Tackling the last 13.58 kilometres of a Rallye Monte-Carlo held over some 324 kilometres with a lead of just four tenths of a second calls for one hell of a cool head. And never more so when your concentration has been somewhat disturbed by a throttle issue. With six world titles to their names, Sébastien Ogier and Julien Ingrassia have long since mastered the art of managing the pressure in this kind of situation and the adrenalin pumping through their systems, and they demonstrated it once again today. Second fastest on the final stage between La Cabanette and the Col de Braus, the Frenchmen sealed their seventh overall win and their sixth in a row in the Principality by just 2.2s, on their first competitive outing the C3 WRC! The result also means the pair now jointly hold of the record for the number of wins at this prestigious rally and confirms just how much Sébastien and Julien are already at one with their new car.
This exceptional performance is equally Citroën Racing’s hundredth victory in the World Rally Championship, almost twenty years after its first win at this level when the Xsara Kit-Car prevailed at the 1999 Rally de Catalunya, driven by the late Philippe Bugalski and Jean-Paul Chiaroni, who now works as recce and weather coordinator for the team. A historic achievement that reflects the kind of longevity at the highest level that few manufacturers can boast.
All too aware of the pitfalls invariably provided by Monte-Carlo, the French pair adopted a measured, intelligent approach from the outset, grabbing second position after Thursday’s opening two night stages. They then moved into the overall lead the following day in the afternoon (SS7), thanks in large part to two stage wins (SS5 and SS6) on Curbans – Piegut (18.47km) and Valdrome – Sigottier 2 (20.04km), both new stages this year. Having ended Friday’s leg with a narrow 2.0s lead, Sébastien and Julien managed to more than double their advantage on Agnières en Devoluy – Corps (29.82km), the opening speed test on Saturday and the longest of the weekend, and this despite the stage featuring plenty of ice. A lead that they managed for the rest of Saturday’s leg, meaning they began the final day 4.3s ahead of the second-placed crew. They traded blows with their closest challengers on Sunday’s short final leg before pipping them to victory in the last few hundred metres.
Meanwhile, although they were forced to retire on Saturday morning after an engine issues, Esapekka Lappi and Janne Ferm had nonetheless made a promising start to the race, holding a brilliant fourth place on Thursday evening. Clearly, Citroën Total WRT made the right call in deciding to add them to their driver line-up, alongside Sébastien Ogier and Julien Ingrassia. Given that they are also likely to have a good position in the running order in Sweden, they will undoubtedly be a force to be reckoned with again.