Rally fans rejoice. Because with the New Year comes a brand new World Rally Championship, starting with arguably the most famous and iconic rally of all. The Rallye Monte Carlo.
After a period off the World Rally Championship calendar between 2009 and 2012, the Queen of Rallies, as the event is affectionately known, is now firmly established as the championships opening event, with this year’s event running over four days from Thursday 21st January.
This years rally will take place over 16 stages, with a new stage having been added to each day. As always it begins on the Thursday evening outside the famous Casino Monte Carlo. From there, two night stages near Digne-les-Bains take the competitors out of the Principality towards Gap.
The Friday consists of three mountain stages in the Hautes Alpes and Isère regions with the 20km night run between Barles and Seyne being run in this direction for the first time ever.
Meanwhile, Saturday sees the cars return towards Monaco and includes the classic Sisteron to Thoard stage, as well as the Saint Leger les Mélèzes to La Batie Neuve stage, which this year crosses the Ancelle ski slopes.
The final leg takes place on Sunday in the Alpes Maritimes mountains around Monte Carlo, and as always features the classic Col de Turini mountain pass. This year, in a new innovation, only the top 60 classified competitors will start this final leg.
Main challenge: Changeable conditions
The Rallye Monte Carlo is one of the most varied and technically challenging WRC rounds. Officially run on asphalt, in reality the bulk of the stages take place in the mountains meaning that road surfaces vary enormously. Drivers can expect to be traversing gravel, snow, and ice, as the Alpine winter makes for some hugely challenging conditions.
That such extreme variation in conditions can occur within a single stage, means drivers and co-drivers have to be able to think on their feet and react quickly to changing circumstances. Only the most intelligent and professional can emerge in one piece, never mind setting a fast time.
These unique challenges are not just felt inside the car. Back in the service area, the crews have to try and anticipate conditions on a stage-by-stage basis and adjust the set up the car to maximise its performance each time. Selecting the correct tires is just one of the many difficult decisions they have to make.
Every decision inside and outside the car is crucial to the race outcome and it is telling that it is more often than not the more experienced and analytical teams who cross the finish line outside the Palace de Monaco first.
All this makes for a spectacular sporting occasion, and this years rally promises to be no different. Monte Carlo is an event where ŠKODA cars have enjoyed considerable success over the years, dating back as far as our maiden victory in 1936. With the successful introduction of the Fabia R5 to the WR2 Championship last year, we are quite confident of adding another page to the ŠKODA motorsport history books this year.