The 25-year-old struck early on the opening Saint-Disdier - Corps speed test to go 10.2sec faster than his closest rival.
With the lead under control, Rossel opted for a relaxed approach to the following stage and eventually rounded out Thursday’s leg with a 7.6sec advantage over Citroën C3 rival Nicolas Ciamin.
Ciamin’s position was less secure as he faced monumental pressure from Yoann Bonato, who was just 1.5sec behind. Bonato, driving another C3, started slowly, but capitalised on his previous Monte-Carlo experience to claim the SS2 victory by a whopping 11.8sec.
Cédric De Cecco was the best of the non-French drivers. The Belgian, competing in Monte-Carlo for the first time, guided his Skoda Fabia Rally2 to the end of the first day 1min 05.9sec down on the lead in fourth.
De Cecco’s closest challenger came in the form of Hermann Neubauer who was 44.4sec behind in a Ford Fiesta Rally2, with sixth-placed Davy Vanneste just 4.3sec further back in a Citroën. Skoda man Mauro Miele completed the top seven, but was already 2min15.0sec back from the fight unfolding at the front.
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