There are 10 Monte Carlo Rally victories between the 75 starters for this year’s classic – just nine of them in the top Rally1 class.
Perhaps then it should be easy to nail down a form guide ahead of the opening round of the 2023 World Rally Championship season.
But this is the Monte, nothing is ever guaranteed. And with drivers competing in new machines and evolutions made to those machines, how might the running order shake out?
This weekend will provide the answer, but here’s what we can work out based on statistics and feeling ahead of the action:
#69 Kalle Rovanperä/Jonne Halttunen (Toyota GR Yaris Rally1)
Last 3 WRC results: 12th-3rd-1st
Best Monte Carlo result: 4th (2021 & 2022)
The new world champion heads the entry list, but he’s far from a Monte Carlo Rally expert with no podiums to speak of in his three attempts at the famous rally in a top-line Toyota.
And remember last year, where he was behind the WRC2 leader after the opening evening?
But Kalle Rovanperä turned that around emphatically come the end of the rally with three stage wins (including the powerstage) and heads into this year’s event far more comfortable with the feeling of his Yaris on asphalt
Can he win? It likely depends on how quick his eight-time world champion team-mate is, but expect Rovanperä’s mission to be ensuring he’s ahead – or only just behind – his key title rivals.
#8 Ott Tänak/Martin Järveoja (Ford Puma Rally1)
Last 3 WRC results: 2nd-4th-3rd
Best Monte Carlo result: 2nd (2018)
Above all else, Ott Tänak will just want to see the end of the Monte this week. For each of the past three seasons, the 2019 world champion has retired from Monte Carlo – two crashes (including a terrifying one in 2020) and too many punctures in 2021.
But Tänak has shed his Hyundai overalls and traded them for a pair of M-Sport Ford fireproofs. Will that be the difference maker? Both driver and team would dearly love it to be so.
Tänak has some adjusting to do though. He’s been happy with the feeling of the Puma Rally1 from his initial tests but admitted he is yet to find an optimum setup for him yet – which is hardly surprising.
He’s pinpointed a podium as a good result this weekend, and it’s hard to argue otherwise.
#11 Thierry Neuville/Martijn Wydaeghe (Hyundai i20 N Rally1)
Last 3 WRC results: 1st-2nd-4th
Best Monte Carlo result: 1st (2020)
One of two Monte Carlo winners on this year’s entry, Thierry Neuville has to be considered – at the very least – a contender for the win this weekend.
Last year’s difficult event aside, Neuville has become a bit of a Monte master over the years. It’s a rally he loves and one he’s always super motivated to perform on, and this year he’s in the best position to win again since his first Monte win three years ago.
Unlike in 2022, Neuville’s i20 N Rally1 is now a car capable of winning, and unlike in 2021 Neuville’s partnership with co-driver Martijn Wydaeghe has fully blossomed.
#33 Elfyn Evans/Scott Martin (Toyota GR Yaris Rally1)
Last 3 WRC results: 5th-6th-DNF
Best Monte Carlo result: 2nd (2021)
Elfyn Evans’ recent WRC form is somewhat deceptive, as Rally Spain aside his pace has been solid. And not least on the Monte Carlo Rally, where he’s been a victory contender every time he’s started it in a Toyota.
We all know what happened last year when Evans was poised to take the lead at Saturday lunchtime, only to overcook his entry to a tightening right-hander and teeter his GR Yaris Rally1 over the edge of a sizeable drop.
That error set the tone for a difficult 2022, but both Evans and the Toyota engineers have been working hard to find a fix. Monte Carlo will be the first indication of whether that’s been successful or not.
#18 Takamoto Katsuta/Aaron Johnston (Toyota GR Yaris Rally1)
Last 3 WRC results: 3rd-7th-DNF
Best Monte Carlo result: 6th (2021)
A big year lies ahead for Takamoto Katsuta, but he shouldn’t be under too much pressure on the Monte as it’s one of the rallies that he isn’t registered to score points for Toyota Gazoo Racing.
