Yoann Bonato won Rally Mont-Blanc Morzine for a record-equaling fifth time in a Citroën C3 Rally2, as Sébastien Loeb dropped out of the podium places on the final stage with what he described as a mechanical issue.
The nine-time World Rally Champion, competing on the French Tarmac round in a Peugeot 306 Maxi run by his own team, held third place by the best part of 10 seconds ahead of the finale but lost 37.7s to final-stage winner Eric Camilli as a result of his issue and dropped to sixth overall.
It was nevertheless a strong performance from Loeb, who was reunited with long-time co-driver Daniel Elena, as he recorded five top-five stage times from the 13 tests that made up the rally – including a fastest time of all on stage 12.
Monte Carlo Rally WRC2 runner-up Bonato (pictured above competing in the European Rally Championship) claimed victory by 5.3s, having been embroiled in a rally-long fight for the win with Quentin Giordano.
The two traded the lead across the two-day event, with Volkswagen Polo GTI R5 driver Giordano snatching back the initiative with three stages to go, but Bonato pulled out the fastest time on the next test and held on to top spot thereafter.
His fifth Rally Mont-Blanc Morzine victory means he is now level with two-time World Rally event winner Philippe Bugalski as the most successful driver on the rally.
With Loeb dropping out of the podium positions late on, Quentin Gilbert (Škoda Fabia R5) completed the top three – ending up 2.6s ahead of sometime M-Sport WRC driver Camilli’s Citroën (pictured below on this year’s Monte Carlo Rally).
Gilles Panizzi finished 15th in his Hyundai i20 R5, while François Delecour – running in a second Peugeot 306 Maxi – retired on stage 10 with a gearbox problem.
Three of the event’s scheduled 16 stages were canceled; the seventh and 11th tests were both called off before the event, while stage eight was removed from the itinerary due to spectators.
Final classification after SS16
1 Yoann Bonato/Benjamin Boulloud (Citroën) 1h43m41.2s
2 Quentin Giordano/Kevin Parent (Volkswagen) +5.3s
3 Quentin Gilbert/Christopher Guieu (Škoda) +1m23.1s
4 Eric Camilli/François-Xavier Buresi (Citroën) +1m25.7s
5 William Wagner/Kevin Miller (Citroën) +1m26.1s
6 Sébastien Loeb/Daniel Elena (Peugeot) +1m46.7s
7 Cedric Robert/Matthew Duval (Alpine) +2m22.1s
8 Kevin Bochatay/Marine Delon (Škoda) +2m56.0s
9 Patrick Rouillard/Guilherm Zazurca (Škoda) +3m08.6s
10 Thibault Habouzit/Loic Declerck (Volkswagen) +3m10.7s