The 1995 world champion regarded that showing as a bonus, bearing in mind his undisguised dislike for the Monte Carlo event. "I'm delighted with our result because I've only competed here three times and never had a good finish," McRae said.
McRae began the day in fourth place but quickly caught his fellow Briton, Richard Burns, on the 15th stage. The Scot then saw off his Subaru team- mate Piero Liatti, last year's winner, for third position.
Burns, competing in the race for the first time, finished fifth in a Mitsubishi. "I would have been quite happy with fifth position if you'd told me before the start," he said.
Sainz, driving a Toyota Corolla for the first time for six years, took no gambles to record his third victory in the event. The Spaniard, victorious in 1991 and 1995, has now equalled the rally record of 21 World Championship wins held by Finland's four-times world champion, Juha Kankkunen, who finished second.
Sainz drove a cautious race after taking over the lead when Tommi Makinen, of Finland, crashed out on Tuesday.