The Citroen Total Abu Dhabi pilot led from the second stage on Wednesday and drove his DS3 faultlessly in treacherous weather to win by 1min 39.9sec. Second was Sebastien Ogier, delivering a superb debut for Volkswagen Motorsport’s new Polo R, while Dani Sordo secured third in another DS3.
The final night in the mountains above Monaco produced dramas galore. Three of the top seven on the leaderboard, Evgeny Novikov, Jari-Matti Latvala and Juho Hanninen crashed out in awful conditions on the first pass of the mythical Col de Turini stage.
Organisers then cancelled the final two tests on safety grounds when huge numbers of spectators brought the narrow roads to gridlock.
It was Loeb’s 77th WRC victory and the Frenchman said: “I’m always happy when I win, and Monte-Carlo is one of the most exciting rallies I’ve done. This one was really, really difficult. The conditions were extreme compared to what we have usually and winning wasn’t easy.”
The four-day rally, covering 425.93km over 16 stages, was based in Valence for the opening three legs, before relocating to Monaco. Snow and ice made it one of the toughest ‘Montes’ for years and studded tyres were the only sensible option.
While Loeb’s victory was not a surprise, second for Ogier delighted the 29-year-old Frenchman. He refused to be drawn into comparing stage times with Loeb, who will tackle only four rounds this season.
“I’m so happy, it’s like a victory for me,” he said. “I’m a competitor and I’ve never been happy to finish second but this weekend it was really the target, and to start the season like this is amazing. I’ve been waiting for one year, I’ve done so many tests and it was frustrating sometimes, and now here we are with the Polo on the pace already.”
Sordo’s podium came on his first rally with the Abu Dhabi Citroen team since rejoining them this season. He battled with Novikov most of the rally but when the young Russian ripped the rear left wheel from his Ford Fiesta RS, the Spaniard was promoted into third.
“It has been a very difficult and special Monte-Carlo, not like a normal tarmac rally at all. It has been very easy to make a mistake or lose time. Yeah I’m happy, especially because we didn’t have to go out on the Turini again!” said Sordo.
Mikko Hirvonen cut a frustrated figure for much of the week. But the Finn persevered with his DS3 and the demise of Novikov and Latvala, who hit a wall, allowed him to take fourth.
Bryan Bouffier claimed fifth in another DS3 while Mads Ostberg rounded off the top six in a Fiesta RS, after overcoming confidence problems early in the rally and broken right rear suspension today.
Sepp Wiegand won the new WRC 2 support category in a Skoda Fabia S2000. The German took the lead on the second stage when Esapekka Lappi retired his similar car with accident damage. Armin Kremer finished second with Ukraine’s Yuriy Protasov third.
In the WRC 3 support series, Sebastien Chardonnet took the honours in a two-wheel drive Citroen DS3. The Frenchman was the sole survivor after Renaud Poutot went off.