The 2021 Monte Carlo Rally was an historic affair. Not only did Sébastien Ogier and Julien Ingrassia claim their eighth Monte victory and thus move themselves to the top of the event’s winners list, but their success behind the wheel of a Toyota Yaris WRC was also their 50th victory in the World Rally Championship.
It’s a significant milestone, and a barrier that has only been penetrated by Sébastien Loeb and Daniel Elena before them.
For the statisticians out there, as well as holding the record number of wins in Monte Carlo, Ogier also holds the record for the most Rally GB victories (five) as well as sharing that accolate with Loeb on both Rally Portugal (six) and Rally México (six). And of those 50 wins, 31 have been won in a Volkswagen, 10 in a Citroën, six in an M-Sport Ford and three in a Toyota.
But which of these victories stand out above the rest? To commemorate Ogier and Ingrassia’s half-century of WRC wins, DirtFish has scoured through the archives to pick out the 10 most important and special.
However picking the finest 10 victories from such a successful career was a steep challenge for DirtFish, which means some key wins and impressive performances haven’t made the cut.
Rally Spain in 2013 where Ogier overturned a 46.8-second deficit after a puncture to win; Rally Sweden 2015 when Ogier won an epic three-way tussle against Thierry Neuville and Andreas Mikkelsen despite a trickier road position early in the event; and the 2017 Monte Carlo Rally, where Ogier managed to win despite his 11th hour switch to M-Sport Ford, are just three startling drives that haven’t made it.
So here, in chronological order, is DirtFish’s selection. As always, let us know if you agree with our choices in the comments.
Rally Portugal 2010
Victory no.: 1
Victories arguably don’t come any more important than a driver’s first at the top tier. For Ogier, that milestone was reached on Rally Portugal in 2010 but arguably should’ve been achieved one round earlier in New Zealand.
The events of the crazy finale to that rally were certainly on Ogier’s mind when he headed to the Algarve. Despite leading Jari-Matti Latvala by 6.2 seconds before the final stage, Whaanga Coast, Ogier spun his C4 WRC and lost the rally by just 2.4s. A jubilant Latvala picked up the spoils.
In Portugal, Ogier had a right to wrong and he drove superbly. Moving past fellow Citroën driver Dani Sordo to lead after the fourth stage, Ogier made good use of his favorable road position to lead by almost half a minute at the end of the first full day,
Reigning champion Loeb closed to just 7.9s behind at the end of the rally, but in truth this was a rally Ogier was always in control of. It was a firm sign that he was a champion of the future, and indeed the victory actually propelled Ogier into second in the championship at that stage of the season.
It wasn’t long before Ogier was promoted from Citroën Junior Team’s line-up to the works squad for the gravel rallies in 2010 in place of Sordo, and then Sordo was ousted altogether to make way for Oger in 2011.
Rally Portugal 2011
Victory no.: 3
In the same team as Loeb full-time in 2011, Ogier spied a chance to assert himself in the DS3 WRC and do what no driver had done before and take the challenge to his fellow Frenchman from within his own team.
But Ogier started Rally Portugal on the backfoot with a similar vengeance to 12 months earlier, as in a bid to keep his team-mate behind him, he had crashed on the third-to-last stage of Rally México and left with no points. He had to prove he could turn it around.
Ogier, Loeb and the two Fords of Mikko Hirvonen and Jari-Matti Latvala were embroiled in a tight fight on the rally’s first day but Ogier was consistently leading the pack until, in a reverse tactical decision to 2010, he slowed and allowed his rivals to pass him on Friday night so that he could enjoy better road conditions on Saturday.
It worked. Ogier was back in the lead at the halfway point of Saturday, aided by issues for Hirvonen who punctured and then subsequently Loeb who was caught in the dust left behind by Hirvonen’s Fiesta WRC when he restarted the stage.
All of this was just background noise to Ogier, who beat Loeb by 31.8s to once again underline his ability to bounce back from disappointment, describing his third WRC victory as the “perfect weekend”.
Rally Jordan 2011
Victory no.: 4
Ogier’s next WRC victory came on the very next event and was an utterly emphatic display of resolve that only further served to underline his credentials.
Jordan was the setting with biblical connotations entirely appropriate for what was about to unfold. The rally was a slow burner however as the entirety of Friday’s action had to be scrapped when a storm had delayed the cargo ship that was transporting all of the team’s equipment.
However once the rally did get underway, it was Ogier who was on form fresh from his Portuguese victory. Confident of his pace, Ogier didn’t elect to play road-order games on Saturday night and took a 31.6s lead to bed with him.
Halfway through Sunday’s final day, Ogier’s decision looked to be the right one as his closest rival Jari-Matti Latvala was 18.9s behind. But on the second pass of the stages, Latvala found another gear and stormed into a 0.5s lead with just one stage – Baptism Site – remaining.
