Racing calendars change from year to year, but most series have that one race they just couldn't do without: the Monaco Grand Prix
for F1, Le Mans
for endurance racing, Dakar
for rally raid, the Indianapolis 500
for Indy, the Daytona 500
for NASCAR... and for the World Rally Championship
, it's the Monte Carlo Rally. Winning the Monte brings with it its own measure of bragging rights, but locking out the podium is another story altogether. And that's just what Volkswagen
did this weekend on the Côte d'Azur.
The hard-fought season-opener saw nine-time world champion (and seven-time Monte Carlo Rally winner) Sébastien Loeb
return with Citroën
, but ultimately it was the VW team that won – and won big, taking a commanding 1-2-3 finish. Sébastien Ogier
(with Julien Ingrassia) finished first, followed by Jari-Matti Latvala (with Miika Anttila) in second and Andreas Mikkelsen (with Ola Floene) in third, all of them in the Volkswagen Polo R WRC
that was just updated
in time for the start of the season. The rally passed right through the Forest Saint Julien where Ogier was born, and at the end of it all, Mikkelsen walked little more than 50 steps from the Volkswagen garage to his condo at Quai Antoine 1er in Monte Carlo.
It was only the second time VW has locked out the podium since hitting the scene two years ago, following the German team's 1-2-3 finish in Australia last season en route to its second consecutive world championship
. This also marked the second year in a row that Ogier and VW have won the Monte, after narrowly losing out to Loeb in '03.
The achievement in Monaco this weekend made VW only the fifth manufacturer to take the top three spots in the Monegasque capital: Renault
-Alpine became the first in 1973, followed by Lancia
(with the Stratos) in '76 and then again (with the Delta Integrale) in '89, Audi
sandwiched between in '84 and Citroën with the "dream team" of Loeb, Colin McRae and Carlos Sainz in 2003. (Peugeot
achieved the same in 2009, but that was when the Monte Carlo Rally had left the WRC and was run as part of the less prominent and lower-spec Intercontinental Rally Challenge.) Not even Subaru
- all dominant forces in their time - can claim that feat.
The victory secures the Polo R WRC's place as the most dominant car in the championship, winning over 85 per cent of the rallies in which it has been entered since its debut in 2003.