Monte Carlo Rally: Day 3

ogier-190114Defending world champion Sebastien Ogier sealed the Monte Carlo Rally on Saturday winning two of the three timed stages and emerging triumphant in this year’s World Rally Championship season-opener.

The Volkswagen driver stood victorious by over a comfortable minute despite treacherous conditions from privateer Bryan Bouffier and Kris Meeke, who became the first Briton to feature on the podium in a decade since Richard Burns’s third place in Australia in 2003.

“If I can finish this rally with no mistakes, I can do it on any rally!” said Meeke, who drove in a mature manner to claim his first podium in WRC.

Bouffier too recorded his first finish in the top three.

“I have to say that before the start of the rally, it was my dream to finish on the podium. To have actually achieved it is a fantastic feeling and truly surpassed my expectations,” said the Frenchman, who had a competitive streak throughout the course of the event.

Weather played a part in the day’s events with slushy snow, blinding fog, and water running downhill across the route making it tricky for the drivers and dampening some of the much-awaited excitement of the Col de Turini stages. Consequently, this delayed the final stage by just over ten minutes.

“We took it easy. I was not in the mood to take risks!” Ogier said.

Mads Ostberg came overcame a puncture in fourth sealing a rich haul of 27 points for Citroen. The Norwegian was ahead of Jari-Matti Latvala, who claimed the power stage ahead of Ogier and Meeke.

M-Sport’s Elfyn Evans, a rookie, finished sixth while veteran teammate Mikko Hirvonen struggled throughout the weekend, snowballing into a retirement on the final stage with an alternator issue.

“We managed to keep our noses clean all event – no moments, no dramas, no big slides,” said Evans.

Andreas Mikkelsen was seventh followed by Jaroslav Melicharek, who spun on SS14 in thick snow and got stuck causing a traffic jam when Hirvonen and Evans approached the spot.

“So much snow, I cannot believe it, winter wonderland!” reported Mikkelsen.

As a result, stage 14 was yellow flagged and times were neutralised.

Leading finishers after SS15:

Pos  Driver               Team/Car            Time/Gap
 1.  Sebastien Ogier      VW                3h55m14.4s
 2.  Bryan Bouffier       M-Sport Ford        +1m18.9s
 3.  Kris Meeke           Citroen             +1m54.3s
 4.  Mads Ostberg         Citroen             +3m53.9s
 5.  Jari-Matti Latvala   VW                  +6m08.3s
 6.  Elfyn Evans          M-Sport Ford        +8m37.4s
 7.  Andreas Mikkelsen    VW                 +11m42.3s
 8.  Jaroslav Melicharek  Slovakia Ford      +21m56.2s
 9.  Matteo Gamba         Balbosca Peugeot   +23m50.7s*
10.  Yuriy Protasov       M-Sport Ford       +25m43.1s**

* S2000 car
** WRC2

WRC retirements:

     Mikko Hirvonen       M-Sport Ford            SS15
     Robert Kubica        M-Sport Ford             SS9
     Dani Sordo           Hyundai                  SS5
     Thierry Neuville     Hyundai                  SS1
     Francois Delecour    M-Sport Ford             SS1
     Martin Prokop        Czech Ford               SS1

Leading power stage times:

Pos  Driver               Team/Car            Time/Gap
 1.  Jari-Matti Latvala   VW                  10m41.5s
 2.  Sebastien Ogier      VW                     +0.2s
 3.  Kris Meeke           Citroen                +4.9s
 4.  Bryan Bouffier       M-Sport Ford          +17.9s
 5.  Andreas Mikkelsen    VW                    +19.7s

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