Rallye Monte-Carlo may conjure up images of Monaco’s glitz and glamour, but it is the bleak and inhospitable mountain roads of the French Alps where the opening round of the 2017 FIA World Rally Championship will be won and lost.
Although this year’s route covers territory that is familiar to the drivers, organisers have made subtle changes throughout the four days to keep crews on their toes.
The glamorous facade of Monte-Carlo’s Casino Square hosts Thursday night’s start before the long journey north to Gap via two challenging night stages covering almost 47km in the Alpes-de-Haute Provence. The opening Entrevaux - Ubraye will be broadcast live on TV and Beyons - Bréziers is new for all.
After a short night’s rest, Friday is the longest and most intense day of the rally. Two lengthy but compact loops of three tests north of Gap add up to more than 160km, beginning with the new Agnières en Dévoluy - Le Motty over the Col de Festre.
Drivers will recall the others two stages from 2016, although the final test has been modified to include a crossing of the Saint-Leger-les-Mélèzes ski resort.
Saturday is no less gruelling. Two loops of stages south of Gap are contested twice before a second visit to Bayons - Bréziers. After the final service of the rally in Gap, competitors head south to overnight in Monaco.
Only the top 60 cars in the rankings will tackle Sunday’s final leg. The short opening Luceram - Col St Roch is followed by one of the season’s highlights with the famous ascent of the Col de Turini in the La Bollène-Vésubie - Peïra Cava test.
Both stages are driven twice, without service, and the second pass over the Turini will form the live TV Power Stage with bonus points available to the fastest five drivers.
The 17 stages cover 382.65km.
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