Sebastien Ogier won the 2023 edition of the Rallye Monte-Carlo, beating his Toyota team-mate, Kalle Rovanperä, by 18.5s. Thierry Neuville brought home his Hyundai in third place 44.6s back.
The final day had been set up with a possible fightback from Rovanperä because the Finn started the day only 16s behind Ogier, but the Frenchman started the day strongly by winning the first stage to extend the lead to 18.7s.
Rovanperä didn’t feel as confident during the stage and commented: “I am not fully happy. I did this stage last year and I was not on the pace, so for sure it was not easy now to step up.”
Despite a lack of confidence, however, there wasn’t an immediate threat from behind due to Neuville spinning on stage and then experiencing a hybrid issue. This dropped the lead Hyundai back to a 37.1s deficit to Ogier.
The following stage saw Rovanperä claw back 1.5s and grab the stage win but it wasn’t significant enough to make a proper dent into the lead with only two stages remaining. At this point, Neuville was looking back to a possible challenge from Elfyn Evans but with the Welshman already having to manage his tyres, Neuville was able to produce a clean stage to extend the gap.
At SS17, Ogier made another statement by beating his nearest rival by 6.3s. Takamoto Katsuta did split them in the stage standings, but all Ogier had to do was navigate the Wolf Power Stage with no issues.
And that is exactly what the veteran accomplished. Rovanperä beat Ott Tänak to top the stage timings followed by Evans, but it was only a 4.7s gap back to Ogier. This meant that Ogier grabbed a record ninth Rallye Monte-Carlo victory.
“It’s huge. I love this rally, it’s the one which gave me the dream right at the beginning and I am so happy for Vincent: it’s nice for me, but for him, it’s a dream to take his first win.”
Rovanperä was happy with second overall and topping the power stage timings. “It was a good one. I think we can be quite happy with second place. There was much more cleaning than I expected on Thursday and Friday, and it seems when we were in the same conditions as everyone, we had the same pace as everyone else.”
With Ogier only completing a part-time program, this effectively means that Rovanperä leads the full-time contingent of drivers in the overall standings.
Neuville brought home third place but bemoaned a lack of speed in the car at this stage. “I gave it everything in there, but we had so much tyre wear compared to the others all weekend and we are missing speed. Even if we are taking some risks at some points, we can’t match the others.”
Elfyn Evans brought his car home in fourth, but it was a question of what could have been for the Welshman. The car was on pace and running second early on, but the Friday puncture cost the Toyota so much time that a podium was too far of a stretch.
Tänak finished fifth in what was a testing first rally for him in the Ford Puma Rally1. Various issues from the start meant that Tänak didn’t have too much of a chance to get comfortable in the event.
Tänak’s team-mate, Pierre-Louis Loubet, was the only Rally1 driver not to finish round 1 of the season. On Sunday a broken handbrake and then a technical problem before the penultimate test of the rally forced him to retire again, making it a rally to forget for the new full-time M-Sport driver.
Takamoto Katsuta brought his car home in sixth despite coming close to beating Tänak. The Japanese driver suffered an issue in the final test which meant that he nearly fell back into the clutches of Dani Sordo. Esapekka Lappi was the last Rally1 finisher in a debut to forget in Hyundai colours.
- Ogier – 3hr 12min 2s
- Rovanpera – +18.5s
- Neuville – +44.6s
- Evans – +1min 12.4s
- Tänak – +2min 34.9s
- Katsuta – +3min32.6s
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