All-Time Records Tumble With Sébastien Ogier’s Latest Monte Carlo Rally Win
The Monte Carlo Rally’s history stretches back long. Over a century indeed, with its first running in 1911. As might be expected much has happened in this time, and much has changed. For much of its history the rally was for adapted production vehicles rather than today’s monsters, while in a tradition that lasted until 1991 competitors got to select from a number of starting points across Europe from which to converge on southern France. Also in sharp contrast to the pitiless challenge that it became in time, early participants were judged on the elegance of their car and the condition in which it arrived in the principality rather than necessarily on their speed.
But even with all this variation the Monte Carlo Rally’s latest running last weekend resulted in several of its all-time records falling. It had the closest-ever winning margin in the event’s history, with reigning World Rally Champion Sébastien Ogier–on his first rally after returning to the Citroën team–beating last year’s championship runner-up Thierry Neuville in his Hyundai by a scant 2.2 seconds after four days of grueling action. And it might have been even closer than that, as Ogier had entered the final stage just four-tenths of a second up. Further Hyundai man Neuville after the final stage’s first two splits was the one ahead, 1.5s up. A final push though got an emotional Ogier the win.
And even more all-time records for the Monte fell in Ogier’s last-gasp victory swoop. He extended his own record of consecutive Monte Carlo Rally wins to six, and with his latest win he also now joins compatriot Sébastien Loeb on an all-time record seven Monte victories in total. The next closest are Tommi Mäkinen, Walter Röhrl, Sandro Munari, each with four wins. Lancia still has more Monte wins to its credit, at 13, but Citroën now has ten, ahead of Ford’s seven. And Citroën’s first win was 60 years ago, in 1959, in an ID19 (the basic version of the DS). Broader records fell too, as it was also Citroën’s 100th World Rally Championship win in this the year that the Citroën brand celebrates its 100th birthday. It was all particularly sweet for Ogier too as this is his local event–he is from nearby Gap where indeed this year’s rally held its shakedown.
Ogier and Neuville, who also had a close fight for last year’s championship, had a nip-and-tick fight for most of this Monte Carlo Rally’s duration, with the Hyundai man never more than 5.8s behind Ogier over the final two days of the event; starting the final day just 4.3s in arrears. As it transpired, an apparently innocuous wrong turn at a junction by Neuville on the second day was crucial in denying him victory. Then again, Ogier also lost time with a throttle problem on the final morning, wherein the throttle stayed partially open even under braking. “It was an incredibly intense weekend,” said Ogier; “it was a non-stop battle, but we managed to come away with the win. Obviously, we’re very proud of this result in our first race with the C3 WRC, especially because, as I’ve often said, this rally is one of the most special rallies for me. And it also means we can celebrate Citroën’s centenary in style.”
Images courtesy of Citroën