Sebastien Ogier began the defence of his FIA World Rally
Championship crown with a fourth consecutive win in the Monte-Carlo rally on
January 22, 2017. He eased through the final leg in the mountains above Monaco
to claim his fifth Monte success in total by 2min 15.0sec in a Ford Fiesta
World Rally Car.
It was a dream debut for the Frenchman with the M-Sport
World Rally Team, for whom this was a first win since November 2012.
Jari-Matti Latvala finished second in a Toyota Yaris on
the Japanese manufacturer’s return to the WRC after a 17-year absence. Final
day engine problems for Ott Tänak denied M-Sport a one-two as he slipped to
third, a further 42.8sec behind.
Toyota's last WRC podium came at the penultimate round in
Australia in 1999 with Carlos Sainz at the wheel.
Latvala's teammate Juho Hänninen was placed third on the
opening night of the four-day rally and was in podium contention until he slid
off the road in icy and snowy conditions on day two. He recovered seven places
to finish in 16th.
Toyota Gazoo Racing team principal Tommi Mäkinen said the
result - with Latvala just 2 min, 15 sec behind the rally winner - was beyond
the team's expectations.
Ogier took the lead late on Saturday’s penultimate leg
when event-long leader Thierry Neuville broke his Hyundai i20 Coupe’s
suspension after an impact. With a comfortable gap, Ogier took no risks through
the final snow-hit speed test over the famous Col de Turini. “I was hoping to
win but to take it from the first rally, after only one month together and with
so little preparation, feels really amazing,” he said. “The conditions didn’t
make our life easy this weekend, starting first in the snow on day one and
finishing with more and more snow,” he added.
Latvala struggled to find a good rhythm initially but
changes to his car’s set-up revitalised the Finn. Third overnight became second
when Ott Tänak dropped time with a broken ignition coil pack in his Fiesta and
Latvala sped by.
With no service, Estonian Tänak worked furiously to make
repairs and did enough to hold onto third, fending off Dani Sordo’s i20 Coupe
with a spirited downhill drive to the finish of the last special stage in
Craig Breen finished fifth in a Citroën DS 3 with Elfyn
Evans completing the top six in another Fiesta. The Welshman won three stages
on Saturday to offset a disappointing start when he dropped several minutes in
snow and ice.
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