Hyundai’s Thierry Neuville and Citroen’s Sebastien Ogier went head-to-head in the 2019 FIA World Rally Championship’s Rallye Monte Carlo with Ogier winning it again.
Sebastian Ogier with co-driver Julien Ingrassia in the Citroen C3 WRC controlled the rally until the Sunday running while being chased by Neuville with Nicolas Gilsoul in the Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC and also Toyota’s Ott Tanak with co-driver Martin Jarveoja in Yaris WRC.
Ott Tanak, in fact, led the opening leg on Thursday after winning SS1 with Sebastian Ogier is closest challenger even though Thierry Neuville won SS2 on the snowy roads of Monte Carlo. The cancellation of SS3 put Ogier in check with the tyre option he opted for.
This allowed Thierry Neuville to take charge of the field but Sebastian Ogier fought back to take the lead in SS6 and keep it until the day’s end as Ott Tanak dropped to seventh after the Estonian suffered a broken rim which cost him chunk of time in a close fight.
Meanwhile, Hyundai’s Sebastien Loeb with co-driver Daniel Elena picked up his first win in SS4 along with SS7 as he climbed up to fifth overall. Thierry Neuville won SS8 while Ogier in SS5 as Toyota’s Jari-Matti Latvala with co-driver Miikka Anttila won SS6.
The Saturday running had Ogier still in the lead which, in fact, he extended it over Thierry Neuville with all the day’s stages being won by a recovering Tanak, who jumped up to fifth overall. Sebastian Loeb gained in the stage to be third overall with Latvala in fourth.
The biggest loser was Hyundai’s Andreas Mikkelsen with co-driver Anders Jaeger-Synnevaag as the Norwegian was forced to retire after damaging his rear left when he smacked the wall towards the end of the opening leg.
Joining in the retirement list from the WRC class were M-Sport’s Elfyn Evans with co-driver Scott Martin and Citroen’s Esapekka Lappi with co-driver Janne Ferm – the former crashed out while the latter stopped with a suspected engine issue.
The final had Ott Tanak on charge again as he moved into third in SS14 with wins in SS13 and SS14 while Neuville closed in on Sebastian Ogier with a win in SS15 as they were separated by just 0.4s going into the Power Stage (SS16) after the Frenchman stopped to fix an issue.
Toyota’s Kris Meeke with co-driver Sebastian Marshall won the Power Stage but Ogier’s second place was enough for him to open the 2019 WRC season with a victory in Rallye Monte Carlo – his sixth consecutive win in Monaco and first in a Citroen C3.
Hyundai’s Thierry Neuville came close to beating arch rival Sebastian Ogier but a spin in the final stage meant he fell 2.2s short as Toyota’s Tanak completed the Rallye Monte Carlo podium ahead of Hyundai’s Sebastian Loeb and Toyota pair of Latvala & Meeke in the WRC class.
The other WRC runners saw M-Sport’s Teemu Suninen with co-driver Marko Salminen ending up 11th overall after the Finn’s troubles on Thursday as teammate Pntus Tidemand with cod-driver Ola Floene finishing 20th after his Friday issues.