M-Sport Ford World Rally Team have started the year as they mean to go on – leading the FIA World Rally Championships for Manufacturers, Drivers and Co-drivers courtesy of a sixth Rallye Monte-Carlo victory for Sébastien Ogier and Julien Ingrassia, and a resurgent fight-back to sixth place for Elfyn Evans and Daniel Barritt.
Sébastien Ogier and Julien Ingrassia brought their EcoBoost-powered Ford Fiesta WRC home to a fifth consecutive victory at Rallye Monte-Carlo this weekend.
Leading from start to finish, the pairing displayed everything needed to conquer the Monegasque event – speed, strategy and a little bit of luck along the way.
Securing four stage wins, the Frenchmen were also the masters of strategy – taking an advantage through the most challenging conditions and controlling the lead thereafter.It was another Monte masterclass, and the first step in their championship defence.
Sébastien said: “We always face tough conditions at Rallye Monte-Carlo but this year they were really extreme. I don’t think I’ve ever struggled so much with the tyre choices, so to have come out on top is fantastic.
“I think everyone made mistakes this weekend – myself included – but it was almost impossible to have the perfect drive. Luckily we only had some small mistakes and once we had a good gap it was just a case of trying to manage it – but that is never easy in these conditions either!
“It’s the best way to start the season and I need to congratulate the team because everyone has worked really hard and I know that they will also be super happy with this result. The competition is going to be stronger than ever and we’ve made a strong start which is really important.”
Elfyn Evans and Daniel Barritt recovered sixth place at this weekend’s Rallye Monte-Carlo, but the prestigious event could have yielded so much more.
Unlucky to pick up a puncture on the very first stage, the Brits lost more than three minutes to the leading pack but refused to lose focus – following up the disappointment with a resurgent comeback from 16th to sixth.
Two stage victories proved that Evans had the pace to challenge for a podium and, had the final-day conditions been more to his liking, fourth place could have been a distinct possibility today – the Welshman ending the rally just over 10 seconds shy.
Elfyn said: “It’s been a tough edition of the rally this year and we had an especially tough start losing so much time on the very first stage. Over the next few days I think we were there or there abouts in terms of outright speed, but overall there were just too many little errors.
“When it came to making the smart choices at the right time, we weren’t quite there and that’s what cost us a really good result today. The comforting thing is that the speed is there, but we still need to be better.”
Team Principal, Malcolm Wilson OBE, said: “This season is going to be closer than ever and we got it off to the perfect start this weekend. Rallye Monte-Carlo is an event that everyone wants to win, so to have secured back-to-back victories here is fantastic; and it doesn’t get much better than leading all three championships.
“Sébastien and Julien really did have everything under control. We saw mistakes from almost everyone, but they made it count when it mattered. There really is no one stronger when it comes to strategy and it’s no surprise that they have been unbeaten here for the past five years.
“Elfyn was unlucky to have lost so much time on Thursday evening, but he fought back strongly and could have challenged for fourth place were the conditions more consistent today. Had everything gone to plan, he had the pace to have challenged for the podium this weekend, and he should definitely take encouragement from that.
“Bryan too had a really solid debut with the Ford Fiesta WRC. Having to change co-driver at the final hour cannot have been easy, but he produced a really intelligent drive and learnt a lot which will give him a good base to build on when he returns to the team in Corsica.”