Defending champ Ogier-Ingrassia lead after opening night stages: Rallye Monte-Carlo, WRC

By | January 26, 2018

S Ogier and navigator Ingrassia lead after first round in the Rally Monte Carlo, the season opener of the WRC on Wednesday. An M-Sport Ford Rally team image

Reigning FIA World Rally Champion Sébastien Ogier has made the perfect start to Rallye Monte-Carlo, the Frenchman scooping the first two stage wins and a 17.3 second lead after Thursday’s opening night stages. Andreas Mikkelsen heads Hyundai’s challenge in second with team-mate Dani Sordo third a further 8.3 seconds adrift of the Norwegian.

“M-Sport Ford World Rally Team’s Ogier and co-driver Julien Ingrassia lead the first round with a 17.3-second advantage aboard their EcoBoost-powered Ford Fiesta WRC.

“As five-time winners of the prestigious event, the pairing knows exactly what it takes to master the notoriously challenging conditions. This year’s fixture threw up an immensely challenging opener – Sisteron, in reverse, in the dark – but Ogier and Ingrassia did not falter,” added a Ford Team release.

Sébastien Ogier (1st) said:

“We knew it would be tough to cross the icy section with slick tyres and we actually had a spin there. I think almost everyone had a moment in there, but luckily we didn’t lose too much time. The rest of the stage was also very tricky with the grip changing all the time and it was challenging to know where you could and couldn’t push. 

“I was happy with the car and in these conditions and you need to be comfortable or you don’t have any chance to be fast. There are still some small things here and there that we can do to improve, but I’m happy and it’s a good start.” 

The eagerly awaited 2018 FIA World Rally Championship kicked off this evening in Monaco, the crews leaving the famous Casino Square late afternoon and then heading directly into two daunting stages en route back to the overnight halt in Gap. Ogier was on the pace immediately, despite a low-speed spin on sheet ice, and the Gap-born driver overnights happy with his early performance. Mikkelsen, in his first full season with Hyundai, lost the brakes in the first stage but sits just 17.3 seconds adrift and ahead of Sordo who returns to the Championship with his former co-driver Carlos del Barrio.

Behind the leading trio, Esapekka Lappi surprisingly heads the trio of Toyota drivers. The Finn is on a mission not to make mistakes and while admitting his pace wasn’t the best, he was happy his confidence was building in tricky conditions. Toyota newcomer, Ott Tänak, is five seconds further behind in fifth having hit a bank in the first stage and suffering from massive understeer. Jari-Matti Latvala, in the third Yaris WRC, spun twice and played a gamble with three super soft tyres, admitting he needed to try something different. Craig Breen is seventh in the lead Citroën C3 WRC but the Irish driver stalled and got stuck in snow in the first stage and then struggled in the second when he ran out of time to set the tyre pressures before the start; a nightmare start to his 2018 campaign. Bryan Bouffier, drafted into the M-Sport Ford World Rally Team for this event, is eighth and Kris Meeke ninth. The Northern Irishman made a stupid mistake in the opener, spinning and then reversing into a ditch which cost him a precious minute. Eric Camilli holds 10th overall and leads the FIA WRC 2 Championship contenders ahead of Jan Kopecky.

Elfyn Evans has also had a bad start and is down in 16th overall, the Welshman picking up a puncture which he had to stop and change. Thierry Neuville fared even worse, the Belgian one place behind after locking up and skidding into a snow bank.

The FIA WRC 3 Championship is being led by Frenchman Jean-Baptiste Franceschi in a Fiesta R2T.

Rallye Monte-Carlo – Provisional results after Section 1

1.   Sébastien Ogier / Julien Ingrassia Ford Fiesta WRC 38min 09.8sec
2.   Andreas Mikkelsen / Anders Jæger Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC 38min 27.1sec
3.   Dani Sordo / Carlos del Barrio Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC 38min 35.4sec
4.   Esapekka Lappi / Janne Ferm Toyota Yaris WRC 38min 47.2sec
5.   Ott Tänak / Martin Järveoja Toyota Yaris WRC 38min 52.2sec
6.   Jari-Matti Latvala / Miikka Anttila Toyota Yaris WRC 39min 05.2sec
7.   Craig Breen / Scott Martin Citroën C3 WRC 39min 12.1sec
8.   Bryan Bouffier / Xavier Panseri Ford Fiesta WRC 40min 00.8sec
9.   Kris Meeke / Paul Nagle Citroën C3 WRC 40min 22.5sec
10. Eric Camilli / Benjamin Veillas Ford Fiesta R5 40min 52.0sec