Next month’s Monte Carlo Rally will be the shortest in the event’s long and illustrious World Rally Championship history.
As predicted, the season opener has been forced to trim its itinerary to ensure it falls in-line with French government guidelines on COVID-19-enforced nightly curfews.
The Thursday January 21-Sunday January 24 event includes 15 stages, one short on the original plan and just 174 competitive miles (280km).
Prior to the arrival of a global pandemic, the Automobile Club de Monaco had already decided to ditch the Casino Square start, formerly a Thursday afternoon ceremony that extended the event’s timetable by a day, shifting shakedown a day earlier to Wednesday.
A proposed Thursday morning shakedown has been canned on the realization that keeping the usual high numbers of fans out of the stage on the outskirts of Gap would be almost impossible.
Thursday evening becomes Thursday afternoon with the planned two stages starting at 1638 rather than the original schedule of 1908. Friday is the same mileage, but with everything brought forward by quarter of an hour to avoid stages starting in the dark.
Saturday includes one of the two planned runs at St Clément – Freissinières. The St Apollinaire – Embrun stage is dropped with La Bréole – Selonnet used in the morning as well as the expected afternoon run.
Again, the aim is to get the cars in and out of the darkness as quickly as possible. The traditional Saturday night arrival in Monaco is three hours earlier than planned, with early check-in now permitted to the harborside parc fermé from 1908.
Sunday’s is the day which has changed the most, but this time it’s nothing to do with coronavirus. Storm Alex ravaged the roads and bridges further south in the Alpes-Maritimes, forcing the ACO to look north-west in the region and into the south-east of the Alpes-de-Haute-Provence for the final day’s mileage.
Puget-Théniers and Briançonnet stages are well-known to rally fans and, as world champion Sébastien Ogier told DirtFish: “I don’t think it’s a drama if we don’t have Turini for this year. Honestly, there are so many nice stages and nice possibilities in that area…”
The loss of a stage on Saturday and a shorter final day cuts 15 miles out of the 2020 route.
Generally, the Monte Carlo Rally has been running to a shorter format in recent years, with 2013 the last really long event. Remembered for Sébastien Loeb’s final win in these parts, that event started on Wednesday with 83 miles spread across four stages on the first evening loop.
A long day on Thursday was followed by the transit leg down to Monaco on Friday. Saturday’s final loop harked back to bygone days, re-starting out of the principality at 1315 and finishing at 2300 on Saturday night.
If you’re asking… the Monte’s longest WRC route was in 1986, which started with a concentration run bound for Monaco on Saturday January 18. A Sunday evening loop in and out of Aix-les-Bains warmed crews up for what was to follow.
The bulk of the mileage came in a whopper of a leg starting at 1000 on Monday and finishing at 1630 on Wednesday. After two days and one night on the road, there was a night off before the final leg started at 1015 on Thursday morning and finished at seven o’clock on Friday morning.
Those 36 stages and 547 competitive miles (all of which ran, non-canceled) took fastest man Henri Toivonen and his Lancia Delta S4 10h11m24s to complete.
Thursday January 21
SS1 St Disdier – Corps (12.78 miles) 1638
SS2 St Maurice – St Bonnet (12.94 miles) 1736
Service Gap 1831
Friday January 22
SS3 Aspremont – La Bâtie-des-Fonts 1 (12.18 miles) 0817
SS4 Chalancon – Gumiane 1 (13.43 miles) 0938
SS5 Montauban-sur-l’Ouvèze – Villebois-les-Pins 1 (13.81 miles) 1111
Service Gap 1246
SS6 Aspremont – La Bâtie-des-Fonts 2 (12.18 miles) 1447
SS7 Chalancon – Gumiane 2 (13.43 miles) 1608
SS8 Montauban-sur-l’Ouvèze – Villebois-les-Pins 2 (13.81 miles) 1741
Service Gap 1916
Saturday January 23
SS9 La Bréole – Selonnet 1 (11.37 miles) 0917
SS10 St Clément – Freissiniéres (12.72 miles) 1108
Service Gap 1258
SS11 La Bréole – Selonnet (11.37 miles) 1508
Parc Fermé Monaco 1908
Sunday January 24
SS12 Puget Théniers – La Penne 1 (8.03 miles) 0830
SS13 Briançonnet – Entrevaux 1 (8.89 miles) 1008
SS14 Puget Théniers – La Penne 2 (8.03 miles) 1045
Regroup Briançonnet 1125
SS15 Briançonnet – Entrevaux 2 (8.89 miles) 1218
Finish Monaco 1408