The event’s classic mix of asphalt roads with snow and ice covered sections has earned it a fearsome reputation for varied conditions. And while some recent editions have been light on snow, there was plenty in evidence on this year’s pre-event recce. Worst affected was SS11 St Jean En Royans [pictured] that was covered from beginning to end when it was driven this afternoon.
Citroen Total Abu Dhabi team driver Mikko Hirvonen said the conditions on the recce were very inconsistent. “It was a varied picture, with some stages totally clear and others completely snow covered, but in general there was more snow that I think I’ve ever seen in Monte before,” he told wrc.com. “Its not deep, maybe only one or two centimetres, but it’s in many stages, and for some long sections, so it’s its going to be tricky.”
Hirvonen’s team-mate, World Champion Sebastien Loeb, felt dry asphalt conditions would give him the best chance of victory this week and was hoping the predicted snow melts in time for Wednesday’s opening stage.
“If it stays then the changing grip all the time will be difficult for me,“ he explained. “The second stage last year was part snow and Jari-Matti Latvala was a lot faster than me there. I always took it carefully on the snow because I knew I could be faster on the tarmac that followed. But of course if there’s more snow and ice then its difficult to do that.”
One driver excited by the prospect of a white Monte was Sebastien Ogier who will begin his Volkswagen Motorsport campaign this week. “I’m sure there will be snow during the race now and that’s okay - what I want is difficult conditions,” he said. “It’s not an advantage, as such, but as this is our first race we know it’s going be harder to be on the pace of the others. But then if the conditions are really difficult then the differences between the cars will be less.”
The drivers will tackle the pre-rally shakedown test on Tuesday morning between 0800hrs and 1200hrs. The rally proper gets underway at 0800hrs on Wednesday 16 January.