After winning the opening round of the 2021 World Rally Championship season, Sébastien Ogier’s name now stands alone at the top of the Monte Carlo Rally roll of honor.
Ogier’s tally of eight proud victories on his home event is a number not even the great Sébastien Loeb can match. Then alongside co-driver Julien Ingrassia, Ogier also has the unique distinction of being part of the only crew to win the famous rally in three different decades, and for five different manufacturers: Peugeot, Volkswagen, Ford, Citroën and Toyota.
If you’re still not convinced of Ogier’s assurance on the Monegasque stages, his eighth victory on his 12th start means he has now won 66% of the Monte Carlo Rallies he has started. Don’t forget, the Monte is touted as the most difficult rally on the calendar.
To recognize Ogier’s new record, DirtFish has tried to rank each of his eight victories into some sort of quantifiable order. Tantalizingly, while 2021 may be his last as a full-time World Rally Championship driver, Ogier has not ruled out the prospect of contesting more Monte Carlo Rallies as a guest driver.
Do you agree with our order, or have we gone totally mad? Let us know in the comments.
8 – 2014
Car: Volkswagen Polo R WRC
Winning margin: 1m18.9s over Bryan Bouffier
It really does highlight the quality of this list that the lowest-ranked entry was, ultimately, a dominant performance. But there was an aura about Ogier in his early VW career that made this victory rather expected, such was the advantage he had over the opposition in this period.
The rally didn’t start well for the then one-time world champion, who hit a wall on the rally’s very first corner. An unexpected flurry of snow on the third test resulted in the 22nd quickest time and Ogier was down in ninth in the early stages.
Robert Kubica starred at the head of the field before he was caught out by the snow like Ogier, paving the way clear for Bryan Bouffier to take center stage. The privateer took a sensational 38.8-second lead to bed with him after the second day, with Ogier 47.3s back but now up to fourth.
Ogier wasn’t messing about as a new day dawned. Pulling 11.7s from Bouffier on the opening stage, he was leading two tests later as his rival spun his Ford Fiesta WRC.
From there, the contest was over. Ogier breezed to his second Monte Carlo victory, his first in the WRC, to kick start another world championship-winning season in dream fashion.
7 – 2018
Car: Ford Fiesta WRC
Winning margin: 58.3s over Ott Tänak
Curiously, 2018 was the only year Ogier led the Monte Carlo Rally right the way through from start to finish, but that headline statistic doesn’t reflect the battle he had on his hands with his old team-mate Ott Tänak.
On his debut performance for Toyota, Tänak stole the show and sent a warning sign to his rivals that he and the Yaris WRC were going to be the package to beat in 2018. But with that said, Ogier’s masterclass in controlling the rally from the front underlined his individual brilliance, particularly in changing conditions.
The first pair of stages in particular were treacherous beyond belief. Thierry Neuville’s rally was ruined on SS1 when he slid wide and got stuck, but Ogier was undeterred. Despite a pirouette at a hairpin, he took an early lead over Neuville’s Hyundai team-mate Andreas Mikkelsen and battled on.
Ogier’s first mistake came towards the end of the first full day when he overcooked it on a right-hand hairpin and dropped over 30s when he was momentarily stuck in a road-side ditch before nearby spectators came to his aid.
This opened the door for Tänak who was just 14.9s behind at the end of the day, teeing up a thrilling battle. But Ogier killed the hype when he smashed the Toyota driver on the next morning’s opener in utterly horrendous and slippy conditions.
Tänak couldn’t recover the minute he had dropped and that left Ogier clear to seal Monte victory number six.
6 – 2015
Car: Volkswagen Polo R WRC
Winning margin: 58s over Jari-Matti Latvala
All the attention on the lead up to the 2015 Monte surrounded that other great rallying Sébastien: Loeb. The nine-time World Rally Champion was back for one round in a Citroën DS3 WRC to square off against his old nemesis Ogier.
Nobody quite expected to see Loeb 22s clear of anybody else after the very first stage however. But the old phrase ‘form is temporary, class is permanent’ certainly rings true.
VW’s Ogier was quickest on the evening’s second stage though to head into Friday’s action 13.3s behind his great rival. Again, expectation was that Ogier – at the peak of his powers and in a clearly brilliant Polo R WRC – would simply blast past Loeb and that would be that.
