Day 4: the twist in the tale
Ogier looked well set for his ninth Monte victory in what will only be a part-season in the WRC for a driver who has chosen not to chase Loeb’s record of nine titles. He consolidated his advantage on the opening stages of day four and victory appeared to be in his grasp. Until it wasn’t. On the penultimate test of the rally, disaster struck as he picked up a left-front puncture as Loeb set the fastest time and suddenly found himself back in the lead.
The older Seb had trailed the younger by more than half a minute and looked beaten. But now all Loeb needed was to keep a cool head through the final Power Stage to beat Ogier by 10.5s and write a lovely piece of WRC history, both for himself and Galmiche. Sportingly, Ogier put aside his own disappointment to shake the hand of the man who now shares his record of eight Monte Carlo victories.
“I didn’t expect so much when I came here,” said Loeb with a smile. “It was a great fight, Ogier was really fast and I struggled a bit yesterday and even this morning.” He then admitted, with typical understatement, that his victory was “one of my best memories” in his long, illustrious and varied motor sport career.
Behind the pair, Irishman Breen delivered a fine third place on his first WRC start for M-Sport, ahead of Toyota’s Kalle Rovanpera, Greensmith and Neuville with Andreas Mikkelsen the top WRC2 driver in seventh overall.
But all the attention focused on the two Sebs, plus Loeb’s overjoyed co-driver – the first woman to win at this level since 1997, when Fabrizia Pons navigated Subaru’s Piero Latti to victory on the Monte. “I think perhaps it might be the best day of my life,” she said.
What a way for Rally1 to start. The question is will Loeb and M-Sport reunite for more? We can only hope.