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Stars celebrate new season ahead of Monte-Carlo start
Many of rally’s stages in the region between Monaco and Gap in the French Maritime Alps were snowed on during the recce, but most of this has now melted, leaving a slushy mix of conditions and the promise of difficult tyre choices ahead.
“Even the recce was a challenge,” Citroen driver Kris Meeke told wrc.com. “We had everything from dry tarmac, wet tarmac, patchy damp, black ice, ice, frost, slush, snow, fog and all within a few kilometres! It’s just a crazy rally.”
“There was a lot more snow on the recce this year than last, but it was fresh, and although there was full snow for the first pass of the recce on Tuesday and Wednesday, it had disappeared for the second pass. On Monday there was very little snow. It was almost like a dry tarmac rally,” he added.
Defending champion Sebastien Ogier agreed. “It was quite difficult during the recce because the conditions were changing all the time. For the rally we expect some ice and snow - some patches at least - so for sure our gravel crew will have a lot of work to do.”
Sections of full snow remain on high altitude stages - especially Stage 12 from Sisteron and Stage 14 which features the famous 1600m Col de Turini. Snow is also reported on tonight's opening stage from Norante.
“When you go high the snow never really clears,” explained VW team manager Sven Smeets. “Otherwise there are still some parts where there is snow and ice. On some roads they’ve put down salt, but depending on the amount they’ve put down it can still freeze overnight.”
Weather forecasts predict more inconsistent conditions over the next few days. “There’s not too much snow expected this weekend, but we always have a line in our forecast that reads ‘things can change,’” added Smeets.
“Last year, like many teams we were a little surprised by the snow that fell on the first stages. We will have to see what happens, and we can only really forecast about six hours ahead, but I think conditions will be quite similar to last year. There is not a massive amount of snow, and Turini is not a metre deep - it wasn’t last year either - but we had really wintry conditions during the rally itself."
The rally gets underway on Thursday evening after the ceremonial start in Monaco, with the first two special stages at 2021hrs and 2129hrs local time. Follow it live here.