How the WRC pulled off Monte 2021 against the odds

Europe was locking down as the Monte Carlo Rally approached but it managed to run with no crews lost


A month out it wasn’t looking good. A fortnight away and it couldn’t happen, could it? A week away and still, nobody was completely sure the Monte Carlo Rally would really happen.

Nobody, that is, apart from the organizer Automobile Club de Monaco. The blazered fellows working within the ACM HQ on Albert 1st Boulevard forged ahead, entirely respectful of an evolving French government take on the coronavirus pandemic, but equally determined to find solutions to run their rally.

And they did.

FIA rally director Yves Matton was at the heart of negotiations to keep the World Rally Championship season opener on track, but he shuns the limelight and directs instead towards rally director Christian Tornatore, clerk of the course Alain Pallanca and the organizing team.

“I would say it’s work from early on [which made this happen],” Matton told DirtFish. “And for sure it was the ACM, because they’re on site. But I can tell you, it’s also everybody who was involved to have it happen. Things were changing so fast, each week you had some new challenges. They (ACM) showed an incredibly great flexibility and motivation to be able to make it happen.

“We worked closely with the French ministers, everybody was involved. But the target was to achieve where we are now, to be able to start the championship with all the different stakeholders there to start the championship in the conditions where everybody’s able to attend. For sure, it was a bit of a different event from a normal year, with a shorter rally. But the night stages were in the morning and not in the evening and even a shorter Monte is still a difficult one.”

One added complication was the British teams attending. In light of a new variant of COVID-19 more prevalent in the UK, the French government didn’t want people travelling from the Channel’s northern shores. Again, the stakeholders made it happen.

But what if M-Sport hadn’t been able to make it. What would FIA policy have been?

“I answer with what I have answered to Malcolm [Wilson, M-Sport managing director]: ‘Our first priority was to have M-Sport in Monte, if we were not able to achieve that, we will see what we will do.’

“But my only motivation was to work all together to have them in Monte.”