Sebastien Ogier made a winning start to the 2016 World Rally Championship season, securing victory on the Monte Carlo Rally by almost two minutes from Andreas Mikkelsen.

Local man Ogier had been hounded by Citroen’s Kris Meeke for much of the rally, trading fastest times and swapping the lead. But Meeke’s challenge came undone on Saturday afternoon when he ripped the sump guard off his DS3, causing terminal gearbox damage.

Jari-Matti Latvala fell by the wayside, too, breaking his Volkswagen’s suspension going through a ditch. Earlier on, he had inadvertently knocked a spectator down while recovering from an off, an incident he claimed no knowledge of. The officials thought otherwise and handed the Finn a one event suspended ban.

That left VW junior Andreas Mikkelsen in a comfortable second place, under no real threat from third-placed Thierry Neuville. The Hyundai man set some astonishingly quick times on Saturday after hitting on a brilliant tyre strategy to cut through the slush, but he was hampered by gearbox issues thereafter. Still, it was a fine debut result for the new i20.

Mads Ostberg was fourth on his return to M-Sport Ford, ahead of Stephane Lefebvre in the remaining Citroen, his best result to date. Dani Sordo battled through a number of issues to finish sixth, while Ott Tanak was seventh in the DMACK Ford, despite a roll on Friday.

Elfyn Evans finished eighth, winning the WRC2 category, ahead of Esapekki Lappi and Armin Kremer.

Ogier now has three Monte Carlo wins on his record; Sandro Munari, Walter Rohrl, Tommi Makinen and Sebastien Loeb have reached the same mark. He said: “Winning here in Monte Carlo is such an emotional moment for me! The conditions were so tricky. It was so icy and slippery. I am really happy with this success.

“I would like to thank the entire team, which did a fantastic job this weekend. My ice spies were awesome. It was really tough for them to provide us with accurate predictions regarding the state of the roads. Then there were the many fans cheering on Julien and me – it was just a perfect weekend.”

With a Power Stage win to boot, Ogier takes the maximum 28 points available. More importantly, his main rivals Latvala and Meeke failed to score – not a good way to start the season.

The WRC heads to the snow of Sweden for the next round on 12-14 February.

Monte Carlo Rally top ten finishers after 16 stages

  1. Sebastien Ogier — Volkswagen Motorsport/VW Polo R WRC — 3:49:53.1
  2. Andreas Mikkelsen — Volkswagen Motorsport II/VW Polo R WRC — +1:54.5
  3. Thierry Neuville — Hyundai Motorsport/Hyundai i20 WRC — +3:17.9
  4. Mads Ostberg — M-Sport WRT/Ford Fiesta RS WRC — +4:47.7
  5. Stephane Lefebvre — Abu Dhabi Total WRT/Citroen DS3 — +7:35.6
  6. Dani Sordo — Hyundai Motorsport/Hyundai i20 WRC — +10:35.5
  7. Ott Tanak — DMACK WRT/Ford Fiesta RS WRC — +11:39.9
  8. Elfyn Evans — M-Sport WRT/Ford Fiesta R5 — +18:30.8
  9. Esapekka Lappi — E. Lappi/Skoda Faba R5 — +20:41.0
  10. Armin Kremer — BRR Baumschlager Rally Team/Skoda Fabia R5 — +20:43.9

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By Only Motors