Semi-retired Sebastien Loeb won the Monte Carlo Rally for the seventh time on Saturday after the final leg of the classic rally had to be cancelled when too many spectators turned up for the last two stages.
The World Rally Championship organisers said: “We have stopped the rally early, after huge numbers of spectators forced the cancellation of the final two stages on safety grounds.”
The results after Special Stage 16 became the final classification with nine-times World champion Loeb taking his 77th victory in the World championship despite being only a part-timer this season.
Although Loeb is not challenging for an astonishing 10th title in a row, with his focus switching to sports-car racing, he has made clear that he still wants to win the four rounds out of 13 that he will be contesting.
“I'm always happy when I win.”
“Monte Carlo is one of the most exciting rallies I've done. This one was really, really difficult. The conditions were extreme compared to what we have usually and winning wasn't easy,” he said after leading from Wednesday's second stage.
Snow and ice in the mountains around Valence and north of Monaco made for challenging conditions, even with studded tyres over the infamous Col de Turini, but Loeb never faced a serious challenge.
His compatriot Sebastien Ogier, who was second on his debut for championship newcomers Volkswagen, could see the bigger picture and was content to settle for a safe second place knowing that Loeb was not a championship rival.
NEW POLO ALREADY ON ON THE PACE
“I'm so happy, it's like a victory for me,” he said after finishing one minute 39.9 seconds behind Loeb. “I'm a competitor and I've never been happy to finish second but this weekend it was really the target, and to start the season like this is amazing.
“I've been waiting a whole year, I've done so many tests and it was frustrating sometimes, and now here we are with the Polo on the pace already.”
Spain's Dani Sordo took third place for Citroen after a battle with Russian Evgeny Novikov, whose hopes disappeared when he hit a mountain wall and lost the rear left wheel of his Ford. Citroen's Mikko Hirvonen finished fourth.
The second round of the championship will be run in Sweden in February. - Reuters
RESULTS AFTER SS16
1 Sebastien Loeb (France) Citroen DS3 - 5hr 18:57.2
2 Sebastien Ogier (France) Volkswagen Polo-R +1min39.9
3 Dani Sordo (Spain) Citroen DS3 +3min49.0
4 Mikko Hirvonen (Finland) Citroen DS3 +5min26.3
5 Bryan Bouffier (France) Citroen DS3 +8min13.1
6 Mads Ostberg (Norway) Ford Fiesta RS +12min03.7
7 Martin Prokop (Czech Republic) Ford Fiesta RS +23min27.3,
8 Sepp Wiegand (Germany) Skoda Fabia S2000 +29min34.5
Thierry Neuville (Belgium) Ford Fiesta RS
Evgeny Novikov (Russia0 Ford Fiesta RS
Jari-Matti Latvala (Finland) Volkswagen Polo-R
Juho Hanninen (Finland) Ford Fiesta RS
Loeb 8 (SS2, SS3, SS4, SS8, SS10, SS11, SS13, SS16)
Ogier 2 (SS1, ES5)
Novikov 2 (SS6, SS7)
Hanninen 1 (SS9)
Ostberg 1 (SS12)
Bouffier 1 (SS14)
Sordo 1 (SS15)
1 Sebastien Loeb (France) Citroen - 25
2 Sebastien Ogier (France) Volkswagen - 18
3 Daniel Sordo (Spain) Citroen - 15
4 Mikko Hirvonen (Finland) Citroen - 12
5 Bryan Bouffier (France) Citroen - 10
6 Mads Ostberg (Norway) Ford - 8
7 Martin Prokop (Czech Republic) Ford - 6
8 Sepp Wiegand (Germany) Skoda - 4
9 Olivier Burri (Switzerland) Ford - 2
10 Michal Kosciuszko (Poland) Citroen - 1
1 Citroen Total - 37
2 Volkswagen Motorsport - 18
3 Citroen Abu Dhabi - 15
4 Qatar World Rally Team - 10
5 Lotos - 8