The iconic Rallye Monte Carlo is once again the FIA World Rally Championship’s (WRC) curtain-raiser this year. It is the world’s oldest and most well-known rally, as well as one of the most technically challenging events of the WRC calendar.
The 2017 edition takes places from 19th to 22nd January and sees major changes to the route, with more than 85 per cent being new compared to last year. Drivers are thrown in at the deep end, with two opening special stages taking place in darkness on Thursday evening in the Haute-Provence region of the French Alps near Gap.
Friday sees the longest leg of the rally, with 160.8km being covered, while Saturday sees the cars returning to the Gap region for two loops of two stages and the seconds run of the Bayons – Breziers test.
The last service of the rally will be on Saturday afternoon in Gap, before drivers head back towards Monaco for stages in the nearby Alpes Maritimes mountains, including two passes over the famous Col de Turini.
This will be the first event to be shown on Red Bull TV as part of the new WRC broadcasting deal and that will also see a live televised Power Stage on the Sunday afternoon.
The biggest challenge teams will be contending with is weather conditions. The Rallye Monte Carlo is officially a tarmac event, but mountain stages often see drivers contending with snow and ice as well. This makes tyre selection key factor and it is not uncommon to see the crews mixing studded tyres and dry weather rubber on opposite corners of the car as they try to hedge their bets.
Teams will need to ensure the cars have the maximum available grip, while both drivers and co-drivers need to be able to read the conditions and adapt accordingly, which is easier said than done.
One thing is for sure, the Rallye Monte Carlo looks set to be a spectacular opening to the 2017 WRC season and ŠKODA Motorsport will be hoping to carry on the 2016 form of the FABIA R5 in the new season.