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  • Writer's pictureDrew Bentham

WRC Rally Monte Carlo Preview 2024

Updated: Jan 4


Official 2024 Monte Poster

A new year, a new season. With the rumours of silly season behind us, the 2024 World Rally Championship kicks off on Monday 22nd January, when the crews begin their 21/2 days of recce and shakedown for this years WRC Monte Carlo Rally. In the search for more traditional wintry conditions, the Rally was moved back to its former home around the Route de la Garde region near Gap in the city that hosted the event from 2014 to 2021.


17 stages await the crews after the opening ceremony in Casino Square on Thursday afternoon with the first 2 stages being run in full darkness. A challenge that's sure to test bravery and commitment from the very first 5, 4, 3, 2, 1.....Go!


Fridays stages and 106km will take place to the east of Gap while Saturday's 135km will be to the right. Both days taking up some classic Monte stages but it is expected Saturdays Leg will be the toughest. Both days are made up of 2 loops of 3 stages in regular WRC style. Sunday, along with the new points system (Learn more here), will offer up action over 3 stages including the final SS17 Wolff Power stage Col de Turini.


2024 Monte Carlo Rally Route

One thing we can guarantee is that the hot topics of conversation across the 2024 WRC Monte, will be how the new tires from Hankook will fair on the stages and of course the weather. It's a bit early to get an accurate forecast but looking ahead the weather looks like its largely going to be clear throughout the event with some sunny spells and clear nights. With snow currently forecast to fall the week before, it is likely to preserve the conditions until the following week with a good dose of ice thrown in for good measure. Great for the spectators, not so great for any unwary drivers.



2024 WRC Driver Line Up

Speaking of drivers, most have stayed put and will be able to carry forwards their experience of the car but for some, an icy snowy Monte will be an incredible challenge to kick off the year with. Whilst the WRC newcomer (Gregoire Munster) and returning stars have enjoyed a happy 2023, taming the nearly 500bhp in this environment may very well throw up some near misses and possible offs to watch out for. Not exactly the kind of event to impress your new bosses with. Well, unless you smash it out of the park of course. Either way the new tires should at least provide a chance to see who can master the new rubber first off the line, to take the early lead.


Both Toyota and Hyundai will be bringing an updated 2024 car with some power improvements and handling tweaks, Toyota hopeful that they have closed the gap from last year to Hyundai. As for the Ford team, no reports have so far been made about the car. Let's hope the reliability issues of 2023 have at least been rectified so Fourmaux and Munster can take the fight to Taka, Sordo and Mikkelsen. That surely has to be the very basic objectives for the team this year. Further down the entry list, will we see anyone taking advantage of the new rule adaption allowing Rally1 cars to compete without the EV component? Well time will tell I guess as too will how they will stack up against the likes of Solberg in a well prepared WRC2 car on full chat. Predictions for a winner you ask? Hmm...not sure I'm brave enough for that but if Home lad Seb Ogier is running, he's sure to be a fair bet, though I can help feeling Evans will hit the ground flat. This year is the best chance either he or Neuville will have to secure their first title, unless Tanak can string another cohesive season together, in which case he'll probably be unstoppable.


WRC2


Once again the championship looks set to be another exiting one. Last year Jari-Matti Latvala stated in an interview on the WRC website, that the team intended to produce at least 40 examples of the new GR Yaris 2 throughout the year with 4 or 5 ready for this years Monte. The works Citroen team headed up by Yohan Rossel and Nikolay Gryazin. In an interview he said,


“I feel so proud of the confidence that the Stellantis Group has shown in me. Next season, it will be 10 years that I have been driving their cars! This respect goes both ways: loyalty and consistency are extremely important for me, so to carry on with Citroën – the make I have been driving since 2019 – is entirely logical.
“The 2024 season will be another very intense one, but we will have the benefit of Nikolay in our team. He is driving on a lot of events and will be able to help develop the car on every surface, which was one of my wishes: we need someone like him who puts in the kilometres."

Gryazin, meanwhile, faces a new challenge, transitioning to the C3 after spending recent seasons behind the wheel of a Škoda Fabia.


