There are four main contenders aiming for victory in the 92nd Rally Monte-Carlo, two of them in Toyota Yaris and the other two in Hyundai i20s. Sébastien Ogier, eight-time world champion and nine-time winner in the Principality, the last of which at the start of 2023, will be challenging for the win against another world champion, Ott Tänak, who was crowned champion in 2019 and returns to Hyundai after a short-lived spell with M-Sport Ford last season.
The French maestro couldn’t miss the return of Rally Monte-Carlo to his native land, with a service park set up all week in Gap, the prefecture of Hautes-Alpes. He will be the number 1 favourite on roads that he knows like the pockets of his racing gear. And he will have alongside him, to carry the torch of the Japanese manufacturer, the vice-world champion Elfyn Evans, but not the two-time reigning world champion, Kalle Rovanperä.
Rovanperä steps back
At just 23 years of age, the young Finn has decided to take a step back for a few months, to rest a little after 15 intensive seasons behind the wheel of a rally car. Like Ogier in recent years, he will be content with a partial programme, which gives hope of a world title to the other major players in the WRC. Starting with Tänak, who has already had the honour and privilege of claiming a world crown, in 2019, just before the Covid-19 epidemic.
For Elfyn Evans, who has been a regular 2nd in the world championship since 2020 (three years out of four), and above all for Thierry Neuville, who has already finished on the final WRC podium eight times (5 times 2nd, three times 3rd), this could be the year or never, while waiting for the return of the Finnish prodigy, next season. And a win in Monte-Carlo on Sunday would be the ideal way to launch this long-awaited season for the Belgian driver, who lives in Monaco: 155 WRC starts since 2009, for 19 wins and 63 podium finishes.
Shakedown in Gap
An initial assessment of the situation, and above all of the forces at work, took place Wednesday afternoon on the heights of Gap, for the traditional 3.28km shakedown. The day’s programme included an autograph session and a series of public interviews in the service park’s Fanzone.
The shakedown was also intended to give the two young M-Sport Ford drivers, France’s Adrien Fourmaux and Luxembourg’s Grégoire Munster, a chance to fine-tune their Puma Hybrids in preparation for the first two special stages, scheduled for Thursday evening in the Alpes de Haute-Provence and the Hautes-Alpes. After the start ceremony in front of the Casino de Monte-Carlo, a moment eagerly awaited by the Principality’s numerous motorsport fans. Can’t wait for Thursday…