Sébastien Ogier was peerless at last year’s WRC round on the Mediterranean 'Île de Beauté', delivering a masterclass in how to build a lead – and keep hold of it.
From beginning to end, this home round win was one of Seb’s best yet.
Championship leader Ogier dominated the opening leg leaving his rivals floundering. Despite a handling problem that threatened to spin his Ford Fiesta at hairpins, the Frenchman won three of the four stages and built a 33.6sec advantage over Thierry Neuville who lacked confidence in his Hyundai i20.
Ogier’s task was simplified when arch-rival Sébastien Loeb crashed his Citroën C3 out of second place during the second test. Kris Meeke ended third, 5.1sec further back in his Citroën C3 with Ott Tänak fourth, a further 5.5sec adrift after handling issues restricted his Toyota Yaris's progress.
Esapekka Lappi ended Ogier’s hopes of a clean-sweep of stage wins by setting the fastest time in the final test of the day. He was fifth, 0.3sec ahead of Elfyn Evans. Dani Sordo was seventh, and the last of a trio covered by less than a second.
Ogier remained on target to win after extending his lead to 44.5sec. The defending champ didn't take any stage wins but he maintained a strong focus as his rivals hit trouble.
The fierce fight for second ended with Tänak snatching the position by a tenth of a second from Neuville in the final test, as Meeke crashed his Citroën into retirement after mishearing a pace note. Just 10.3sec further behind in fourth was Lappi who won two of the day's six stages after suspension and differential changes transformed his confidence.
Sordo and Evans were evenly matched all day. Sordo ended fifth in his i20, with a 3.1sec cushion over the Welshman. Jari-Matti Latvala retired his Yaris from eighth after hitting a tree and Bryan Bouffier went out with engine problems in his Fiesta.
Ogier eased to his third victory in four rounds by a margin of 36.1sec. Tänak finished second, having distanced Neuville in the marathon 55km opening test and widened the gap to 31.4sec as Neuville encountered engine problems.
The Belgian limped through the final test and was grateful to hold a large advantage over team-mate Sordo who finished 55.1sec further behind, but ahead of Evans in fifth.
There was final day heartbreak for Lappi, whose second-place hopes were shattered when he hit a kerb and stopped to change a punctured tyre. He plunged to seventh, but salvaged maximum bonus points by winning the Power Stage – a feat that allowed him to overhaul Andreas Mikkelsen and climb to sixth.