PARIS (Reuters) - Frenchman Sebastien Ogier won the Monte Carlo rally on his M-Sport debut, holding on to the lead on Sunday after rival Thierry Neuville had suffered a mechanical problem on the penultimate day.
Four-times world champion Ogier beat Jari-Matti Latvala by two minutes 15 seconds as the Finn gave Toyota a podium finish on their return to WRC after a 17-year absence on icy roads in the French Alps.
M-Sport were denied a one-two finish when Estonian Ott Tanak slipped from second after suffering an engine problem on Sunday. Tanak finished third, 2:57.8 off the pace.
“I was hoping for (a win) but to do it in the first race after only one month with so little preparation, it’s incredible,” said Ogier after his 39th career win.
“I can assure you the conditions did not make things easy. “It was tough to be the first out on to the snow on Friday.”
Ogier took control on Saturday after Belgian Neuville surrendered the lead following a rear suspension problem in the final stage of the day.
The second leg of the world championship in Sweden will be held from Feb. 9-12.
Ogier, who joined M-Sport last month after Volkswagen withdrew from the sport, is looking to become the second driver to win five WRC titles after his compatriot Sebastien Loeb clinched a record nine consecutive titles from 2004-12.
Reporting by Julien Pretot; Editing by Ken Ferris and Clare Fallon