Monday | 19 Jan 2015

Monte countdown: The challenge

First run in 1911, the iconic Rallye Monte-Carlo is a classic in the WRC calendar, with a reputation for being one of the hardest to master. What is it that makes it so tough? We asked M-Sport World Rally Team driver Elfyn Evans to give us some pointers.

Evans tackled the event for the first time last year, and impressed by finishing sixth in a Fiesta RS World Rally Car. Now, twelve months later, he’s back again for a second attempt. Here is what’s on his mind:

1) Awesome stages
“One thing people maybe don’t understand is that the Monte features some absolutely fantastic drivers’ stages. They are incredible. If we were to go there in the summer it would be an amazing asphalt rally...”

2) Unpredictable weather
“...but in the winter, everything is about the weather. The varied conditions have always made the event exceptionally difficult. You can have snow and ice on one side of a mountain, rain on the other, and bone dry roads a short distance away. Quite often the conditions are different at the beginning and the end of the same stage. With a three-stage loop, that’s perhaps six different road conditions you have to make a tyre choice for! It’s worse still when the gravel crew reports one thing on the road and our weather forecasters expect it to change.”

There were plenty of full snow sections on the 2014 Monte

3) Tyre choices
“Whoever gets these right and keeps out of trouble will do pretty well.” [World Rally Car drivers will select a maximum 30 tyres from a pool of 82 comprising eight hard-compound slicks, 16 softs and 24 super-softs, 24 winter tyres with spikes and 10 without.] “Okay, nobody gets it 100 per cent right for every stage, it’s more about who has the best compromise. On snow and ice with the wrong tyres, there is absolutely zero grip. We found that out on the first stage last year. Everybody went out expecting damp or wet conditions and we ended up with three inches of snow! That was interesting, especially on my first time there in a World Rally Car.

“If it’s like that, we try to stay in a high gear to limit the wheelspin, but the speed is very, very low. We always discuss tyre choice in service and if conditions are stable you can usually find a decent compromise. But it can be difficult when people have different opinions, especially when we have last-minute information that suggests improving or deteriorating conditions.”

4) Snowballs!
“Spectators have been known to shovel snow onto the stages, particularly the famous section on the Turini stage. But last year there was so much snow already, they could have thrown all the snow they wanted and it wouldn’t have made any difference. It can be an issue and it is something you have to be wary of. But if you are caught out, you are caught out - you can’t go around every corner expecting there to be a pile of snow in the way!”

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