Rally Monte Carlo WRC: Neuville wins thrilling season opener

Rob Hansford
Neuville wins thrilling Monte Carlo season opener

Thierry Neuville has taken victory ahead of Toyota's Sebastien Ogier in a thrilling end to the 2020 World Rally Championship season-opening Monte Carlo Rally.

Neuville was in imperious form on Sunday, winning both stages in the first loop, and he maintained that as he won the 18.41km La Bollene Vesubie - Peira Cava test, 1.4 second ahead of Toyota debutant Ogier.

It looked like Ogier was going to win the Wolf Power Stage, but Neuville matched Ogier's time to take the stage win by a few hundredths of a second, meaning the Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC driver won all four stages of the day and his first WRC Monte Carlo Rally.

Elfyn Evans started the final loop of the day in second place, and clung on to that position after SS15.

But the Yaris driver dropped to 11.1s behind Neuville, and only had a 1.5s advantage over his team-mate Ogier going into the final stage of the rally.

He then lost a further 3.2s to his team-mate in the final run through La Cabanette- Co De Braus meaning he finished third overall, 1.7s behind Ogier.

Neuville wins thrilling Monte Carlo season opener

Esapekka Lappi had another strong run on the second loop in his M-Sport Fiesta WRC, finishing fourth fastest in the 13.36km La Cabanette - Col De Braus stage, and secured fourth overall, while Sebastien Loeb struggled again in the final loop.

The Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC driver was having to conserve his tyres considerably more than anyone else after "completely" destroying a tyre in the final stage of the first loop.

The seven-time WRC Monte Carlo Rally winner was so slow that he lost 49.1 seconds to Lappi on SS15 and was another 49 seconds slower than the M-Sport Fiesta WRC in the power stage.

That meant that Toyota driver Kalle Rovanpera was able to leap-frog Loeb to secure fifth place in the rally.

Takamoto Katsuta had a clean run in the second loop and finished seventh, while M-Sport driver Teemu Suninen had an impressive run in the final run through La Cabanette - Col De Braus to jump up to eighth.

Citroen C3 driver Eric Camilli secured victory in the WRC3 class and ended up ninth, 11.8s behind the Fiesta WRC of Suninen.

Mads Ostberg celebrated his WRC2 victory by doing a doughnut at the final hairpin of the 13.36km Powerstage, as he rounded out the top 10.

Finishing positions after SS16

Pos Driver Team Car Gap
1 Thierry Neuville, N.Gilsoul Hyundai Shell Mobis WRT Hyundai 3h10m57.6s
2 Sebastien Ogier, J.Ingrassia Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT Toyota 12.6s
3 Elfyn Evans, S.Martin Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT Toyota 14.3s
4 Esapekka Lappi, J.Ferm M-Sport Ford WRT Ford 3m09.0s
5 Kalle Rovanpera, J.Halttunen Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT Toyota 4m17.2s
6 Sebastien Loeb, D.Elena Hyundai Shell Mobis WRT Hyundai 5m04.7s
7 Takamoto Katsuta, D.Barritt Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT Toyota 11m27.9s
8 Teemu Suninen, J.Lehtinen M-Sport Ford WRT Ford 13m30.4s
9 Eric Camilli, F-X.Buresi Eric Camilli Citroen 13m42.2s
10 Mads Ostberg, T.Eriksen PH Sport Citroen 14m21.8s

Leading Powerstage times

Pos Driver Team Car Gap
1 Thierry Neuville, N.Gilsoul Hyundai Shell Mobis WRT Hyundai 9m39.0s
2 Sebastien Ogier, J.Ingrassia Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT Toyota 9m39.0s
3 Teemu Suninen, J.Lehtinen M-Sport Ford WRT Ford 2.1s
4 Elfyn Evans, S.Martin Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT Toyota 3.2s
5 Esapekka Lappi, J.Ferm M-Sport Ford WRT Ford 6.2s

Drivers' championship standings

Pos Driver Points
1 Thierry Neuville 30
2 Sebastien Ogier 22
3 Elfyn Evans 17
4 Esapekka Lappi 13
5 Kalle Rovanpera 10
6 Sebastien Loeb 8
7 Teemu Suninen 7
8 Takamoto Katsuta 6
9 Eric Camilli 2
10 Mads Ostberg 1

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