Mon 22 Jan 2024

Preview: Rallye Monte-Carlo

The curtain rises on a brand-new FIA World Rally Championship season this week as the world’s toughest motorsport series roars back into action at the legendary Rallye Monte-Carlo (25 – 28 January).

Thirteen rounds await across four continents during the WRC’s 52nd season. Kicking off the new year in style, this week’s famous fixture has attracted a capacity entry of 70 cars.

Rallye Monte-Carlo, the oldest fixture on the WRC calendar and arguably the most unpredictable rally of the year, moves its base away from the Principality of Monaco and back into the French alpine town of Gap, where it was most recently based in 2021. The relatively straightforward asphalt roads high in the mountains are complicated by winter weather, placing an emphasis on cunning tyre choices.

Tactical twists: New points structure adds fresh dimension
The WRC now features a revamped points system that brings more excitement and intrigue to the rally’s closing stages on Sunday morning. The structure awards up to 18 points based on the general classification after Saturday, up to a further seven points for performances on Sunday, and maintains the traditional five bonus points for the rally-ending Wolf Power Stage.

These updates do not alter the core concept of determining an overall rally victor. As always, the crew with the lowest total time across the entire event will be crowned the winner.

Driver line-ups: Market shuffles and fresh faces
Reigning manufacturers’ champion Toyota Gazoo Racing fields three cars for the season opener, led by last year’s runner-up Elfyn Evans who is starting his fifth season with the team. The Welshman is joined by Japan’s Takamoto Katsuta, who steps up to a full-time seat in one of Toyota’s point-scoring GR Yaris Rally1 cars. Nine-time Monte-Carlo winner Sébastien Ogier pilots the third Yaris while reigning world champion Kalle Rovanperä will complete a partial programme for Toyota in 2024, starting in Sweden next month.

Hyundai Motorsport has re-signed Ott Tänak after the Estonian spent last season with M-Sport Ford. Tänak won nine rallies with the Korean manufacturer between 2020 and 2022. Now he aims to make history and land a maiden drivers’ crown for the marque, having previously claimed the title himself behind the wheel of a Yaris in 2019.

Five-time championship runner-up Thierry Neuville of Belgium leads the i20 N Rally1 attack with Tänak, while reigning WRC2 champion Andreas Mikkelsen – back at WRC’s top level for the first time since 2019 - returns to pilot the team’s third car this week. He will alternate drives with Spain’s Dani Sordo and Finland’s Esapekka Lappi throughout the season.

M-Sport Ford fields a youthful line-up with Adrien Fourmaux and Grégoire Munster both tackling full campaigns aboard Puma Rally1 cars. Frenchman Fourmaux returns full-time to Rally1 with M-Sport, having competed in WRC2 – the WRC’s main support category - in 2023, while 2024 marks Munster’s first full season at the pinnacle of rallying, making him the first Luxembourger to achieve the feat.

Monte master Ogier aims to break records
Ogier bids for a record 10th Monte-Carlo victory on roads close to his birthplace near the host town of Gap, in the French Alps. But the 40-year-old is taking nothing for granted, knowing exactly how challenging the roads can be.

“For me this is a must-do event and there’s a lot of hopes for this first rally,” he said. “I think it’s the rally that you need to respect more than any other as the conditions can be so challenging, which means that nothing is guaranteed. Numbers are never my main motivation, but if I could get a 10th win on this event it would be something very special.”

The rally starts in Monaco’s Casino Square on Thursday afternoon. Competitors face 17 speed tests covering 324.44km before Sunday afternoon’s finish, back in downtown Monaco.

Starts: Thursday, July 18, 2024 at 4:31:00 AM
Starts: Friday, July 26, 2024 at 8:30:00 AM
Starts: Saturday, July 27, 2024 at 9:30:00 AM