The 92nd Monte-Carlo Rally unfolded with high expectations of Sébastien Ogier clinching his 10th win, setting the stage for an intense battle among top-notch rally drivers. As anticipation built before the event, Ogier, a nine-time Monegasque road event champion, aimed to etch his name further into the rally’s storied history.
The Rally, known for its stringent qualification criteria, initially featured over 100 daring racers and navigators, whittled down to 70. Organizers welcomed Ogier and the Toyota Team, creating an atmosphere of anticipation for a showdown against formidable contenders.
The icy roads taken at breakneck speed to secure Ogier’s elusive 10th victory are a far cry from the origins of the Rally. Initially conceived as a “Concentration Rally,” it faced challenges to its format over the years. The competition evolved from a convergence of talented car enthusiasts motoring toward Monte-Carlo from various European cities. Compare that to the thrilling racing spectacle it is today.
The rivalry between Ogier and Sébastien Loeb for the reputation of GOAT (greatest of all-time) is stuff of legend. Loeb in late career claimed the 2022 Monte Carlo Rally title in a dramatic turn of events. Ogier’s quest for redemption materialized in 2023, securing a record ninth Monegasque title and establishing himself as the Rally’s most successful driver. But Loeb is still a most definite contender for GOAT taking all the World Rally Championships into account. However, another notch in Ogier’s belt with a 10th Monte-Carlo Rally win could of course tip the balance of opinion.
In the unfolding drama of the 2024 Rally, Thierry Neuville emerged as a dominant force, denying Ogier the coveted 10th win. Despite Neuville facing an engine issue and Ogier staging a spirited comeback, the Belgian driver showcased resilience, outclassing Ogier in the decisive Stage 14 and securing a substantial lead.
The podium saw Elfyn Evans claiming the third spot, Ott Tanak and Adrien Fourmaux completing the top-five positions. Neuville’s stellar performance earned him the maximum 30 points, including bonus Power Stage points, propelling him into the championship lead. Ogier, while displaying a valiant effort, conceded defeat in the face of Neuville’s remarkable showing.
In the Press: How it happened: Neuville Out-Racing Ogier
Neuville was lucky to escape a brief brush with a snowbank after sliding on a sheet of ice in stage three that caught out several drivers. Neuville also rode his luck when he suffered a spin on the following stage and had he avoided the error that cost him 10s, he would have shot into the rally lead then.
After ending Friday sitting third, 16.1s behind Evans, who had a 4.5s advantage over Ogier, Neuville hit the lead on Saturday morning in style.
The 2020 Monte-Carlo winner ignited his victory bid on a frosty stage nine where he took 9.6s out of leader Evans and was 18.8s faster than Ogier.
That blistering effort was followed up by a series of strong times resulting in Neuville taking the rally lead after stage 10.
Evans’ challenge began to fall away with the Welshman unable to match the pace of Neuville and Ogier as an epic head-to-head developed. Evans wasn’t helped by a hybrid issue on his GR Yaris in stage 10.
In the afternoon, Ogier mounted an inspired charge that included his 700th career stage win. The Frenchman began to reel in Neuville before taking the rally lead by 0.8s after winning stage 13.
However, Neuville summoned what he described as the “perfect stage” to beat Ogier by 4.1s in stage 14 to end Saturday with a 3.3s advantage.
The stunning speed continued into Sunday as Neuville dashed Ogier’s hopes of a 10th Monte Carlo win by topping the two morning stages, which resulted in his rival conceding defeat.
Neuville sealed the victory by winning the Power Stage by 2.6s from Ogier.
Legacy of Prince Albert I, Antony Noghes and Gabriel Vialon
The Monte-Carlo Rally, rooted in a rich history dating back to its creation by Gabriel Vialon and Antony Noghes, continues to captivate audiences with its blend of tradition and modern competition. And it was the Prince of Monaco Albert I, who started this tradition of driving a rally in Monte-Carlo.
The 2024 edition showcased the enduring spirit of the Rally, where the pursuit of victory collided with unforeseen challenges, leaving fans eagerly anticipating the next chapter in this iconic motorsport saga.