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Loeb wins after Ogier’s tire drama

Sebastien Loeb (Ford) has won the 2022 Monte-Carlo Rally on his return to the World Rally Championship (WRC) after a dramatic finale.

In an exciting duel between two WRC legends, the nine-time world champion prevailed against his namesake, the eight-time champion Sebastien Ogier (Toyota), making him the first winner of the WRC’s Rally1 hybrid era. Third was Loeb’s M-Sport teammate Craig Breen.

After a gripping exchange of blows between the two Sebs over almost the entire rally, Ogier already looked like the sure winner on Sunday. Before the penultimate special stage (SS), Ogier had a 24.6 second lead over Loeb. But then Ogier punctured the left front tire and lost 34.1 seconds to Loeb on the penultimate special stage. On the Power Stage, Ogier was unable to make up the deficit of 9.5 seconds.

At the finish, both were separated by 10.5 seconds after a 10-second time penalty for Ogier due to a jump start on the Power Stage. Breen, 1:39.8 minutes behind, had nothing to do with the fight for the first two places. Fourth was Kalle Rovanperä (Toyota) in front of Gus Greensmith (Ford) and Thierry Neuville in the only remaining Hyundai.

Seventh overall and winner of the WRC2 class went to Andreas Mikkelsen (Skoda). Eighth place went to another WRC2 driver, Erik Cais (Ford). Takamoto Katsuta (Toyota) and Nikolai Gryasin (Skoda) completed the top 10.

For Loeb, who last started in the WRC in September 2020 and who had little preparation time for his first start for M-Sport due to his participation in the Dakar Rally, it was the 80th victory in the World Rally Championship – but the first with his new co-driver Isabelle Galmiche.

“I’m very happy. I wasn’t expecting much beforehand. It was a big fight,” says Loeb, who was able to make good use of the potential of the well-sorted Ford Puma Rally1. With a total of five special stage victories, the 47-year-old showed impressively that he is still in top form. However, it is not yet clear whether Loeb will contest further rallies in the course of the 2022 WRC season.

Flatfoot brings Sebastien Ogier the victory

Ogier, who will also only compete in a few rallies this season and has not yet been confirmed for any other rounds, was annoyed at the unfortunate missed victory at the Monte Carlo Rally. Rather, he now has to share the title of “Monte Masters” with Loeb, who drew level with his compatriot with his eighth triumph.

“I’m leaving with my head held high,” says Ogier. “I did my job this weekend and that’s the way it is. Congratulations to the team, it was a good weekend for the first time with the hybrid.”

In the shadow of the two Sebs’ duel, Breen was a secret winner. Because of all the drivers who will contest the entire 2022 season, he achieved the best result and finished on the podium for the seventh time in his WRC career.Craig Breen the secret winner“It’s an amazing feeling. This is the result of 18 months of incredibly hard work by a group of people working their way through all of Covid and it’s all worth it because this is an absolutely amazing machine,” says Breen.

Away from Ogier’s tire drama, Toyota experienced a rally with ups and downs. Rovanperä was thrown back on Thursday by technical problems with his car, but fought back with two special stage victories on Saturday afternoon, ended up in a good fourth place and won the power stage.

Elfyn Evans, on the other hand, was disappointed. For a long time, the Briton was the first pursuer of the two Sebs at the front, until he made what he called a “clumsy” mistake on Saturday on the eleventh special stage. In a right-hand bend, Evans slipped off the road and his car got stuck on a slope. Only after more than 20 minutes was he able to free the car with the help of spectators.

On the second run of the “Saint-Geniez – Thoard” special stage on Saturday afternoon, Katsuta missed the chance of a top-five result. The Toyota Junior slipped off the road on an icy section. Here, too, spectators had to lend a hand to pull the car back onto the road.

Greensmith underscored the good performance of the Ford Puma Hybrid Rally1 with fifth place overall. The 25-year-old Briton had particular reason to celebrate on Friday when he won a special stage in the WRC for the first time on the seventh special stage in the afternoon. On Saturday he then lost more than one and a half minutes due to a puncture on the eleventh special stage.

The only failure in the M-Sport camp was Adrien Fourmaux, who caused the first serious accident of the Rally1 era on Friday. On the third special stage, the Frenchman grazed the embankment on the inside of a right-hand bend. There his car was levered out, rolled over the guardrail and rolled more than 20 meters down a slope. Fourmaux and co-driver Alexandre Coria got out of the wreck under their own steam and uninjured.

Hyundai experiences a debacle

Hyundai experienced a rally to forget that ended with just 13 points in the Manufacturers’ Championship. The development backlog, after a late management decision to continue the WRC program, Hyundai was the last of the three manufacturers to start work on the Rally1 car, was clearly noticeable to the team from Alzenau.

All three Hyundai i20 N Rally1 had more or less major technical problems. Neuville already complained about the handling of his car on Friday. “It’s a nightmare. I’ve never been so scared while driving,” said the Belgian. On Saturday, the car’s right front shock absorber broke. After a makeshift repair, Neuville was only able to continue at a slower pace, so in the end it was not possible to do better than sixth place.

His two teammates did not finish. Ott Tänak had to park his Hyundai on Saturday. The Estonian slipped off the road on the 13th special stage and hit an embankment with his front end. The radiator was damaged, after which the engine overheated and it was impossible to continue driving.

Exhaust fumes penetrated the interior of Oliver Solberg’s vehicle on Friday and Saturday, which caused Petter Solberg’s son and co-driver Elliott Edmondson to have trouble concentrating, visual problems and dizziness, which resulted in a crash on the tenth special stage on Saturday. Since Solberg and his co-driver did not feel physically well on Sunday, they decided in consultation with the team to abandon the rally after the 14th special stage.

The 2022 WRC season continues from February 24th to 27th with Rally Sweden, the only winter rally on the calendar.

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