Toyota ended up 1-2 to start the 2021 FIA World Rally Championship (WRC) in Rallye Monte-Carlo, with Sebastien Ogier leading teammate Elfyn Evans.
What looked like a solid fight between Toyota and Hyundai at one stage, it crumbled for the latter, especially with the retirement of Ott Tanak (co-driver Martin Jarveoja) on Saturday. A slow start from Ogier (co-driver Julien Ingrassia) turned into a dominant show.
The 2020 WRC champion was only fifth on Thursday in his Yaris, but wins in SS3, SS4 and SS5, helped Ogier to take the lead in Rallye Monte-Carlo. As Tanak dipped on Friday after his win in SS1 and SS2, Toyota’s Evans (co-driver Scott Martin) stepped up.
The Welshman leapfrogged teammate Kalle Rovanpera (co-driver Jonne Halttunen) in the process and had the lead to end Friday on top but Ogier fought back from a flat tyre, on Saturday to retake it, which he then never lost until the end of WRC Rallye Monte-Carlo.
The brake issues on Thursday evaporated for Ogier as he further won SS7, SS9, SS12 and SS14 to solidify his position at the top of the standings. His teammate Evans, likewise, maintained second, after the threat from Tanak was gone, with wins in SS6 and SS11.
The Estonian’s luck dipped as the rally progressed and successive puncture on Saturday, left him with no tyres on his rims, which was deemed dangerous, as he was forced to retire. The rules from the WRC was such, that he couldn’t start on Sunday.
His teammate Thierry Neuville with new co-driver Martijin Wydaeghe in the i20 Coupe, started slowly, but caught on well by the end to remove Rovanpera from the podium position. The Belgian won SS10 and SS13 to secure a place on the podium.
For Hyundai, scoring points became crucial after Tanak’s loss, as Dani Sordo (co-driver Carlos del Barrio) steadied himself in the Top 5. The Spaniard did not have the outright pace to challenge the Toyota drivers and was helped by some retirements.
The first of which came on Thursday when M-Sport’s Teemu Suninen (co-driver Mikko Markkula) crashed into a ditch. His Ford Fiesta WRC was damaged beyond repair, as teammate Gus Greensmith (co-driver Elliott Edmonson) carried on in the rally.
At the front, though, Toyota had a the best start to the 2021 WRC season in Rallye Monte-Carlo as Ogier led a 1-2 finish after winning the Power stage. The Frenchman had a 32.6s advantage over Evans, with Neuville rounding out the Top 3 ahead of Rovanpera.
Sordo scored crucial points for Hyundai in fifth, as M-Sport’s Greensmith was eighth behind Toyota’s Takamoto Katsuta (co-driver Daniel Barritt) and Andreas Mikkelson’s WRC2 car.
Here’s the full results: https://www.wrc.com/en/wrcplus/live-timing/