Ogier wins record eighth Monte Carlo Rally

25th January 2021
Damien Smith

Team-mates Sébastien Ogier and Elfyn Evans picked up from where they left off in the World Rally Championship last year by scoring a Toyota 1-2 on the 2021 season-opening Monte Carlo Rally last weekend, with Ogier clinching a record eighth win on the most famous rally of them all – to go one ahead of old nemesis Sébastien Loeb.

It also marked the 50th WRC career win for the Frenchman, who is chasing an eighth world title this year – and he also became the first driver to win the Monte with five different manufacturers: Peugeot, Volkswagen, Ford, Citroën and now Toyota. All in all, an emphatic way to kick off the new campaign.


Ogier sends Evans a direct message

Evans led the rally until Saturday morning, only for Ogier to blitz the opening stage of the day and beat the Welshman by a staggering 17.8 seconds to hit the front. He was never headed again and won three of the final four stages on Sunday – including the Powerstage with its extra championship points – to clinch a fabulous win. The drive sends an unmissably blunt message to Evans, who also performed well for his second place, that he’ll be up against it to steal the WRC crown from his team-mate and rival – but then, facing a man like Ogier, he already knew that.


Neuville splits the Toyotas

Belgian Thierry Neuville put in a gutsy drive to claim third for Hyundai and avoid a Toyota red, white and black-wash. A podium finish was some achievement for Neuville, given that it was his first rally with new co-drive Martijn Wydaeghe, who was only confirmed alongside the 32-year-old in the run-up to the Monte. If the pair can gel as effectively on the rest of the season’s rounds, Neuville’s own title challenge can’t be ruled out.

A puncture on the final morning for Kalle Rovanpera cost Toyota its 1-2-3 rout. But the teenager still brought his Yaris home fourth, ahead of Dani Sordo’s Hyundai, while 2019 champion Ott Tänak suffered his second successive retirement on the Monte. This one was nowhere near as dramatic or scary as the crash that left him somersaulting off a mountain road this time last year, but still the Estonian will be ruing the points lost to the two punctures on consecutive stages that forced him on to the sidelines in his Hyundai, having led overnight after the first day.

Unhappy Monte for M-Sport Fords

The rally couldn’t have started worse for the M-Sport Ford team as Teemu Suninen crashed out on the very first stage on Thursday. The Finn tagged a bank, which flipped his Fiesta around and left it disappearing backwards off the road and into a sizeable impact. The car was too badly damaged for Suninen to come back from that.

His team-mate Gus Greensmith at least kept his Fiesta on the road until the finish on Sunday, but the Mancunian was down in eighth place, last of the main runners – and behind WRC2 class winner Andreas Mikkelsen in his Skoda Fabia. Malcolm Wilson’s team will be expecting much more from the Arctic Rally Finland, a new event that has replaced the cancelled Swedish Rally as the second round of the 2021 WRC, on 26th-28th February.


Daytona Roars before the 24

Over in Florida, IMSA’s sports car teams warmed up for the Daytona 24 Hours which takes place next weekend. The three-day Roar Before the 24 test usually takes place earlier in January, but this year to avoid extra travel during pandemic restrictions, the preview event ran the weekend directly before the twice-round-the-clock classic.

That change spurred IMSA to introduce a new idea that received a big thumbs up from the drivers. On Sunday afternoon, a new 100-minute qualifying race was held that would decide the grid for the 24 Hours itself next weekend.

Rainfall before the start led to spins and crashes early on, but as the track dried out ex-Formula 1 driver Felipe Nasr and Pipo Derani took a grip on the race to win in their Action Express Cadillac DPi, beating Harry Tincknell and Oliver Jarvis in their Mazda. The Brits had started the qualifying race from pole position.


Magnussen begins life after F1

Among the notable performances was that of Kevin Magnussen, the Dane making his first racing start following the apparent end of his F1 career. The Dane showed his class by leading in the wet in his Chip Ganassi Racing Cadillac and looks sure to be a star contender in his first Daytona 24 Hours next weekend.

Briton Nick Tandy made a winning start to his new career with Corvette, the ex-Porsche factory racer heading a Chevy one-two with team-mate and countryman Alex Sims in the GTLM class, leading home Jordan Taylor and Nicky Catsburg in the second C8.R.

A healthy LMP2 field, plus the addition this year of LMP3 runners, combined with the packed GTD (GT3) ranks, ensures a big entry for the 24 Hours next weekend. Life is going to be hectic for the drivers on Daytona’s banking, broken up for the 24 Hours by a ‘Bus Stop’ chicane and infield road course section at Turn 1. The Roar was the perfect prelude to what should be a memorable endurance race.

Images courtesy of Motorsport Images.

  • WRC 2021

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  • Daytona 24

  • Daytona

  • Sebastien Ogier

  • Elfyn Evans

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