World champion Ogier wins season-opening Monte Carlo rally

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GAP, France (AP) Three-time world champion Sebastien Ogier won the season-opening Monte Carlo rally in style on Sunday, taking two of the three stages to clinch a third straight win at his favorite race.

The Frenchman led overnight from Andreas Mikkelsen of Norway, and finished nearly two minutes ahead of his Volkswagen teammate for his 33rd career victory.

“This rally is the most important of the season for me,” Ogier said. “So emotional to be able to do it here in Monte Carlo.”

Just like on Saturday, Ogier won the day’s opening stage – beating Hyundai drivers Dani Sordo of Spain and Belgian Thierry Neuville, who finished the race in third place overall.

Mikkelsen won the next stage, with Sordo again second, but clawed back only 13.6 seconds on Ogier, who was down in seventh spot.

Ogier won the final power stage ahead of Sordo and Mikkelsen, collecting three bonus points to go with his win.

The power stage was a testing 12 kilometers (7.5 miles) from Col de l’Orme to St. Laurent in the French Alps.

It started with a climb up Col de L’Orme – a mountain pass that features on the Tour de France cycling race – on old and bumpy tarmac, followed by a fast downhill finish featuring several hairpin bends to test drivers’ nerves.

Ogier completed it in a little over eight minutes to cap a fine race.

“I’m very happy. I have to thank my team and especially my gravel crew; they’ve done a great job,” Ogier said. “The car was perfect, I’m so happy to take this win for Volkswagen.”

Meanwhile, Jari-Matti Latvala, who abandoned overnight because of front suspension damage to his Volkswagen, was given a suspended one-race ban and fined 5,000 euros ($5,400) after hitting a spectator on Saturday.

The spectator got straight back up after being clipped by the front of Latvala’s car, but the Finnish driver was punished by race stewards – who viewed on-board images of the incident – for not stopping to check as he carried on driving.

The suspended ban is in force for the rest of the season.

“My visibility was hampered briefly by thick steam from the engine and mud that had sprayed up from the ditch. I saw a spectator jump to the side and drove slowly back to the road,” Latvala said. “The team contacted me after the stage and informed me that I had touched a spectator. As I said, I am very sorry about the whole incident.”

The next rally is in Sweden in three weeks’ time.

Santino Ferrucci will drive No. 14 for AJ Foyt Racing full time in 2023 IndyCar season

Santino Ferrucci AJ Foyt
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Santino Ferrucci will return to full-time racing in the NTT IndyCar Series next season, joining AJ Foyt Racing.

Ferrucci had made eight IndyCar starts with three teams since his last full-time season in 2020 while also racing part time in the NASCAR Xfinity Series this year.

He will drive the storied No. 14 Dallara-Chevrolet for four-time Indy 500 winner A.J. Foyt’s team, which will field the car from its Waller, Texas headquarters.

“It’s incredibly exciting to be back in the INDYCAR Series full time,” Ferrucci said in a team release. “Being a part-time driver over the last two years has been hard for me, personally. I’m a race car driver, and I want to compete. Working with different teams has been exciting, and I’m proud that no matter which car I’ve raced, I’ve always shown speed and consistency. I couldn’t be more excited to join AJ Foyt Racing in the 14 Chevy. I can’t wait to make the best of it.”

Ferrucci, 24, had finished a career-best fourth in IndyCar four times, including the 104th Indy 500 in 2020. He was the 2019 Indy 500 rookie of the year with a sixth.

In nine Xfinity starts since 2021, Ferrucci has a career-best finish of 13th at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.

“I am thrilled to welcome Santino to the team,” Larry Foyt said in a release. “He’s shown a knack for getting toward the front of the field, and I think he is a racer who moves forward on race day. A.J. sees the fire in him and has enjoyed their meetings together. I think Santino’s experience will help his rookie teammate as well, so he is a great addition to our roster.”

Ferrucci will be teamed at AJ Foyt Racing with Benjamin Pedersen, who finished fifth in the 2022 Indy Lights standings. The team has yet to specify the number for Pedersen’s entry, which will be fielded out of its Indianapolis race shop.

Foyt’s two full-time drivers last season were Dalton Kellett and Kyle Kirkwood, who is moving to Andretti Autosport.