sixth place ahead of Lappi with Bryan Bouffier (M-Sport Ford) completing an impressive showing at Rallye Monte-Carlo to take eighth place. Craig Breen endured a miserable 2018 WRC season opener for Citroen in a lonely ninth place and over nine minute behind winner Ogier.

In WRC2, Jan Kopecky secured victory for Skoda comfortably beating team-mate Kalle Rovanpera and with it claimed the final top ten spot.

Both Hyundai’s Andreas Mikkelsen (alternator issue) and Dani Sordo (crash) were forced out of the running but the Norwegian was able to restart under Rally 2 rules to finish 14th and third on the Power Stage.