MONACO: Triple world champion Sebastien Ogier claimed his fourth Monte Carlo Rally on Sunday (Monday in Manila) to send an early warning that he will once again be the man to beat this season.
The French Volkswagen Polo ace took the first leg of the world rally championship, almost two minutes clear of his Norwegian teammate Andreas Mikkelsen with Belgian’s Thierry Neville in a Hyundai coming third.
Ogier was notching up his third consecutive win in the iconic event to add to his victory in 2009 when it was part of the Intercontinental Rally Challenge.
“It’s very emotional, because this rally is really special, and very difficult,” said Ogier.
“I’m very proud that with my co-pilot Julien Ingrassia we’ve managed to win it three times in a row,” he added.
As Ogier coasted to his 33rd WRC win, another one of his teammates, Jari-Matti Latvala, was hit with a suspended one-rally ban for knocking over a spectator on Saturday (Sunday in Manila).
The accident took place during a calamitous 11th stage when the Finn also drove into a ditch, destroying his car’s suspension.
From footage of the incident, which became an instant Internet hit, the bystander did not appear to be injured.
But organizers took a dim view after Latvala failed to stop to check on the fan’s well being.
“I am sorry for what happened. I didn’t see anything due to the smoke coming out of the engine and the mud on the windscreen after we came out of the ditch,” said Latvala, who was also fined 5000 euros.
Ogier began the closing day with a comfortable two minute lead over Mikkelsen, and wrapped up his time in the Principality with the fastest time in the closing power stage.
The season moves on next to the Rally of Sweden on February 13 to 15.