The 2016 World Rally Championship season begins in earnest next week with the historic Monte-Carlo Rally - arguably the most famous, and certainly the oldest, event on the WRC circuit.
The first rally of the year will be inaugurated next Thursday (21st January) in the auspicious Casino Square in the heart of Monaco, to the backdrop of the grandiose Casino de Monte-Carlo.
More than 90 vehicles will compete in the legendary race, which was first organised in Monaco as far back as in 1911 with drivers lining up in cars that bear little resemblance to the sophisticated vehicles of today.
The rally takes place over four days, with each dawn bringing new challenges to the drivers, who must complete a number of stages across the South of France before returning to Monaco on Sunday, January 24th.
It attracts some of the biggest names in rally driving, with defending champion Sebastian Ogier heading the seeded entry list with his Volkswagen Motorsport teammate Jari-Matti Latvala close behind. Also taking part is the M-Sport World Rally Team with its Fiesta RS cars, driven by Mads Østberg and Eric Camilli; Kris Meeke and Stéphane Lefebvre will represent the new Citroën Abu Dhabi Total World Rally Team.
The first two stages take place under the cover of darkness, with the competitors leaving Monte-Carlo for Rouaine via Entrevaux, and then Barles to Seyne. Both nighttime stages are approximately 20km long and will require the drivers’ upmost care and attention, with fine skill needed to pass over the winding Col du Fanget in the Alpes-de-Haute-Provence.
The following day, rally drivers will have to tackle three special stages, including a 14km segment from Corps to La Salle en Beaumont, and a 25km circuit from Aspres les Corps to Chauffayer, which stretches across the whole valley of Valgaudemar in the stunning Parc National des Ecrins. Here, roads are expected to be particularly icy and challenging and will require a whole new skillset from the fast driving in Monaco.
The third day of the 84th Monte-Carlo Automobile Rally will be the longest day of the event, with five special stages covering a total of 175km of road. At one point, drivers will have to tackle a road that crosses the slopes of Ancelle ski resort, northeast of Gap - a first for this particular rally. The last stage of Saturday will see drivers returning to Monaco from Sisteron.
Only the first 60 finishers at the end of this section will be invited to take part in the final three stages of the rally; the first of which will see drivers lining up at the start on Col de l’Orme. Competitors will screech to a halt in Saint Laurent to complete the 2016 edition of the Monte Carlo Rally.
Prince Albert II of Monaco, the patron of the hugely anticipated rally, will award prizes at a ceremony in the Place du Palais, outside his palatial home on Monaco’s “Rock” on Sunday afternoon.
The rally, organised by the Automobile Club de Monaco, is one of the most challenging on the WRC circuit, with unpredictable mountain weather making the conditions particularly onerous.
For visitors wishing to travel between stages in excitement and style – although in a manner altogether safer than that of the rally drivers – renting a luxury supercar offers thrills to rival those offered by racing, yet with a far superior ride comfort. A supercar will look as good on the streets of Monte Carlo as it feels when driving on the mountainous roads in the Alps.
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