New Toyota team principal Jari-Matti Latvala thinks the Briançonnet – Entrevaux stage that will conclude the Monte Carlo Rally is “probably the most demanding powerstage” he has seen.
The 8.89-mile stage will run twice on Sunday, and is an unknown test for the World Rally Championship crews who will tackle it.
It starts in the shadow of Monaco’s mountains, and after going over a crest runs into a long descent that will be full of snow and ice.
The wintry conditions eventually stop, but the road continues to descend on asphalt that will be covered in gravel-like salt to prevent further freezing.
“The first one of the Sunday stages is quite easy, and a very clear stage going uphill and then down but all the time the road is easy to read and it is only damp in the beginning if there’s no ice,” Latvala told DirtFish.
It’s nasty because you go downhill for a long time. You have small pieces of dry sections, then it gets icy again, and all the time it's downhillJari-Matti Latvala's take on the powerstage
“But then, it’s interesting to say that the powerstage is probably the most demanding powerstage I’ve ever seen.
“There’s a lot of elevation. It starts at 1300m and then it comes down. So you have dry Tarmac at 700m on the start and after that you have four kilometers of very steep downhill with a very thick amount of ice.
“It’s nasty because you go downhill for a long time. After that, you have a junction where you turn left, and if you have small pieces of dry sections, and then it gets icy again, and all the time it’s downhill.
“So I can tell you that we can see quite a lot… especially on the first run, we can [expect to] see quite big time differences coming and even on the powerstage I believe.”
Icy roads are one of the Monte Carlo Rally’s famous features, though, and the Col de Turini stage – which was not included on this year’s itinerary – is famous for its multiple climates and patches of ‘black ice’ appearing when drivers least expect it.
Latvala said he does not think it is the most challenging stage though, especially with the new powerstage on the cards.
“[Col de Turini] is a wide road and it’s quite easy, it’s quite clear how it is with the ice,” he said.
“But the problem [with the Briançonnet – Entrevaux stage] is that this is quite narrow in places and it’s steeper than Turini.
“Especially with everyone driving so many years, it’s been the same stage for I don’t know, so many years in the last 10 years, that everybody knows where the ice is and how it behaves, but now you go to a completely new road which nobody has driven and that’s also with ice.
“There’s also quite big snow banks on the side which are extremely hard, so if you go a bit wide, you can also damage the car quite easily then with the snow, because it’s hard on the side.”
Toyota drivers are currently locking out the podium positions ahead of the final day of the rally, with seven-time Monte winner Sébastien Ogier leading Elfyn Evans by 13 seconds, and Kalle Rovanperä a further 43.8s back in third.
“I couldn’t be more satisfied honestly, the team has been doing a really good job,” said Latvala.
“On the final stage of the day they [the drivers] did a really good performance and we are in a very nice position going into the final day.
“But one [thing] we need to remember you have to finish before you are in the finish so tomorrow is going to be really important.”