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Neuville denies Ogier for elusive Monte Carlo win

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Monaco (AFP)

Thierry Neuville claimed his first Monte Carlo Rally win on Sunday, the bespectacled Belgian denying Sebastien Ogier after a roller-coaster opening leg of the world championship for his Hyundai team.

Neuville, 31, rattled off the fastest times in all of the final day's four stages to beat six-time former world champion Ogier by over 12 seconds.

Ogier's fellow Toyota driver Elfyn Evans was in third, 14sec off the pace.

This was a debut Monte Carlo triumph for Neuville, championship runner-up in each of the past four seasons, at his ninth attempt.

And it proved a sweet ending for Hyundai to a rally that had begun so disastrously for the Korean constructor with their new driver Ott Tanak's spectacular 180kmh crash on Friday.

"It's been a difficult weekend for us, but I'm very happy," said Neuville, who claimed nine of the 16 stages.

"We've had incredible emotions over the past two days," added Neuville who had also timed quickest in Saturday's last two stages.

"It's been ages since I've been trying to win here and it's great to start the season like this."

World champion Tanak and his co-driver escaped unscathed from their wrecked vehicle, images of which went viral.

They are now targetting a return in the next leg of the world rally championship in Sweden starting on February 13.

It is traditionally the only rally in the series held on snow, but is in doubt because there has been no snow. Tanak for one is hoping the rally takes place.

"I would definitively love going to Sweden," he said on Saturday after being given the all-clear following a precautionary night in hospital. "It's one of my favourite rallies."

After an emotion-charged weekend Hyundai's Italian sporting director Andrea Adamo fought back tears, saying only that "it's been a good weekend".

This was Neuville's 13th WRC win and it came after Toyota, now featuring Ogier who moved to the Japanese carmaker after Citroen's exit from the circuit, had dominated the first two days.

"It's good to start the season on the podium," said Ogier, who took second in the closing power stage.

With Neuville picking up extra points for winning the power stage he leads the nascent 2020 championship on 30 points from Ogier with 22 and Evans on 17.

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