Monte driver
report: part 1

We look at how the leading drivers coped in the French Alps in the first part of our summary.

Sébastien Ogier (Volkswagen Polo R) Result: 1st
This is the rally Ogier wants to win more than any other. He did, for the third consecutive season, ticking another box in his ‘must do’ list. A margin of almost two minutes flattered him a little, because Kris Meeke gave him a run for his money in the first two-and-a-half days. But apart from touching a bridge on Friday’s second stage, Seb was faultless, and ended a great week by announcing his wife, Andrea, is pregnant with their first child. Congratulations to both!

Thierry Neuville (Hyundai i20) Result: 3rd
Neuville promised he had his mojo back and we would see him nearer the top end of the leaderboard than the bottom. He duly delivered. The first two days were a bit dodgy though, as the new-specification i20 was far too soft, the result of pre-event testing in the snow and driving the rally predominantly on asphalt. But set-up changes and an inspired tyre choice on Saturday afternoon cemented him on the podium, despite a last day transmission issue.

Mads Østberg (Ford Fiesta RS) Result: 4th
There was little wrong with Mads’ start to 2016. He had a new team, a new car, a new co-driver and his pace notes were read in a new language. To cope with all that on a rally that is far from his favourite and deliver fourth was a solid opening. Everything is now focused on next month’s Rally Sweden, where he won’t be happy if he is not standing on the podium come Sunday afternoon.

Kris Meeke (DS 3) Result: Retired
Some would argue this was Meeke’s best WRC drive yet. He led twice and Ogier had to be at the very top of his game to eke out a near 30sec lead by Saturday afternoon. It all went wrong for the Briton in the snow of the Ancelle ski slopes when he hit a chunk of bedrock with the underneath of his DS 3. The impact ripped off the sump guard and holed the gearbox. Bad luck rather than a mistake.

Andreas Mikkelsen (Volkswagen Polo R) Result: 2nd
Mikkelsen netted a fine second after gambling more than any of his colleagues with tyre choice. He opted for Michelin’s studs on Saturday morning and lost more than a minute in the opener. He then trounced everyone else by almost 45sec in the next test, which had plenty of the white stuff. It all made little difference in the end but it was refreshing to see him try something different in an attempt to unseat Ogier, Meeke and Latvala ahead.

Ott Tänak (Ford Fiesta RS) Result: 7th
Monte wouldn’t feature anywhere near the top of Tänak’s favourite rallies. And when he roofed his Fiesta on Friday, it probably slid a couple of notches further down the order. However, he only dropped 90sec and in the final reckoning that meant seventh rather than sixth. Kept things clean and tidy after his roll and brought points home for the new DMACK squad.

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