Round one hasn’t always been the kindest to Katsuta. It was one of the few rallies last year where he had to use super-rally as he slid off a slow corner and got his Toyota stuck.
But Katsuta could be a dark horse. Far from the center of attention this week, who’s to say he can’t spring a surprise?
#17 Sébastien Ogier/Vincent Landais (Toyota GR Yaris Rally1)
Last 3 WRC results: 4th-1st-2nd
Best Monte Carlo result: 1st (2009, 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018, 2019 & 2021)
It still feels strange seeing the #17 next to Sébastien Ogier’s name, even if we did see it throughout that truncated 2020 season. But given his new status as a part-time driver, the days of Ogier winning WRC championships appear to be over.
That doesn’t make him just a bit-part player at the front of the field though – far from it. In fact, ask most pundits or fans who their pick to win this weekend is, and the majority will say Ogier.
The reasons why are obvious. Those record-equalling eight wins speak for themselves. Ogier grew up in Gap which used to host the rally so it’s an area he’s incredibly familiar with and the tricky conditions the rally throws up play to Ogier’s strengths handsomely.
Last year he was one unfortunate puncture away from victory, this year – like Neuville – he can’t be considered anything less than a real contender to win.
#6 Dani Sordo/Cándido Carrera (Hyundai i20 N Rally1)
Last 3 WRC results: DNF-5th-3rd
Best Monte Carlo result: 2nd (2007, 2012)
There are three constants in life: death, taxes and Dani Sordo in the WRC. But the affable Hyundai driver hasn’t been in Monte that regularly of late, missing both the 2020 and ’22 editions of the rally.
Back this year, he’s another like Katsuta who won’t have the limelight on him given he’s not a title contender and hasn’t switched teams. But last season showed us that Sordo is still a ruthlessly effective competitor who can fashion a podium finish from any opportunity.
The Monte hasn’t always been the kindest to Sordo though. The last time he finished on the podium was 10 years ago for Citroën; his best Hyundai result fourth in 2017.
#4 Esapekka Lappi/Janne Ferm (Hyundai i20 N Rally1)
Last 3 WRC results: 22nd-3rd-3rd
Best Monte Carlo result: 4th (2020)
One of the big movers of the off-season as he traded a part-time Toyota season to a full-time Hyundai campaign, Esapekka Lappi will have plenty of eyes on him this week.
But it won’t be an easy run for Lappi who’s not done a full-time WRC season, and as a result the Monte, since 2020.
He finished a fine fourth on that occasion by being clever and keeping his nose clean, and that’s a tactic Lappi will seek to mimic on his Hyundai debut. Expecting a win would be a bit much, but a podium may not be a totally absurd shout if conditions throw some curveballs.
#7 Pierre-Louis Loubet/Nicolas Gilsoul (Ford Puma Rally1)
Last 3 WRC results: 10th-4th-DNF
Best Monte Carlo result: 16th (2021)
It might surprise you to learn that Pierre-Louis Loubet has only ever contested the Monte Carlo Rally once before in his career – back in 2021 with a 2C Hyundai.
This weekend could therefore prove to be a baptism of fire for the 25-year-old who’ll take on his first WRC rally with new co-driver Nicolas Gilsoul.
But Loubet showed flashes of brilliance in the French Alps two years ago with a second fastest time on the Saturday, and he was one of the stars of last year so the potential is clearly there.
However his tactic is to stay “humble”, treat the rally with respect and pick up the pieces should the others lay any down for him to grab.
#9 Jourdan Serderidis/Frédéric Miclotte (Ford Puma Rally1)
Last 3 WRC results: 28th-DNF-7th
Best Monte Carlo result: 29th (2017)
Gentleman driver Jourdan Serderidis will pilot a third Ford Puma Rally1 this weekend, although he won’t contribute towards M-Sport’s manufacturers’ championship cause.
Serderidis has a handful of previous starts on the Monte but none since 2017 where he secured his best result of 29th overall.
A top 10 finish can be expected this year though given the performance differential between Rally1 and Rally2.