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SEBASTIEN OGIER could hardly have got his new relationship with M-Sport and Ford off to a better start – but fortune did smile on the Frenchman in Monte Carlo.

For much of the event Thierry Neuville looked very much the winner of the event. Ogier slid into a ditch on the very first stage, allowing Neuville to take his Hyundai i20 into a lead that, at times, stretched to more than a minute.

But protecting a 51s lead going into the on stage scheduled for Saturday the Belgian ran wide on a corner, damaging his right-rear suspension. Neuville managed to make repairs sufficient to get to the end of the stage, after losing 32 minutes, and dropping him all the way back to 15th place.

After running as low as ninth Ogier started with a lead of 47s, and his muscle memory knew how to win. The Frenchman sped home to his first win with his new team, and his 39th WRC win.

“I was hoping for [victory] but to do it in the first race after only one month with so little preparation, it’s incredible,” said Ogier after his fourth consecutive Monte victory. “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.”

A full wrap in the next Auto Action. Out Thursday.