Frenchman Sébastien Loeb led a trio of Xsara T4s to the chequered flag in Monte Carlo at the weekend as Citroën dominated the first round of the World Rally Championship.

Frenchman Sébastien Loeb led a trio of Xsara T4s to the chequered flag in Monte Carlo at the weekend as Citroën dominated the first round of the World Rally Championship.

Despite not winning any of the final four special stages, Loeb maintained the overall lead that he held since the ninth stage.

The current world champion, Marcus Grönholm, lost the overall lead to Loeb when he damaged his Peugeot 206 WRC on stage nine. Grönholm continued and finished the first rally event in 12th place.

Loeb's main competition came from his two Team Citroën team-mates, Colin McRae and Carlos Sainz. McRae won Sospel (stage 11), beating Loeb by just three seconds.

Sainz went on to win a second time on Sospel (stage 13) followed by the two Ford Focus WRC drivers, Markko Märtin and Francois Duval, who were chasing the Citroëns for podium finishes. Märtin won the first Lantosque (stage 12).

With McRae fourth on the thirteenth stage and Loeb tenth, the final special stage was set for a close finish between the team drivers.

Stage 14 on Lantosque gave an exciting finish to the problematic Monte Carlo rally. Loeb finished seventh and McRae took fourth, which gave Loeb the overall win by just 38 seconds. McRae held on for the second spot.

Sainz beat Märtin by just under seven seconds for the stage win and gave him the third podium spot by only 3,3 seconds over Märtin. Duval finished third on the stage but just missed sixth overall by 0.4 seconds to Peugeot privateer driver Cedric Robert.

Märtin finished fourth overall with Peugeot's Richard Burns in fifth. Armin Schwarz brought his Hyundai Accent WRC home in eight place to score the final point.

Drivers Championship points:

1. Loeb - 10

2. McRae - 8

3. Sainz - 6

4. Martin - 5

5. Burns - 4

6. Robert - 3

7. Duval - 2

8. Schwarz - 1

Manufacturers Championship points:

1. Citroen - 18

2. Ford - 10

3. Peugeot - 6

4. Hyundai - 3

5. Skoda - 2

Original article from Car