Loeb Wins Rallye Monte Carlo for 7th time

There's little doubt from the showing at Monte Carlo this weekend that Sebastien Loeb is capable of adding a tenth World Rally Championship title to his amazing tally; had he not elected to run a greatly reduced programme of rallies in 2013, Loeb having clinched his seventh Monte Carlo Rally victory in emphatic style even though the final two stages of the rally were cancelled on safety grounds.

Heavy rain had moved into the previously icy and snowy region as the cars were in the mid-evening service, and as the worsening conditions prompted hordes of spectators to leave the stages, local roads became badly congested. The situation ultimately reached the point where the organisers felt compelled to cancel stages 17 and 18 as the level of traffic would have made it impossible to put their action plan into place in the event of an incident.

Results will therefore be taken from the end of SS16, with Loeb winning for Citroen ahead of Volkswagen's Sebastien Ogier, the other two works Citroens of Dani Sordo and Mikko Hirvonen finished third and fourth. There was generally little to choose between Ogier and Loeb, but the champion made a crucial break when he pulled a minute clear on Wednesday afternoon however, glitches in the new SIT timing system lead to several hours of confusion before correct results could be obtained.

Ogier was the only VW at the finish, with team-mate Jari-Matti Latvala crashing from sixth on the final day. Citroen had plenty to celebrate with Sordo third, albeit nearly four minutes behind Loeb, and Hirvonen fourth despite displaying wobbly confidence at times during the event.

It was a week of promise and disappointment for Qatar M-Sport. All their Fords flew at times, and Evgeny Novikov was battling Sordo for a podium. Novikov's challenge ended when he crashed at the start of the final leg, just as team-mate Juho Hanninen would later on the same stage.

With Thierry Neuville having gone off on day one while running fourth, M-Sport's only points came from Mads Ostberg's sixth place. The Norwegian survived electrical problems on day one and suspension damage on Saturday to complete his maiden Monte.

Leading finishers after SS16:

Pos Driver Team/Car Time/Gap
1. Sebastien Loeb Citroen 5h18m57.2s
2. Sebastien Ogier VW + 1m39.9s
3. Dani Sordo Citroen + 3m49.0s
4. Mikko Hirvonen Citroen + 5m26.3s
5. Bryan Bouffier PH Citroen + 8m13.1s
6. Mads Ostberg M-Sport Czech Ford + 23m27.3s
7. Martin Prokop Czech Ford + 23m27.3s
8. Sepp Wiegand Skoda Deutschland + 29m34.5s
9. Olivier Burri Offshore Peugeot + 35m38.4s
10. Michal Kosciuszko Italia Mini + 36m28.0s

20th January, 2013