Sebastien Loeb and Isabelle Galmiche (M-Sport Ford) won the 2022 Monte Carlo Rally in a thrilling battle against Sebastien Ogier and Ben Veillas (Toyota Gazoo Racing).
With the new Rally1 regulations, the new World Rally Championship era began in 2022. The new cars feature a hybrid powertrain as well as enhanced safety features that, based on the events of this rally, have already proven to be worthwhile.
M-Sport Ford has a completely new car for the season, replacing the Fiesta with the new Puma, Hyundai has entered the new form i20, and Toyota is defending their title with the GR Yaris body.
Teams got to race their brand new 2022 Rally cars away from testing on Thursday. There was a lot of excitement since no one knows where they are in relation to the competition at this stage, so there’s a lot of pressure to get started right away.
Before the Special Stages began in the evening, reigning champion Ogier was fastest through the Shakedown stages. In what would become the drama of the early days of the race, Loeb and Elfyn Evans rounded out the top three.
The first two stages were contested at night in Monte Carlo, and Ogier set the pace by establishing a 6.7-second lead at the start. Loeb finished second in the Col de Turini stages in his first WRC drive in over a year, keeping pace with Ogier.
Elfyn Evans, who finished second in the 2021 Championship, finished third in his GR Yaris, despite struggling to adjust to the additional hybrid power. He was 11.2 seconds off the lead when he returned to the overnight halt in Monaco. Adrien Fourmaux and Gus Greensmith, both Puma drivers, rounded out the top five.
The Mercantour National Park hosted two loops of three stages on Friday, covering 97.86km. Loeb won four of the six stages to end the day atop the rally heading into Saturday. In the final stage of this morning’s race, Ogier slipped to third behind teammate Evans following a cautious approach on frosty roads, however he later slipped back to second after being the fastest in the afternoon.
In his Hyundai, Thierry Neuville came out on top after a close fight for fourth place. After a challenging first morning stage, the Belgian driver stiffened his car’s settings and finished 8.9 seconds ahead of teammate Ott Tänak, with Craig Breen’s Ford dropping 2.5 seconds behind him in the final stage.
Breen’s teammate Gus Greensmith claimed his first stage victory in the WRC on Friday. On the road segment of the stage, he and co-driver Jonas Andersson discovered they had won by 1.4 seconds over Sébastien Ogier, resulting in dramatic scenes.
The Briton would have been closing in on Neuville in the overall standings if it hadn’t been for a minor issue with the hybrid system.
On Saturday, the action moved west to the Alpes-de-Haute-Provence. On this day, Ogier reclaimed the lead following a blistering pace and tyre-manipulation on the final stage of the day. As crews faced snow and ice in the Alps, Evans skidded off the road, while Neuville, Ott Tänak, Greensmith, and Oliver Solberg also encountered problems.
At the halfway point, Ogier had a 5.4sec lead over Loeb after winning two of the three morning stages. After two close stages in the afternoon, Ogier led his fellow Frenchman into the final speed test over the Col de Fontbelle by 5.0 seconds.
The rally returned to the Alpes-Maritimes on the last day, with Ogier in complete command. Ogier had a nearly half-minute advantage going into the penultimate stage of the day, with no evident signs that Loeb would be able to close the distance. However, the rally would take one final twist when Ogier suffered a puncture on the penultimate stage. Following Loeb’s victory in the speed test, Ogier entered the final run with a 9-second lead over the leader.
At the age of 47, Loeb kept his cool and finished the final stage with a 10.5-second lead to become the oldest driver to win a WRC rally. Isabelle Galmiche also makes history as the first female co-driver to win a World Rally Championship rally.