Monte Carlo - Local resident Sebastien Ogier embarks on his
bid for a sixth straight world title in the season-opening Monte Carlo Rally
"Only a sixth world title will satisfy me, anything
less will be a failure," Ogier said.
"It's going to be a fight, tougher than ever, but that
is what we want," the 34-year-old said.
Belgium's Thierry Neuville secured most wins last year with
four in his Hyundai.
But French ace Ogier of Ford clinched the title despite only
winning twice, including around the hills of Monte Carlo.
Toyota, Citroen, Hyundai and Ford are all providing top
drivers for the brand new 13-rally season.
Monte Carlo's Casino Square is the start for the famed
curtain-raiser, a tight-winding course through the scenic Monaco hills on one
of only four rallies contested on tarmac.
On Sunday huge crowds will be expected at the Col de Turini
for the pinnacle of the race which finishes outside the Palace of Monaco, with
Prince Albert of Monaco presenting the trophy.
From Monaco, the world rally championship moves to snow and
ice in Sweden next month while seven legs of the championship are contested on
dirt tracks including the dust-blown searing heat of Turkey, back on the roster
at the expense of Poland.
The only other change to the 2018 calendar is the swapping
of October weekends between Wales, which is traditionally a mud-fest, and
Europe is home to 10 of the rallies with the others on dirt
in Mexico, Argentina and Australia.
Ogier is counting on his car to once again deliver the
"The truth is it's the same car as last year,"
"There are evolutions here and there, but no
revolutions," he said. "But Ford will make it perform better -- like
all the other teams though, the car is the same."
Nine-time former world champion Sebastien Loeb is set to
return to the fray for three rallies for Citroen at Mexico, Corsica and
"I've always loved racing on tarmac, although I'm not
familiar with the current route of the Rally of Corsica," said the
43-year-old who last won the title in 2012.
He added: "Spain seemed like a good option too. I also
wanted to contest a gravel rally. We opted for Mexico, since I have good
memories of racing there."
Ogier praised his compatriot's grit.
"Few people would have had the courage to do that and I
for one would be far from surprised if he did well again. He has rarely
While the Monte Carlo rally boasts top quality drivers there
will also be an expert pair of hands at the wheel of the course car which
checks for safety and is being driven by Carlos Sainz Jr.
The Renault Formula One driver is maintaining a family
tradition as his father Carlos Sainz won at Monte Carlo in his rally days
before switching to the Dakar Rally, which he claimed for a second time last