Sebastien Ogier overcame numerous hurdles to win this weekend's Monte Carlo Rally.
The three-day event was one of the toughest ever as rain masked ice on the roads in southern France. That it was the reigning world champion that conquered the challenges was no surprise. VW Polo R WRC driver Ogier will go into each of this year's rallies as the favourite to win because his car is such a well developed machine and the Frenchman is on incredible form.
His Monte win was far from straight forward, though. A brief off on the first corner of Thursday morning's opening test no doubt focused his mind. But that wasn't his only transgression through the weekend. A poor tyre choice on Thursday meant he had to fight for his win.
The 48 second deficit to the impressive Bryan Bouffier was dismissed on Friday despite Ogier having another moment, this time almost sliding into a ditch. He recovered immediately and at the end of Saturday's four stages he'd won the first WRC event of 2014 by over a minute.
From a British perspective the big story of the Monte was the performance of Kris Meeke and Elfyn Evans. Meeke drove his Citroen DS3 WRC to a podium finish, fifty years after Paddy Hopkirk famously won the event in a Mini. For Meeke it was a strong result and one he needed as he bids to repay the faith Citroen has shown in him.
The French firm has given the Northern Irishman a contract to compete in every WRC rally this year. The pressure will stay on Meeke because Citroen is used to winning titles. Meeke needs to quickly settle into the team and the DS3 and then he will be expected to start putting pressure on Ogier and VW. The Monte was an excellent way for the combination to begin the season.
Evans finished the rally in sixth place and as a result he bagged plenty of miles in his M-Sport Ford Fiesta WRC. That was always his target and will remain so through this year. For Elfyn the 2014 season is all about learning the team, the car and the events. Aged just 25, the Welshman has a bright future ahead of him. He showed on the Monte that he has pace but of greater importance was that he showed he has maturity too.
Irishman Robert Barrable also impressed as he finished third in WRC2. The second tier of the WRC runs for R5 specification cars. These machines have less effective aerodynamics compared to the WRC machines but are still extremely rapid. Barrable finished 14th overall in his Fiesta.