FIRST WIN IN FIESTA WRC: France's Sebastien Ogier and Julien Ingrassia won the first World Rally Championship event of the 2017 season: the coveted Monte Carlo Rally. Image: AFP / Jean-Piere Clatot
Monaco - World champion Sebastien Ogier launched his bid for a fifth consecutive title by winning the season-opening Monte Carlo Rally, his first after joining Ford, on Sunday (January 22).
The Frenchman, who moved to Ford after Volkswagen announced their shock exit from the competition in November, finished over two minutes clear of Finland's Jari-Matti Latvala with Estonian Ott Tanak third.
Penultimate staged canceled
Ogier had inherited the lead when pacesetter Thierry Neuville crashed his Hyundai on Saturday's final stage and took a 47-second lead over fellow Ford driver Tanak into Sunday's four concluding specials.
He drove cautiously as snow fell along the Col de Turini mountain pass but eased to a fourth straight Monte Carlo victory, the fifth of his career,as organisers cancelled the penultimate stage due to fan safety concerns.
The decision came after Thursday's opening special was abandoned after New Zealander Hayden Paddon's Hyundai was involved in a fatal collision with a spectator.
While Ogier avoided trouble, Tanak suffered engine problems and incurred him a 50-second penalty as he lost further ground before finishing close to three minutes behind the winner.
"Of course I hoped to win from the opening race but to do it with such little preparation is incredible," said Ogier, who earned Ford the team's first victory since 2012.
"The season is going to be difficult, we're aware of that, but we'll give everything to put up a fight.
1. Sebastien Ogier-Julien Ingrassia (FRA/Ford Fiesta RS) 4hr 00:03.6,
2. Jari-Matti Latvala-Miikka Anttila (FIN/Toyota Yaris) at 2:15.0,
3. Ott Tanak-Raigo Molder (EST/Ford Fiesta RS) 2:57.8,
4. Dani Sordo-Marc Marti (ESP/Hyundai i20) 3:35.8,
5. Craig Breen-Scott Martin (IRL-GBR/Citroen DS3) 3:47.8
15. Thierry Neuville-Nicolas Gilsoul (BEL/Hyundai i20) 30:52.5
Ogier (SS7, SS8, SS11)
Neuville (SS2, SS4, SS5, SS6, SS9, SS17)
Evans (SS10, SS12, SS13)
Note: SS1 and SS 16 both cancelled.