Ogier and Volkwagen Win at Monte Carlo

Sebastien Ogier opened his 2014 World Rally Championship account with one of his typically hard-fought wins in changeable and sometimes atrocious conditions on the Monte Carlo Rally, despite being back in ninth, 1m20s off the lead at the end of the opening loop on Thursday morning. Ogier was however able to charge back to the front by the middle of the second day.

Ogier coped well with torrential rain and occasional heavy snow, to give Volkswagen its first Monte win, and to repeat his 2009 Intercontinental Rally Challenge victory on the event. Robert Kubica had started his first WRC season with M-Sport in incredible style by winning the first two stages, before falling back to fourth when he found himself on the wrong tyres for heavy snow on SS3 but the former F1 star remained in contention for a podium until crashing out on day two.

Bryan Bouffier, making what is expected to be a one-off outing in an M-Sport customer Ford, judged the weather and tyre dilemma perfectly and burst into the lead and looked as if he would be able to put up a fight against Ogier until a spin on Friday let the world champion snatch first place but thereafter Bouffier drove sensibly to claim a great second place on the podium.

Citroen's 2014 signings Kris Meeke and Mads Ostberg were delighted to secure third and fourth but Jari-Matti Latvala made a very poor start to the event and was only 19th after the first loop. He recovered strongly to take several stage wins and the power stage bonus on the way to fifth, despite a puncture on Friday.

Welshman Elfyn Evans completed his first Monte Carlo Rally, and only his second World Rally Car outing, in sixth place overall, having ably demonstrated that he was capable of holding his own in the top six for most of the rally. His M-Sport team-mate Mikko Hirvonen developed an alternator problem and ground to a halt on the final stage.

Andreas Mikkelsen also had a tough event and finished seventh after struggling early on, then lost several minutes with a trip off the road on Friday after he had got up to sixth. Hyundai's new i20 made a brief but promising WRC debut. Thierry Neuville crashed out on the very first stage, but his team-mate Dani Sordo was running third before a battery problem ended his rally later on day one.

Slovakian newcomer Jaroslav Melicharek took eighth overall despite forcing the penultimate stage to be abandoned when he got stuck in deep snow, blocking the course until spectators got him moving and Super 2000 Peugeot driver Matteo Gamba and WRC2 class winner Yuriy Protasov completed the top ten finishers.

Leading finishers after SS15:

Pos Driver Team/Car Time/Gap
1. Sebastien Ogier VW 3h55m14.4s
2. Bryan Bouffier M-Sport Ford +1m18.9s
3. Kris Meeke Citroen +1m54.3s
4. Mads Ostberg Citroen +3m53.9s
5. Jari-Matti Latvala VW +6m08.3s
6. Elfyn Evans M-Sport Ford +8m37.4s
7. Andreas Mikkelsen VW +11m42.3s
8. Jaroslav Melicharek Slovakia Ford +21m56.2s
9. Matteo Gamba Balbosca Peugeot +23m50.7s S2000 car
10. Yuriy Protasov M-Sport Ford +25m43.1s WRC2

18th January, 2014