The 85th Rallye Automobile Monte-Carlo, Round 1 of the 2017 FIA World Rally Championship, promises to be an outstanding event as world class carmakers Citroën and Toyota return to the series to compete alongside Ford and Hyundai in WRC. To celebrate the occasion, the organising committee of the Automobile Club de Monaco has concocted a particularly inspiring route, more than 85 percent of which will be new compared with the 2016 event.
The 85th running of the sport’s longest-standing fixture will start officially at 6:15pm on Thursday, January 19, in Monte Carlo’s celebrated Casino Square. That will be followed by two challenging night-time stages, namely Entrevaux-Val de Chalvagne-Ubraye (SS1, 21.25km) and Bayons-Bréziers (SS2, 25.49km) in France’s Alpes-de-Haute-Provence region.
The competition on Day 2 – the longest of the rally – on Friday, January 20, will take crews north of Gap for 160km of against-the-clock driving with two attempts at a lengthy, yet compact suite of three stages in France’s Hautes-Alpes and Isère administrative regions. The three stages are Agnières en Dévoluy-Le Motty (SS3/6, 24.63km), Aspres lès Corps-Chaillol (SS4/7, 38.94km) and Saint Léger les Mélèzes-Ancelle-La Bâtie Neuve (SS5/8, 16.83km).
Survivors face an equally gruelling third day on Saturday, January 21, which will feature a new-look loop comprising Lardier et Valença-Oze (SS9/11, 31.17km) and La Bâtie Monsaleon-Faye (SS10/12, 16.78km), both to be contested twice each. After the week’s second visit to Bayons-Bréziers for SS13 (25.49km), crews will service in Gap for the final time before driving to the Principality of Monaco where the first cars are due to arrive early evening.
The opening round of the season will conclude with Day 4 on Sunday, January 22, when four more stages totalling 53,72 km are scheduled – with no opportunity to service – in the Alps that tower over the French Riviera. Competitors have to run twice Luceram-Col Saint Roch (SS14/16, 5.50km) and La Bollène Vésubie-Peira Cava (SS15/17, 21.36km) – the version of the famous Col de Turini used in 2016. This one will be the Power Stage.
The traditional prize-giving ceremony will start at 3pm in front of Monaco’s Palais Princier.
Three days later the 20th edition of the Rally Monte-Carlo Historique will pay tribute to the participation in the 1967 Rallye Automobile Monte-Carlo of French rock icon Johnny Hallyday and Henri Chemin in a Ford Mustang. Half-a-century on, the event promises to attract another strong entry.
As usual, the 2017 Rallye Monte-Carlo Historique will be open to cars that took part in the actual event from 1955 until 1980. To give all competitors a chance to target an honourable result, there will once again be a choice of three average speed levels to comply with during the competition.
The rally will start on Wednesday, January 25, with starts in Stockholm, Glasgow, Lisbon, Copenhagen, Bad Homburg, Barecelona and Reims. The routes of the different Concentration Runs will convene in Digne les Bains from 10:00am on Saturday, January 28, before moving on to Saint André les Alpes – near the spectacular Verdon Lake and Gorges. Competitive hostilities will then kick off with the first Regularity Section between Entrevaux, Val de Chalvagne and Entrevaux. After this appetiser which takes in the Col de Félines (altitude: 930 metres), the field will head to the end-of-day halt in the Principality of Monaco.
The rally will resume at 06:00am on Sunday, January 29, with the beginning of the Classification Run. The first test will be a classic of the modern-day event, namely a visit to the Col de Corobin (1,211m) as part of Chaudon Norante-Digne les Bains (18.63km) which will be used for the very first time as a Regularity Section. It will be followed by another legendary test – Thoard-Sisteron (35.74km) – which is famed for the eternally complex conditions found at the Col de Fontbelle (1,304m). After a halt in front of the Town Hall in Sisteron competitors will head for the nearby Baronnies Provençales Natural Park for Orpierre-Laborel-Saint André de Rosans which is another classic that is familiar to regulars. The day’s fourth and last Regularity Section will be Vassieux en Vercors-Saint Jean en Royans via the Col de L’Echarasson which could well spring a few surprises before the overnight stop at Valence.
From there, the first part of the Common Run will strike out to France’s Ardèche region on Monday, January 30. The day will begin with La Croze-Saint Julien du Gua-Antraigues sur Volane (50.64km, 8:00am), followed immediately by the mandatory ‘gourmet’ halt at the Jouanny family-owned La Remise restaurant! The competition will continue with Burzet-Le Chambon.
The lunchtime break in Saint Agrève where the sampling of local produce is always a popular moment for all. Unlike in 2016, when the afternoon saw the rally head for France’s Haute-Loire department, competitors will stay in the Ardèche this time, with a run through Saint Pierre sur Doux-Col du Buisson (22.36km, before the day ends with Lamastre-Gilhoc sur Ormèze-Plats (36.00km) which has featured since 2015. The drive back to Valence will take in the traditional and ever-popular stop in Tournon sur Rhône (Quai Farconnet).
The second part of the Common Run on Tuesday, January 31, which begins at 05:00, will mark the return of Col de L’Echarasson (1,146m)-La Cime du Mas (17.96km) chased by a classic in the Drôme Provençale region (Saint Nazaire le Désert-La Motte Chalancon, 21.60km) and the awesome Verclause-Laborel-Eygalayes test (37.70km). The last Time Control before parc ferme in Monaco will be set up in La Turbie (Place Neuve) with the first crew due to check in at 2:50pm.
The Final Night Run (January 31-February 1) will start in Monaco at 9:00pm and features two notorious tests: Luceram-Lantosque (26.89km, 10:00pm) in the Vésubie Valley, and La Bollène Vésubie-Moulinet-Sospel (52.78km) which includes the celebrated Col de Turini (1,604m). After the event’s last against-the-clock sections, survivors will head back to Monaco (Port Hercule) for the finish where they are due to arrive at 1:20am.
The 20th Rallye Monte-Carlo Historique will conclude on Wednesday, February 1, with prize-giving and the Gala Evening in the Monte-Carlo Sporting Club’s Salle des Etoiles