Tuesday | 18 Jan 2022

Monte-Carlo countdown – rally route

The only predictable aspect of this week’s season-opening Rallye Monte-Carlo (20 - 23 January) is that it will be the most unpredictable rally of the year.

Relatively straight-forward asphalt speed tests in the French Alps are complicated by winter weather which places an emphasis on cunning tyre choices, the skill to drive slowly on snow and ice as fast as possible – and a huge slice of luck!

After Thursday evening’s start in Monaco’s refurbished Casino Square, an opening night based around the atmospheric Col de Turini in the Alpes Maritimes mountains lies in wait.

The well-known Lucéram / Lantosque (15.20km) and La Bollène-Vésubie / Moulinet (23.25km) are driven in darkness. They add up to 38.45km before drivers descend the mountains for service alongside the Principality’s picturesque harbour.

What a way to start the WRC’s new era – especially as the Turini test is the longest of the four-day event……

Friday heads further north for two loops of three stages in the Mercantour National Park covering 97.86km. Morning and afternoon runs through Roure / Beuil (18.33km), Guillaumes / Péone / Valberg (13.49km) and Val-de-Chalvagne / Entrevaux (17.11km) are on the agenda.

As if the challenge of the Alps was not daunting enough for the first full day of hybrid action, there is no service available from leaving Monaco in the morning until returning at night. Drivers must make do with a tyre change only in Puget-Théniers between loops.

The action switches west to the Alpes-de-Haute-Provence on Saturday for another 92.46km of competition.

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Le Fugeret / Thorame-Haute (16.80km) kicks off the day, before a double loop of Saint Jeannet / Malijai (17.04km) and the demanding Saint-Geniez / Thoard (20.79km) either side of a tyre change in Digne-les-Bains. Once again, there is no service during the day.

Saint-Geniez / Thoard is a shorter version of the classic Sisteron test south of Gap and one which could turn the leaderboard on its head.

The mythical Col de Fontbelle (1304m) is only opened in winter for the Monte and is often covered with snow and ice as the road is uncleared. A 4km section either side of the pass can be so treacherous that cars are reduced to walking pace. The big riddle is tyre choice. What works best or is least worse?

Video: Monte-Carlo route

Sunday’s finale returns to the Alpes-Maritimes. The new La Penne / Collongues (19.37km) and Briançonnet / Entrevaux (14.26km) are driven twice without service. The second pass of the latter forms the Wolf Power Stage with bonus points available. The four tests add up to 67.26km.

The survivors return to Monaco for the Casino Square champagne celebrations on Sunday afternoon after 17 stages covering 296.03km.

• Full coverage from Rallye Monte-Carlo is available on WRC+ All Live here, including every stage broadcast as it happens as well as key interviews, features and expert analysis from the service park.

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