In a thrilling finish, Latvala stood at the end of the powerstage awaiting Ogier’s response. Unfortunately for Ford’s Finn, it was emphatic. Finding an extra 0.7s, Ogier had snatched the rally win back from Latvala at the death to win by 0.2s – still the smallest winning margin in WRC history.
If there was any doubt about Ogier’s nerve and raw pace before Rally Jordan in 2011, it certainly didn’t exist after it.
Rally Germany 2011
Victory no.: 6
Team orders are never popular in motorsport. Drivers don’t like them and fans certainly don’t like them, but they do have their place as manufacturers look to preserve a dream result.
Citroën found itself in such a position after the first day of Rally Germany in 2011. Loeb was out front, 7.4s ahead of Ogier with Ford’s Mikko Hirvonen third but already 1m11s behind Ogier’s DS3. With top brass present at the rally in Trier, team management elected to ask its drivers to hold station and secure a valuable one-two finish for the team.
The early split times soon indicated how this message had been received: Ogier was having none of it. Refusing to speak to stage-end reporters, he was livid that his own victory bid was being compromized.
Loeb had no choice but to respond as Ogier refused to back off. The two Citroëns were just 3.8s apart ahead of Saturday’s final test which ultimately ripped the result of the rally out of Citroën and Loeb’s hands.
Loeb punctured, dropped over a minute and Ogier muttered the famous words: “At least now I know there is justice in the sport.”
Ogier’s victory was important in that it was his first on asphalt and broke Loeb’s domination of Germany – a rally he had won all eight times it had been a WRC round prior to 2011 – but more significantly, it marked Ogier out as an asphalt expert.
He wasn’t prepared to just settle for second under Loeb’s shadow. Ultimately, that’s what led to Ogier choosing to drive for Volkswagen which turned out to be quite the career move…
Rally Sweden 2013
Victory no.: 8
It spoke volumes of Ogier’s desire to succeed that he was willing to take a year out from front-line WRC competition to work with VW and develop the Polo R WRC. While Ogier did get a full season in 2012, it was in a Škoda Fabia S2000 and not a World Rally Car.
That decision was inspired however. It only took one stage for Ogier to be vindicated as he stopped the clocks 3.7s quicker than Loeb’s Citroën on the Polo’s very first competitive run in Monte Carlo.
The victory ultimately escaped him, but again it wouldn’t be long before Ogier and VW got into a devastating rhythm. On the very next round in Sweden, Ogier hit the front on the rally’s first forest stage and held station, gradually easing ahead of Loeb stage-by-stage.
Ogier won exactly half of the event’s stages – 11 of 22 – to win by 41.8s in what was a truly ominous display. At that time, Ogier’s victory was also just the second for a non-Scandinavian in Sweden after Loeb’s standout success nine years earlier in 2004.
Rally Sweden 2013 was the start of the winning machine that would go on to claim four consecutive world championship doubles.
Rally France 2013
Victory no.: 14
There were odd blots on the copybook – a crash on VW’s home round in Germany for example – but ultimately 2013 had been a breeze for Ogier. He had looked set to wrap up his first drivers’ title on round 10 in Australia only for Mikko Hirvonen to pick up a puncture on the powerstage which promoted Thierry Neuville to second and gave him the points he needed to delay the inevitable.
This was no bad thing for Ogier though, who was then afforded the chance to claim the crown in his native France. All it took was one stage, as uniquely the powerstage on Rally France 2013 was the first stage as opposed to the final one which meant Ogier had scooped the points he needed after the one test.
With a championship already won, Ogier was perhaps distracted on Friday as he found himself left out of a finely-poised victory battle. Neuville led by 9.9s over Dani Sordo with Jari-Matti Latvala and Sébastien Loeb both also within 12.2s of Neuville. Ogier? He was 28.7s back in fifth.
But he got the memo on Saturday and started pumping in the stage times the WRC had grown accustomed to. At the end of the day Neuville was out of the quest after damaging a wheel against a wall, but it couldn’t be closer between the rest of the quarter. Latvala’s Polo R led, 0.4s ahead of Sordo’s DS3 with Ogier and Loeb 1.5 and 5s shy of the lead respectively.
Sadly for the neutral, Ogier wasn’t interested in providing a nail-biting finish. He stormed clear to win by 12.2s over Sordo with Latvala another 7.3s behind. Loeb crashed out on the morning’s first test.
Rally Germany 2015
Victory no.: 30
Between 2013-15, Ogier won 25 of the 39 world rallies – an incredible strike rate of 64.1%. But before the 2015 edition of Rally Germany, Ogier had yet to secure the victory his employer wanted more than any other.
There was definite pressure on Ogier shoulders – and indeed those of his team-mates Latvala and Andreas Mikkelsen. Both Ogier and Latvala had stacked it the previous year, and knew how much a win at home would mean to Volkswagen which had managed to win everywhere else on rallying’s world tour. Indeed that 2014 fumble was the only rally the squad didn’t win that year.