Perhaps the most headlines have been claimed by Oliver Solberg recently amid rumours of an MSport drive. Instead the 22 year old will spearhead Skodas WRC2 campaign with a firm eye on the title.


Solberg aims high for the title in 2024
Solberg aims high for the title in 2024 (Red Bull Content Pool)

With Toyota, Hyundai, MSport, Skoda and Citroen all entering works supported teams, the championship looks an exciting watch and well worth a follow throughout the year.



2023 Monte Review



As the curtain fell on the inaugural round of 2023, Evans blasted through the opening night stages to set some confident times, but it was the 8 time winner Seb Ogier who set the early pace. Further down the field Ott Tanak in the Puma suffered electrical issues on the road section causing early frustrations. On stage 2, it was Neuville who would falter first, understeering wide in the icy conditions but luckily only losing a handful of seconds. Going into the overnight halt, Seb the Monte master took a small lead of 6s into day 2 with Evans in 2nd and Tanak in 3rd. Neuville came home in 4th.



Day 2 served up 105km over 2 loops of 3 stages with similar conditions expected. But at least they would now be able to see most of it. The hills around Monaco were mainly dry with only slight spots of snow lingering on the edges. With the electrics fixed, Tanak headed off with 6 tires into the morning while Ogier opted for just 5. Ogier continued to dominate the stage times despite losing the hybrid in the morning to retain the lead. Things did not go so well for his team mates. On cold tires and the first heavy braking section, Rovanpera lost the rear of his Yaris, kissing the barrier before carrying on. The damage looked superficial when he made it to the end of the stage. Further drama for Toyota. On the final stage of the loop, Evans picked up a puncture and lost 48s nursing the car to the end. The new season did not get off to a great start for MSport driver Pierre Louis-Loubet a momentary lapse in concentration let to a small off. They kept going but the crew had lost the power steering and had to battle the car to the end of the stage.


Into the afternoon loop and Neuville struggled to keep up with the pace. Even though the hybrid had been fixed during service Ogier's run of stage wins came to an end, instead deciding to dial back the pace with time in hand. The afternoon loop eventually belonged to the the champion Rovenpera, keeping his rivals behind. Ogier stayed on top at the end of the day with a 36s lead in hand over Rovenpera (2nd) and Neuville (3rd). Tanak, Evans and Sordo came in behind.



112 km were in store on Saturday in the mountains, the longest being Ubreye at a little under 22km, the second of which would be run in the dark. The power steering had been fixed overnight but now Loubet had to fight back from 29th and went for it. A little too hard. A bridge at the end of the first stage claimed the Frenchman once again along with the rear tire and a good portion of bodywork to boot. Elfyn had started his drive back strong and set his eyes on Otts 4th place. Ott drove hard but was unable mount an effective defence as he also lost the Pumas power steering on stage 10. Whilst the rest of the top 8 fought over 10ths, the champion dialled up the pace and took 5s out of Neuville to stretch out his lead by the lunchtime halt.


No mid day service meant Ott had to take to the afternoon without the benefit of power steering. Lappi had a tire off the rim in the first stage of the loop without an obvious reason. Evans struggled to find the right balance and Rovanpera had loose debris to deal with making the afternoon a tricky affair for most. As darkness fell on the stages, the times bettered those set earlier in the day for most of the top crews. Ogier continued to preserve his lead with a measured drive.



Just 16 seconds was the lead going into the final days stages leaving work still to do for the leader. This had been the driest Monte in a decade. Ogier continued his measured drive in an attempt to protect against punctures. Neuville developed hybrid issues effectively putting his attack to bed. Rovenpera pushed hard and fast proving his champion status, however Evans' push seemingly had faded out. Which left the power stage. Ott had unleashed everything the Puma had to offer to set the early benchmark. But it wasn't enough. Kalle had more to give to take the stage by just 0.6s. Seb Ogier took the the rally win by 18.8s and with it the record for most Monte wins, an amazing 9, away from the 'other' Seb.

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