Sebastien Ogier describes it as his childhood ambition come true, as he struggles to contain the excitement that gushes forth even as champagne bottles celebrated the end of a remarkable rally at Monte-Carlo.
The Frenchman has just joined a distinguished society as one of only five men to win the prestigious (and treacherous) rally three times in a row; the others are Sandro Munari, Walter Röhrl, Tommi Mäkinen and Sébastien Loeb.
Ogier clinched the opening round of the 2016 FIA World Rally Championship in his Volkswagen Polo R, by finishing 1min 54.5sec ahead of team mate Andreas Mikkelsen. Earlier slowed down by transmission troubles, Thierry Neuville managed to secure a debut podium for Hyundai’s new-specification i20, a further 1min 23.4sec later.
Ogier and Kris Meeke had swapped the lead many times during the first two days before Meeke retired, damaging his gearbox after hitting a rock. Known for its treacherous weather, the mountain roads of the French Alps offered the drivers clear asphalt stretches, snow and ice.
“This rally is the most important of the season for me and it’s so emotional to win here for a third time,” said Ogier. “I’ve been dreaming of this since I was a kid. To win such a difficult rally three times in a row is fantastic, and a real team effort from everyone.”