The 2023 World Rally Championship season is nearly upon us, with the much anticipated opening round: the Monte Carlo Rally.
The silly season is over, the drivers that have moved to ventures new have had a bit of time to settle into their new surroundings, and we are about to find out who is going to be the fastest out of the blocks when the competition gets underway on Thursday evening.
But who is competing in which category?
Here’s all the key information you need for this year’s Monte Carlo Rally:
Total 75 crews
10 Priority 1 crews
41 Priority 2 crews (27 WRC2)
Monte Carlo is the first opportunity to see Rally1 drivers competing for new teams, with Ott Tänak leading the charge for M-Sport, while Esapekka Lappi will have his first outing in the Hyundai i20 N Rally1.
Toyota has a four car entry, with reigning champion Kalle Rovanperä heading up the team, while Sébastien Ogier will drive for the works team on what will be another partial season for the eight-time WRC champion.
Elfyn Evans and Takamoto Katsuta will drive the other two GR Yaris Rally1s.
Hyundai has a three car entry, with regular driver Thierry Neuville, Lappi and Dani Sordo, who will be kicking the season off in the third car, meaning new recruit Craig Breen will need to wait a while longer before making his second debut with the team.
M-Sport has a smaller entry to kick off 2023 than it did in 2022. Gone are Gus Greensmith, Adrien Fourmaux and Breen, but in comes Tänak and Pierre-Louis Loubet. Privateer Jourdan Serderidis will also take part in a third car for the Dovenby Hall-based team.
It’s arguably one of the most exciting WRC2 entry lists for some time, and two drivers competing in the class this year were Rally1 drivers in 2022.
Adrien Fourmaux and Oliver Solberg are those two individuals, and they will both be competing for outright victory as they look to revive their careers having been dropped from Rally1 machinery midway through 2022. Solberg however hasn’t nominated WRC2 as one of his WRC2 points-scoring rounds.
The reigning WRC2 champion, Emil Lindholm, is absent from Monte Carlo, but there will still be plenty of competition for Fourmaux and Solberg in the form of French drivers Yohan Rossel and Stéphane Lefebvre, both of whom are competing in a Citroën C3 Rally2.
Chris Ingram kicks off his WRC2 season on Monte in the Skoda Fabia Rally2 evo, while Sami Pajari gets his hands on the new Fabia RS Rally2, driving for Toksport.
This year’s Monte Carlo route differs somewhat to last year’s event, and in addition to several new stages, there will be one extra stage, taking the event to a total of 18 spread over 201 competitive miles.
The action begins on Thursday night as drivers tackle La Bollène-Vésubie/Col de Turini superspecial, before taking on the testing La Cabanette/Col de Castillon stage, which is the longest test of the rally.
Friday will wind through the Alps, heading west, before heading north to start Saturday’s stages.
Four stages make up Sunday’s concluding leg, which takes the crews into the mountains once again, with the La Bollène-Vésubie/Col de Turini powerstage rounding out the event.