That wasn’t that. Loeb beat Ogier by 15s on SS3 and so began an epic to-and-fro between the two champions. By SS7, Ogier had taken the lead for the first time to head Loeb by 8s, but the battle was defused on the very next stage when Loeb slid wide, clouted a bank and was forced to retire for the day.
It left Ogier with a clear 1m45.4s advantage over his team-mate Jari-Matti Latvala that he simply just had to manage for the remaining seven stages. Had Loeb’s challenge prevailed and gone the distance, this victory would have ranked a lot higher on this list.
5 – 2016
Car: Volkswagen Polo R WRC
Winning margin: 1m54.5s over Andreas Mikkelsen
One year after his battle with Loeb, Ogier was again having to fend off the challenge of a Citroën DS3 WRC in 2016, but this time it was Kris Meeke behind the wheel.
Meeke was sensational, nosing his DS3 between the dominant VWs which many had assumed was simply impossibile on pace alone. Ogier drew first blood but it was Meeke that led after leg one.
The pair traded punches on Friday: Ogier won SS3, Meeke SS4, Ogier SS5 and SS6 to take the lead only for Meeke to win SS7 and steal it back. But a super strong time on the day’s final stage put Ogier’s Polo 9.5s clear as the crews went to bed.
As the conditions deteriorated on Saturday morning, Ogier began to flex his muscles. After two tests, he had tripled his advantage and had Meeke on the ropes. Sadly, just like it had been 12 months earlier, the battle was defused when Meeke’s DS3 lost its sump guard and subsequently all of its engine oil, leading to his retirement.
Just like in 2015, Ogier’s 2016 Monte victory would have ranked higher had the battle been sustained to the finish.
4 – 2009
Car: Peugeot 207 S2000
Winning margin: 1m43.6s over Freddy Loix
Ogier’s first Monte Carlo Rally victory came five years before his first WRC one, when the rally was the opening round of the Intercontinental Rally Challenge in 2009.
Ogier’s stock was high after dominating the Junior WRC in 2008, and a season in a Citroën C4 WRC beckoned. But first he was drafted in for Monte Carlo in a BF Goodrich Peugeot to start his first full season in a four-wheel-drive car.
Juho Hänninen was the early pacesetter in his Škoda Fabia S2000 – just as he did two years later – carving out a lead of over a minute after the fourth special stage.
Ogier had begun the rally fifth quickest, but gradually eased past Toni Gardemeister, eventual IRC champion Kris Meeke and Freddy Loix to become Hänninen’s chaser-in-chief, albeit a minute-and-a-half adrift.
But that meant when Hänninen punctured on the ninth of 14 stages, Ogier was the new leader with a 32.4s lead over Loix’s similar Peugeot. A stage win on SS10 (his only scratch time of the rally) underlined his credentials, but the pressure was eased as Loix dropped two minutes on that test and Hänninen crashed.
However Ogier showed incredible maturity – way beyond his 26 years of age – to control the rally, make no mistakes and secure his first ever international rally victory on the most famous event of them all.
This victory, while less emphatic than arguably all seven of his others, ranks so highly as it only continued to show his rapid progression into a clear champion of the future.
3 – 2017
Car: Ford Fiesta WRC
Winning margin: 2m15s over Jari-Matti Latvala
Ogier’s fifth Monte victory – and fourth on the bounce – looks to be, on paper, his most dominant with a winning margin in excess of two minutes. But there were so many factors to this performance that make it special.
Just under three months earlier, Ogier had won Rally GB in his Volkswagen Polo only for the news to suddenly break that VW would be pulling out of the WRC at the end of the year with immediate effect. All of that development work Ogier had poured into a brand-new Polo – designed around the WRC’s exciting new-for-2017 technical regulations – was now rendered a waste of time.
Ogier needed to find a new employer. He tested Toyota’s Yaris and M-Sport’s Fiesta, deciding to hedge his bets on Malcolm Wilson’s squad for the new season. But he was on the back foot, without the test miles his rivals had enjoyed in their new cars.
It showed at the start of the Monte. While the unpredictable conditions are often a leveller, Ogier’s unfamiliarity with his new ride was obvious as Neuville dominated in his Hyundai. An agonizingly slow slide in the ice into a bank on SS3 that cost Ogier over 40s didn’t help either, as he found himself an early eighth.
