Sebastien Ogier has begun his final World Rally Championship campaign by sealing the eighth Monte Carlo victory of his illustrious career, marking the 50th time that he has stood atop the WRC podium.
The defending drivers’ champion broke the record of seven Monte Carlo wins set by his former nemesis, Sebastien Loeb, and also equalled Walter Rohrl’s 37-year-old record of winning the WRC’s blue riband event with four different manufacturers during his career.
Toyota driver Ogier claimed victory on three of the four stages held on Sunday, including the Power Stage with its five additional points to be added to both his own score and, for the first time in WRC history, to the manufacturers’ championship total as well.
Britain’s Elfyn Evans finished second, completing a 1-2 finish for Toyota overall and a 1-2-3 in the Power Stage points behind Kalle Rovanpera.
Hyundai’s Thierry Neuville fought back from a difficult first couple of days to lead resistance against the Toyota juggernaut, finishing in an eventual third place overall alongside rookie co-driver Martijn Wydaeghe.
The Belgian took a blistering win on the penultimate test of the day but chose to settle for the bottom step of the podium rather than attempting to put pressure on Evans for second.
Rovanpera’s Toyota finished fourth with the Hyundai of Dani Sordo splitting him from the fourth Yaris of Toyota junior driver Takamoto Katsuta.
At the finish line, Ogier was emotional as he celebrated such a landmark achievement.
“It’s not a bad end of the weekend,” he said. “The car’s been amazing, I really enjoy the weekend, it’s been such a pleasure so I think I almost have tears in my eyes now.
“I think it was a good decision to do one more year, the team is great, such a huge thanks I want to give to all of you.”
For his part, runner-up Evans took consolation from looking at the big picture after bagging a good haul of points towards his 2021 championship ambitions.
“It’s been good but I just felt never 100 percent as it should have been,” he said. “Of course there were some good stages but never consistently where I would have really liked to be… Seb was better this weekend.”
The event marked the debut of Toyota’s new team principal, its erstwhile driver Jari-Matti Latvala, who expressed delight with his squad’s achievements.
“I must say I’m really, really proud for the team I mean, what a fantastic result,” he enthused.
“To have four cars in top six and then doing 1-2 victory, what else can I ask? And then maximum points on the Power Stage. It’s incredible. I couldn’t be in a better place where I am now and we have the best drivers.”
The euphoria in the Toyota camp was the polar opposite of the emotions being shown by its rivals at Hyundai and M-Sport.
Leader on the first day, Hyundai’s Ott Tanak was unable to restart on Sunday after two punctures on the penultimate day, and both Neuville and Sordo were forced to rein in their pace to secure the team’s points.
Neuville said: “I think we couldn’t have done really much better sometimes, we were missing a bit of confidence, but at the end it worked and we are there and good points for the team even if it wasn’t the greatest week for Hyundai.”
M-Sport’s chances of getting on the podium disappeared off the side of a mountain on the opening stage of the rally, alongside the Fiesta WRC of Teemu Suninen.
This left Gus Greensmith to fight on alone to finish in eighth place as the last of the top runners after a performance that he wants to put behind him as soon as possible.
“I’d say it’s been the worst performance of my career so far,” the Englishman said bluntly.
“It was really hard for all the guys back at M-Sport to even just get the cars here in this current situation so I felt, with the preparation I had, I should have delivered a much better performance.”
Seventh place overall went to the dominant winner of the WRC2 category, Andreas Mikkelsen, at the wheel of his Tok Sport Skoda Fabia.
Like Ogier, the Norwegian veteran started the event as odds-on favourite and put pressure on himself to dominate the category in his bid to return to a works WRC seat for 2022.
In WRC3, Yoann Rossel survived a late scare after his right rear tyre came off the rim on the final stage, but had enough in hand over his fellow Citroen drivers to claim the win.
Final results (Top 10):
|1||1|| Sébastien Ogier
|Toyota Yaris WRC||RC1||2:56’33.700|
|2||33|| Elfyn Evans
|Toyota Yaris WRC||RC1||2:57’06.300||32.600|
|3||11|| Thierry Neuville
|Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC||RC1||2:57’42.200||1’08.500|
|4||69|| Kalle Rovanperä
|Toyota Yaris WRC||RC1||2:58’57.300||2’23.600|
|5||6|| Dani Sordo
Carlos del Barrio
|Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC||RC1||2:59’42.900||3’09.200|
|6||18|| Takamoto Katsuta
|Toyota Yaris WRC||RC1||3:03’35.000||7’01.300|
|7||25|| Andreas Mikkelsen
|Škoda Fabia Rally2 evo||RC2||3:03’47.300||7’13.600|
|8||44|| Gus Greensmith
|Ford Fiesta WRC||RC1||3:04’44.800||8’11.100|
|9||20|| Adrien Fourmaux
|Ford Fiesta Rally2||RC2||3:05’39.500||9’05.800|
|10||24|| Eric Camilli
|Citroën C3 Rally2||RC2||3:06’24.700||9’51.000|
|View full results|
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