Red Bull Motorsports
We've analysed what to expect in the iconic Monte-Carlo race, taking into account that the all-new world rally cars will battle against each other in the French Alps for the first time. So, do you want an appetiser of what to expect in the Monte? Continue reading and find out what Thierry Neuville, Jari-Matti Latvala and others have to say.
New cars and a new look WRC
1. The fastest rally cars ever
With the cars that now put out 380bhp thanks to bigger turbo restrictors, these are the fastest rally machines ever made. Of course, it takes a special type of driver to tame these beasts, which is why the FIA has made a rule that they can only be entered by manufacturer teams. This is no time for amateur hour.
2. A return to Group B style aerodynamics
Not only do the cars go quicker than ever before, but also they look more outlandish than they've ever done – everywhere there are fins, diffusers and spoilers. If you thought downforce was just for racing circuits, think again.
3. A brand new route
In a gratifying piece of symmetry, the 85th edition of Rallye Monte-Carlo contains a route that is more than 85% new. The main changes are on Friday, the longest day of the event, with a new loop of stages in the Hautes-Alpes. Get used to names like Agnières en Dévoluy-Le Motty, Aspres lès Corps-Chaillol, and Saint Léger les Mélèzes-Ancelle-La Bâtie Neuve. Catchy, aren't they?
4. More Finnish flags on the stages
For the first time, the spiritual home nation of rallying has a home team. Well, not quite. Toyota – returning to the World Rally Championship for the first time in 17 years – is officially Japanese, but it may as well be Finnish because the team principal is none other than four-time World Rally champion Tommi Makinen, and all the drivers are Finnish too.
5. New cars
Not only are the regulations different, but so are the cars that they're being applied to. Look out for a brand new Citroen DS3 (based on the recently-launched road car) and a completely restyled Ford Fiesta. There's even a sporty three-door Hyundai i20.
6. Stressed out tyre engineers
Ironically, all the engineers have been doing their very best to extract the last drops of performance from the cars, but in Monte-Carlo that's an entirely useless exercise. Instead, the result is mostly down to being on the right tyres at the right time. That's no easy task when just one stage can contain snow, ice, black ice, water and dry asphalt.
7. The WRC Cup
The what? It's a brand new idea – The WRC Cup neatly solves a problem caused by the introduction of the all-new 2017 cars; namely what to do with all the old ones still running around. It's simple, just give them their own championship.
8. Snow on the road
Snow on the road is entirely normal for a winter rally, but there are a few dastardly spectators who sprinkle it on the road deliberately, in the hope of provoking a spectacular moment that enhances their viewing pleasure. Or simply ensure that their favourite driver wins.
9. Red Bull TV live broadcasts with a few special guests
Red Bull TV will be broadcasting live from every rally, with a package of on-demand TV programmes and highlights available from the Red Bull TV app as well. There are going to be some celebrity co-presenters as well, starting off with a certain Mark Webber in Monaco.
10. The unexpected
If there's one thing that you can definitely expect to happen in Monte-Carlo, it's for things to work out in a way that you don't quite expect. It's the one event where you really have to react to changing circumstances and go with the flow. As Jari-Matti Latvala put it, "I had no particular plan for 2015 and ended up on the podium. So then I aimed for the podium in 2016 and crashed."
What do the experts say?
Why is the Monte Carlo Rally so tough?
Nicky Grist (former co-driver to Colin McRae)
"Could you ask me another one? Because Monte is always the hardest rally to predict of them all. But I'm going to go for Sebastien Ogier to win, as experience cannot be underestimated, Kris Meeke to finish second, and Elfyn Evans to finish third. Yes, I know I'm Welsh, but I really think Elfyn could spring a surprise here."
Eric Briquet (Rallies editor, AUTOHebdo)
"I think Kris Meeke will win, just because from what I can see in pre-season testing the new Citroen is really, really good. Then I'm going to go for Sebastien Ogier to finish second, just because he's an exceptional driver, and Thierry Neuville for third because the roads should suit him."
Julian Porter (WRC TV)
"Sebastien Ogier to win because he's an amazing talent. Kris Meeke second, because he's shown what he can do here before – it was only a stray rock that caught him out last year. And Thierry Neuville third, just because he's Mr Consistency."
Sergio Remondino (chief editor, Autosprint)
"I think Sebastien Ogier will win because the driver-car package should work. I'm going to choose Kris Meeke second as his speed is beyond doubt, as well as that of the Citroen. And Stephane Lefebvre third in the other Citroen, for exactly the same reason."
Pekka Kaidesoja (TV editor, Channel 4, Finland)
"Sebastien Ogier's experience of the tyres and which ones to choose I think will give him the win in Monte-Carlo. If I had to choose second I would say Thierry Neuville because finally he's due to have some good luck in Monte. And third I would say Kris Meeke. Actually I think Kris has the speed to win, but I could see him having a problem too, which is why I am saying third."
David Evans (Rallies editor, Autosport)
"Sebastien Ogier to win, as he's a man in his mountains. I reckon Ogier's experience and pace will shade his inexperience with the Fiesta this week. Second, Kris Meeke. Like last year, the Citroen star will give Ogier a run for his money, but ultimately he'll do the sensible thing and take the points on the C3's debut. Finally, Thierry Neuville. The Belgian has an exceptional ability to find grip in inconsistent conditions; finally a Monte will come together for him."