Day one: 98.26 miles; 8 stages
Weather: Sunny -9 to 6 celsius
■ Sebastien Ogier and Kris Meeke engage in a fascinating battle, with the lead swapping four times in the early going.
■ A particularly icy right-hander on Friday morning’s opener rules Robert Kubica and Hayden Paddon out of proceedings. Kubica’s approach is slightly more committed, he’s understeered off at jogging speed. Paddon oversteers, dinks the tree at walking speed and stops half a mile up the road.
■ Jari-matti Latvala is steadfastly refusing to be pulled into the scrap for the lead and sits a minute down at the end of the day in third place. His rally is going to plan, but his plan’s really not very fever. Andreas Mikkelsen suffers a big spin in SS7, but remains fourth.
■ Shocking day for Hyundai, with the New Generation i20 WRC not looking any quicker than the old car. The verdict is the wrong suspension set-up, the cars are running much too soft. Thierry Neuville is quickest of the softies in fifth.
■ M-sport’s first full day of the season is an indifferent one, with Mads Ostberg taking time to bed in with new co-driver Ola Floene. Eric Camilli sets a cracking fifth fastest time on only his fourth stage in a World Rally Car, but then rolls two stages later. Elfyn Evans is flying in the new R5 car – pummelling the opposition despite a puncture in SS1. End of day one: 1 Ogier/ Ingrassia 1h29m06.1s; 2 Meeke/ Nagle +9.5s; 3 Latvala/anttila +1m08.1s; 4 Mikkelsen/jaeger +1m33.8s; 5 Neuville/ Gilsoul +1m47.8s; 6 Ostberg/ Floene +2m18.5s.
Day two: 108.90 miles; 5 stages
Weather: sunny -8 to 9 celsius
■ Ogier leads throughout the day, after Mikkelsen’s tyre gamble fails to pay dividends through the morning loop.
■ Latvala retires from a relatively comfortable third place at the end of the second run through the long stage, moving Mikkelsen up to third.
■ Third becomes second for Mikkelsen when Meeke becomes the second podium retiree in as many stages at the end of SS12.
■ Mikkelsen’s grip on that second place is loosened by a fast-improving Neuville. Thierry hooks his new i20 WRC up to win the last two stages (two minutes ahead, Ogier has begun a cruise to the finish following Meeke’s departure), slashing the gap between the two Monaco mates from a minute to 12.5s. “Keeps it interesting for tomorrow…” offers Mikkelsen after admitting he’d been too cautious. End of day two: 1 Ogier/ Ingrassia 3h19m05.7s; 2 Mikkelsen/ Jaeger +1m59.7s; 3 Neuville/ Gilsoul +2m12.2s; 4 Ostberg/ Floene +4m25.9s; 5 Lefebvre/ Moreau +7m29.4s; 6 Tanak/ Molder +10m42.3s. Day three: 28.27 miles; 3 stages
Weather: sunny 1 to 12 celsius
■ Ogier wins at a canter, celebrating a Monte hat-trick with an untroubled final-day dash through the Alpes-maritimes.
■ The race for the place behind him fails to materialise; Neuville reports a transmission noise on the way out of Monaco. A centre bearing problem manifests itself and robs the Belgian of drive to the rear wheels for the final stage and a bit. Mikkelsen is sure of second.
■ The ailing Neuville has enough in hand to remain on the podium, bringing his car home 1m30s ahead of Ostberg’s Ford Fiesta RS WRC. Ostberg has taken a sensible approach to his first event back with M-sport. As the rally unfolds, he feels increasingly comfortable with new co-driver Ola Floene – but the pair admit it’s round two and the trip around Sweden and Norway for their WRC day at home that is the real target.
■ Stephane Lefebvre and Dani Sordo round the top six out. It’s fair to say the Frenchman’s happier with his score in the DS 3 than the disgruntled Spaniard, who simply couldn’t get to grips with the New Generation…