Some stars shone brightly and some sparkled briefly, while others twinkled before being extinguished over the French Alps at the weekend on the opening round of the World Rally Championship, the Monte Carlo Rally.
Two seconds separated the top two after an exuberant, gut churning, high speed alpine thriller and it would have been closer still, but for a first day puncture for third placed Ott Tänak.
Despite the change of mount, Sebastien Ogier simply did what he does best and even a mechanical glitch on the final day couldn't stop his Citroen with Thierry Neuville taking second place in the Hyundai. Completing the three different marques in the top three places was Tänak in the Toyota, but what about that man Loeb? Fourth place first time out in the Hyundai - and after minimal testing!
As for the Brits, there were just two in the top ten, and both posted hope for the future. Kris Meeke finished with a flourish in sixth place despite a puncture and suspension breakage on the first day and rounded it off with fastest time on the final day's Power Stage. And didn't Gus Greensmith do well?
At the finish, Kris Meeke said: “To win the Power Stage was an incredible way to finish our first rally with TOYOTA GAZOO Racing. We only set one fastest time this weekend but we did it when it counted. Other drivers were still fighting for their positions until the end, so to put it on the line and come away with the five points is great. We had technical issues this weekend that affected our result – fourth might have been possible – but to show our speed is really nice. The feeling with the car is really good. Finally, everything seems to be coming together for me, but we’re only one rally in, so we have to stay concentrated now and look forward to Sweden.”
Finishing 7th overall in his Fiesta R5, and winning both the WRC 2 Pro and RC2 classes, Gus Greensmith commented: “I’m pretty sure this is the best day of my life so far! It took us a while to get here, but it’s an amazing feeling and there are so many people I need to thank. It was almost a perfect rally from beginning to end and we did everything we needed to do. When we needed to push and build a gap, we did. And when we needed to control it, we did. It’s definitely been my best ever performance behind the wheel, and now I’m just looking forward to a beer and letting it all sink in!”
Rhys Yates also scored a superb result finishing 14th overall in his Skoda Fabia, but for Elfyn Evans, one slip on black ice meant disaster. Elfyn said afterwards: “Stage 9 started off okay, but we picked up a puncture which was pretty unlucky. It was on the rear in a cut that everyone else had been in. It was just one of those things, and we made the decision to continue which I think was right in terms of time. Then on the next stage there was a pretty straight forward left-hander that’s been around for a number of years. I didn’t approach it any differently to how I usually would, but it seems as though the grip levels were particularly low. “Maybe there was some black ice as a few cars got caught out, but they were a lot luckier than us. There was quite a steep bank with some trees on the outside, the car got dragged down, and that’s where our Rallye Monte-Carlo came to the end.”
1, Sébastien Ogier/Julien Ingrassia (Citroen C3) 03hrs 21m 15.9s +00:00:00
2, Thierry Neuville/Nicolas Gilsoul (Hyundai I20) 03:21:18.1, +00:00:2.2
3, Ott Tänak/Martin Järveoja (Toyota YARIS) 03:23:31.1, +00:02:15.2
4, Sébastien Loeb/Daniel Elena (Hyundai I20) 03:23:44.1, +00:02:28.2
5, Jari-Matti Latvala/Miikka Anttila (Toyota YARIS) 03:23:45.8, +00:02:29.9
6, Kris Meeke/Sebastian Marshall (Toyota YARIS) 03:26:52.1, +00:05:36.2
7, Gus Greensmith/Elliott Edmondson (Ford FIESTA) 03:34:20.5, +00:13:4.6
8, Yoann Bonato/Benjamin Boulloud (Citroen C3) 03:35:12.4, +00:13:56.5
9, Stéphane Sarrazin/Jacques-Julien Renucci (Hyundai I20) 03:35:22.7, +00:14:6.8
10, Adrien Fourmaux/Renaud Jamoul (Ford FIESTA) 03:37:19.3, +00:16:3.4
13, Takamoto Katsuta/Daniel Barritt (Ford FIESTA) 03:41:13.8, +00:19:57.9
14, Rhys Yates/Denis Giraudet (Skoda FABIA) 03:42:10.8, +00:20:54.9