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