However at the third time of asking, Ogier responded to the pressure and put in a strong performance to win the rally by 23s over Latvala. Better still, Mikkelsen slotted his Polo R into third spot to lock out the podium for Volkswagen.
“It’s a big relief,” Ogier admitted afterwards. “The pressure for a win was on all weekend and we made it with a 1-2-3.
“And now I am so close to a third title. So, so happy!”
Ogier’s personal quests and objectives were secondary to Volkswagen’s that weekend, but as well as nudging Ogier closer to his third world title his victory, the 30th of his career, also drew him level with Marcus Grönholm on the all-time winners’ list.
As if you needed reminding, Ogier duly won the succeeding round in Australia to claim that third world title and edge himself clear of Grönholm as the driver with the second-most WRC rally wins.
Rally GB 2018
Victory no.: 44
By 2018, Ogier was a five-time champion but those next two titles had been claimed in rather different fashion. While the 2016 success was complicated in relation to his other triumphs with VW, Ogier still won at a canter but the sudden departure of the German brand from the WRC forced Ogier into a new team: M-Sport Ford.
No longer winning rallies for breakfast, Ogier showed a different skill set in 2017 as he won the title for the first time in his career without necessarily having the fastest car at his fingertips.
The 2018 season had started brightly with three wins from the opening four rounds, but come Rally GB in October, the last of those in Corsica was a full six months ago. Neuville and Ott Tänak were really piling on the pressure and Ogier needed to respond in order to remain the reigning World Rally Champion.
Losing first and second gear halfway through Friday in Wales was the last thing Ogier needed then. But as always, Ogier’s reply to the problem was immaculate. He steadily started climbing the leaderboard from the eighth spot he had fallen to depose Toyota’s Latvala of second place on Saturday.
Latvala’s team-mate Tänak was the real concern though as after wins in Finland, Germany and Turkey, he was again heading the way and set to take another chunk out of Ogier’s points lead. But Tänak’s radiator broke on Sweet Lamb, promoting Ogier into the lead and presenting him with a gift he would gladly accept.
Latvala did his best to help his team-mate and wrestle points from Ogier, leading the rally with two stages to go. But a supreme performance on the rally-ending asphalt Great Orme test ensured Ogier left Wales with his fourth victory of the season. When the chips were down, Ogier not only cashed in but fully capitalized on his opportunity and duly went on to win the title in Australia.
Monte Carlo Rally 2019
Victory no.: 45
After two prosperous seasons with M-Sport, Ogier returned to Citroën in 2019 with the task of improving its form with a C3 WRC that had a rather narrow window of performance.
That task began with the Monte Carlo Rally and Ogier was determined to record his sixth victory in a row on the classic event. In fact he would dig deep into his rich pool of talent to achieve it.
Thierry Neuville’s Hyundai was the threat and was setting a strong pace, but the Belgian overshot a fast left-hand bend and had to turn around down a slip road, costing him the lead. Ogier therefore found himself 14s ahead but Neuville kept pressuring him, and had his deficit down to just 4.3s ahead of Sunday’s final four stages.
What followed was the closest finish in Monte Carlo Rally history. Ogier was up for the fight, but his C3 WRC seemingly wasn’t as it developed a mysterious throttle problem which sapped Ogier’s confidence and effectively meant the car was still wanting to accelerate even when on the brakes.
Neuville therefore had the upper hand, and positioned himself just 0.8s behind Ogier ahead of the powerstage. However his first Monte victory would have to wait as Ogier hit back at the perfect time, stealing 1.8s from Neuville to keep his record run of Monte victories going.
“You know it is the rally I want to win the most in the season,” Ogier said at stage-end. “That is why I am so happy now.”
He had every reason to be, he had earned it. The smile would soon disappear though as despite victories in México and Turkey, Ogier fell to third in the final points standings behind Neuville and new champion Tänak.
Monte Carlo Rally 2021
Victory no.: 50
Having successfully regained his world title in his first season with Toyota in 2020, Ogier set about reclaiming his Monte Carlo Rally crown which Neuville had pinched 12 months earlier.
However with Neuville having to cope with a last minute change in co-driver, it was Ogier’s team-mate Elfyn Evans that proved to be Ogier’s closest rival on the 2021 season opener.
Ogier was in a different league however. A brake pedal issue restricted him to fifth on the first day, but Ogier was soon on the move once his Yaris WRC was restored to full health. But he had a new issue to deal with on Friday afternoon as a front-left puncture dropped him back to third.
However, as Evans struggled to find the ultimate confidence to push in the treacherous conditions, Ogier put it all on the line. There was this aura around Ogier – akin to his domineering VW days – that just suggested Ogier was going to recover from his second setback, but the manner in which he did it was sensational.
Outpacing Evans by a mammoth 33.8s on just two stages, Ogier was back in the lead and never looked like losing it. A final winning margin of 32.6s was impressive but didn’t ultimately reflect the supreme vein of form Ogier had found as he broke the record for the most Monte Carlo victories and with it, secured his 50th rally win at world level.