Then came the comeback. He rose to fourth in one fell swoop on SS4 and then up to third on the very next test, edging past his team-mate Tänak by 0.3s at the end of Friday.
However Neuville was 45.1s up the road and showed no signs of slowing, nudging his lead up to 51s after Saturday’s penultimate stage. But that’s when Neuville made his first mistake, running wide on a left-hander and breaking the rear of his i20 Coupe WRC.
Ogier doesn’t need to be handed gifts to win the Monte, but he gladly accepted this one. His final advantage swelled when Tänak’s Fiesta dropped a cylinder, but it was an incredible drive from Ogier who proved he is still the best even when he is not at his most comfortable.
The fact that it was M-Sport’s first ever WRC win without full works backing from Ford, and the first win for both the team and the marque since 2012, just makes it that bit sweeter.
2 – 2021
Car: Toyota Yaris WRC
Winning margin: 32.6s over Elfyn Evans
The record-clinching Monte victory in 2021 ranks as Ogier’s second best on his home rally, mainly because he managed to find a devastating turn of pace and coupled it to a wise head to execute a masterful performance.
Ogier headed to this year’s Monte with the #1 back on his door – after losing it to Tänak for one season – but with another score to settle: he had lost his Monte title, with Neuville breaking Ogier’s run of six wins from 2014-19.
It’s fair to say Ogier did everything to get it back, but it was Toyota team-mate Elfyn Evans – rather than Neuville, dealing with a new co-driver for the first time in a decade – that would be his opponent for the win.
Ogier was stopped in his tracks early on however – almost literally – as a brake pedal issue robbed him of ultimate confidence and found himself down in fifth as a result. But he wasted no time in making his intentions clear, vaulting up into the lead on Friday morning and holding that into the afternoon.
But a puncture on stage seven ruined all of his good work. Losing a shade under 35s, Ogier was dumped to third with 23.4s to make up on new leader and SS7 winner Evans.
This only served to inspire Ogier. Stealing a scarcely believable 33.8s back from Evans across the next two stages, Ogier was back in the lead and wouldn’t relinquish it.
Evans just wasn’t comfortable with taking the same risks Ogier was willing to, so the seven-time world champion got his quest for title number eight off to a superb start with one of his most commanding performances behind the wheel of a rally car.
1 – 2019
Car: Citroën C3 WRC
Winning margin: 2.2s over Thierry Neuville
It just had to be, didn’t it? The 2019 Monte Carlo Rally was the closest ever finish in the event’s illustrious history, as just 2.2s split Ogier’s Citroën and Neuville’s Hyundai after over 200 miles of world rallying.
Just like the year before, Tänak was an instant threat in his Toyota and led the early phases of the rally over Ogier who was contesting his first event in a Citroën for eight years. But on an icy Friday morning, Tänak slipped behind Ogier and Neuville overhauled both to lead by a slender 3.4s.
Ogier nicked 2s back on the next test before it all changed on SS7: Tänak punctured and fell down to seventh (before eventually superbly recovering to third) and Neuville overshot a junction, handing Ogier a 14s lead.
Neuville set out his stall though, grabbing 12s back on the day’s final stage to end Friday just 2s behind Ogier overall. The pair were incredibly evenly matched across Saturday too; Ogier claiming another 2.3s over the course of the day to lead by 4.3s overnight.
Sunday was an absolute thriller. Ogier and Neuville have a good history of epic final day battles, but this was up there with the best of them.
Neuville started the brightest, nibbling 1s away from Ogier and then another 0.1s to trail by 3.2s with just two stages remaining. A stage victory by 2.8s on the penultimate test was a huge statement of intent. Neuville was just 0.8s behind with a first Monte victory firmly in his sights.
Better still for the Belgian, Ogier was ailing. A throttle problem aboard his C3 WRC was hampering him, “pushing the car on the brakes” which only served to give Neuville more hope and belief.
Neuville’s dreams were shattered though. Despite the adversity, the pressure and the mechanical problems, Ogier put Neuville in his place, beating him by 1.8s on the powerstage to claim his most difficult Monte Carlo Rally victory to date.
It wasn’t just one of Ogier’s best Monte performances, but one of his best performances ever.