A co-driver’s guide to the 2024 Monte route

With lots of new roads on the itinerary, we asked a legendary co-driver to guide us through this year's stages


With the base for this year’s Monte Carlo Rally moving to Gap (France), the route for the World Rally Championship’s season opener is almost entirely new.

But in the case of this year’s stages, “new” can mean anything between ‘slightly altered compared to last year’ and ‘roads not used on the Monte in a generation.’

There are no completely new stages at all; they’ve all been used at some point in the event’s long history, taking different names and covering various distances over time.

With more than 40 years of experience on the Monte, popular co-driver Denis Giraudet has seen it all on this rally, from the glorious days of the concentration runs and 500-odd mile routes of the mid-1980s to the modern iteration of the event, with its centralized service parks and sub-200 mile itineraries.

All that experience makes the affable Frenchman, who will compete on the 2024 event as co-driver to Raphaël Astier in an Alpine A110 Rally RGT, the perfect guide to this year’s Monte Carlo Rally route. So, how has he been preparing for the navigational challenge posed by the event?

“I use Michelin maps,” Giraudet told DirtFish. “I remember when I did my first Monte [in 1981], I was putting the maps together and it [took up] a full row of a shelf in my home. Back then, the rally covered the entire south-east quarter of France, not like today where it’s in a smaller area. Today it only takes two maps!”

With his two maps at the ready, Giraudet talked DirtFish through which roads he is most looking forward to experiencing from the passenger’s seat on this year’s rally, and what we should expect from the stages that are returning to the event after a long absence.

“Of course, it’s very nice to drive a stage like Sisteron,” Giraudet begins, “even if it is a shortened version of it.”

That would be SS1, Thoard / Saint-Geniez, a 13-mile test run in the dark and in front of packs of passionate French fans. Historically, this stage ran from the village of Sisteron, over the Col de Fontbelle – which is usually covered in snow and ice this time of year – and before ending after around 23 miles in the village of Thoard.

This year’s version is run in the opposite direction, and over a lesser distance, stopping before reaching Sisteron itself (hence dropping the famous stage name). Nonetheless, Giraudet still expects the stage to provide a significant challenge.


The Sisteron stage played a key role in the outcome of the 2022 event

He said: “It’s really a top stage, and it was always really tough for the tire choice. And it’s even tougher now as you have to do multiple stages together before you can change tires. But you also actually have less of a chance of making a mistake as the tire choice is much more restricted (all crews have the same choice between four Pirelli tires for the rally) than years ago. But yeah, it’s definitely still a challenge.”

Friday’s itinerary takes the crews east of Gap, onto roads that were used during the Monte’s previous stint based in the French town from 2014 to 2021. Saturday, however, features tests that will be totally unfamiliar to all of the WRC competitors. Well, excluding Giraudet that is, who knows exactly what to expect from the new stages.

“One stage I’m really looking forward to is stage 10, the second one of Saturday,” says Giraudet. Used as SS10 and 13 this year, the Les Nonières / Chichilianne stage hasn’t been present on a Monte itinerary since 1997, but the Frenchman’s experience of the road comes from a much more recent outing in the French Alps.

“It has been part of the Monte Carlo Historic Rally in recent years, so I did it a few years ago, although it was in the opposite direction,” Giraudet confirms. But what makes this particular piece of Tarmac so good?

Rally Montecarlo Monte Carlo (MC) 19-22 01 1997

Piero Liatti won the 1997 Monte; the last time the Les Nonières / Chichilianne stage was used

“It’s really a beautiful road,” says the legendary co-driver, emphasizing the ‘beautiful’. “If we are lucky enough to have snow, it’s really going to be a driver’s dream. When I did it on the Monte Historic, for the first 10 kilometers it was just like Sweden, with snow banks and everything. It was really fantastic, [it’s] such a really nice road. But we need the snow!”

Snow or no snow, Saturday’s fresh itinerary is sure to add intrigue and the potential for jeopardy to this year’s event, as drivers make their first-ever passes of the day’s tricky alpine roads. Another change in the itinerary compared with last year is the return of a full mid-day service on both Friday and Saturday, replacing last year’s tire fitting zones, where major maintenance is not permitted. It’s one change Giraudet certainly approves of.

He commented: “This year’s route is much more competitor friendly, because at least you have a proper service each day at lunch time, and for an event like Monte that’s very important.”

The rally will conclude with a run of the famous Col de Turini stage, although in a slightly truncated format this year, with the cars set to finish the test before they reach the summit of the famous mountain pass – where hoards of fans are usually gathered to cheer on the WRC’s finest.

But it’s Sunday’s penultimate stage which has Giraudet the most excited; another classic stage making a welcome return. With only a single appearance on the Monte (2015) since the turn of the century, the Digne-les-Bains / Chaudon-Norante is again better known by its historic name.

Rallye Monte-Carlo, Gap 19-25 01 2015

Sébastien Ogier won the Col de Corobin stage in 2015

“It’s the Col de Corobin,” says Giraudet, “and it’s also a beautiful one.” The 12-mile blast may be one of the rally’s shortest, but it certainly packs a punch. Staring in Digne-les-Bains, drivers will gradually ascend over 500 m, before hustling through a series of switch-backs to get up to the road’s summit, and then descending rapidly back down the mountain to finish up in the village of Chaudon-Norante.

“It’s a really typical Monte stage, it’s got everything” Giraudet eloquently summarizes.

Let’s hope the same can be said of the rally itself come Sunday afternoon.