Neuville wins Rally Monte Carlo - WRC round 1

Opening the 2024 WRC season in fine style, the 92nd Rally Monte Carlo provided Thierry Neuville with his 20th WRC win and with it - under newly introduced WRC scoring - he banked a perfect score of 30 points alongside his co-driver Martijn Wydaeghe.

The Hyundai i20 N star opened his 2024 FIA World Rally Championship title account with an inspiring performance in the Alps Maritime, despite unseasonably warm weather meaning a lack of tradition Monte snow but tricky damp and frosty mountain roads, especially early morning. In scoring his emphatic win, Neuville denied his Toyota Gazoo Racing rival Sébastien Ogier his tenth Rally Monte Carlo win by 16.1sec. But victory wasn't completely drama free for the Belgian who shrugged off early engine issues to launch an attack on Saturday and overtake both Ogier and his GR Yaris team-mate Elfyn Evans to lead by a slender 3.3sec margin. A clean sweep of fastest times in Sunday's final leg cemented his position ahead of the undisputed Rallye Monte-Carlo meister.

"I don't have the words, to be honest," beamed an elated Neuville after finishing the final stage on the iconic Col de Turini. "It was just so great this weekend, I felt so comfortable in the car. The whole team was doing an amazing job and I think the whole package was working really well. There are always things to improve so of course we need to continue working, but we are very happy to win this rally."

Ogier led for just one stage on Saturday afternoon but could not repel Neuville despite his best efforts. "It's been a nice battle with Thierry. Well done to him, he has been really fast this weekend," the eight-time world champion admitted.

Evans held the upper hand after the first two legs, but hemorrhaged time on Saturday, not helped by a hybrid unit problem and he eventually finished third, 29.1sec behind his team-mate Ogier. The Welsh driver admitted to being amazed by the pace shown by first and second placed drivers. Ott Tänak was fourth on his first rally back at Hyundai since 2022 but unfathomable engine problems blighted the 2019 world champion's challenge throughout the rally although a stage win on Saturday morning proved his potential with the i20 N car.

Adrien Fourmaux equaled his career-best result by finishing fifth overall in his M-Sport Ford Puma. Behind him was Hyundai's Andreas Mikkelsen, with Takamoto Katsuta almost three minutes further back after sliding off the road on Friday. Yohan Rossel claimed the WRC2 victory with a stellar effort on the Wolf Power Stage, which saw his Citroen climb to eighth overall in the process. He passed Pepe López in the finale while Nikolay Gryazin rounded out the top 10.

Round two of the WRC takes place on the snow and ice of Sweden. The series' only pure winter fixture is based in Umeĺ, eastern Sweden 15 - 18 February.

28th January, 2024