Less than ten weeks after the end of the 2012 season, the FIA World Rally Championship is back. And, like last year, the 2013 season gets underway with the most famous event of the lot: the Rallye Monte-Carlo.
The Monte is the oldest rally in the WRC calendar and the longest running competition in all rally sport. This year will be the 81st edition of the event, which can trace its roots back to 1911 when the first of the marathon pan-European rallies that finished in the Principality of Monaco was held.
It is famous for its narrow asphalt mountain roads and a fiendish mix of changeable weather and road conditions. Freezing temperatures in the mountains mean patches of ice and snow are never far away and drivers who can tackle dry asphalt and ice on the same tyres have the upper hand. Experience counts here, and drivers with a good understanding of the specialist conditions can be a serious threat to the established stars.
Having the right type of tyre is vital in the varied conditions, so WRC competitors can choose from four options designed to perform on everything from dry asphalt to full snow. Picking the right one, or the best compromise, is key to Monte Carlo success.
This year, the route is fractionally longer than in 2012 and, with 468 competitive kilometres run as 18 special stages, it is the longest Monte since 1995. Run from a Service Park in the French city of Valence, 400km kilometres north of Monte-Carlo, organisers have kept the opening two days (Wednesday 16 January and Thursday 17 January) largely unchanged from 2012’s programme on roads through the Ardèche, the Haute-Loire and the Drôme regions.
On Friday 18 January there is a significant change to the itinerary. There is an all-new stage, Saint Nazaire le Desert to Le Motte Chalancon, and the return of the famous Sisteron test last run in 2002. Measuring 36.70 kilometres in length, the Sisteron-Thoard stage will mark the final competitive action of day three before the overnight halt in Monaco ahead of the final five stages on Saturday 19 January.
Following a morning off, the 60 highest-place crews in the overall classification with tackle three runs over the famous Col de Turini (Le Moulinet-La Bollene), including two under the cover of darkness, and two passes through Lantosque-Luceram, one by day and one by night. The final Lantosque-Luceram will form the event-closing Power Stage.
Shakedown is scheduled for Tuesday 15 January with the official starting ceremony taking place from 1800hrs the same day. The traditional finish podium will be in the grounds of the Place du Palais in Monaco at 1100hrs on Sunday 20 January.
Next page: So who’s going to win?