Gonzalo Fuentesvia Reuters
RALLY – Although in pre-retirement, the nine-time world champion continues to mark the history of motorsport a little more. Back in the world championship (WRC) for at least this opening rally in Monte-Carlo, the Alsatian, who will celebrate his 48th birthday on February 26, won the first rally of the season, ahead of 10.5 seconds his compatriot and reigning world champion Sébastien Ogier (Toyota), unhappy after a puncture in the penultimate special.
The record of Swede Björn Waldegard, who won the Safari Rally in Kenya in 1990 at the age of 46 years and five months, is therefore erased. It was, however, his first race at the wheel of a hybrid engine (M-Sport Ford), half-electric, half-thermal, as well as with his new co-driver Isabelle Galmiche, a beginner at the highest level. All 9 days after finishing 2nd in the Dakar in Saudi Arabia. With this new victory, Sébastien Loeb also equals the record for success in the Principality held by Sébastien Ogier (8 victories).
“Like back then”
“Of course I am very happy, I did not expect so good coming here, it was a superb battle, Ogier was really fast”, he reacted, after throwing himself into the arms of his companion and before getting on the podium for the Marseillaise. At the end of the second day of specials, the driver had already explained that he was “not surprised” by his level, because everything was back “as it was then”.
Twenty years now separate his first victory in the premier class in 2002 (Germany) and his last. The veteran had not raced in the discipline last year. For his first rally with the M-Sport team, he benefited from a very well-bred new Puma to make the most of this new technology, despite having fewer days of testing than the other drivers.
The outcome of this 90th Monte-Carlo is however cruel for Ogier. The eight-time world champion since 2021 was comfortably in the lead (24.6 seconds) when he suffered a front-left tire puncture on the penultimate stage, losing 34.1 seconds.
In the last special between Briançonnet and Entrevaux (Alpes-Maritimes), wanting to catch up, he took a ten-second penalty for a false start. It was over.
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