There’s only one place to begin a World Rally Championship season. That barren period between 2009-11 made that abundantly clear.
A WRC season that doesn’t begin with the Monte Carlo Rally isn’t worth having if you ask me. Ignore the fact the 2009 and ’11 title fights were brilliant, starting the season in Ireland or Sweden just didn’t hit the same.
History of course is a big driver in that – only five of the WRC’s 51 seasons haven’t begun in the principality. But the trepidation the crews feel as they head into the mountains on Thursday night is an utterly brilliant way to kickstart a new rallying year.
And that’s before we consider the mesmerising atmosphere out there on the stages.
The rally’s unique with its ever-changing weather conditions and impetus on tire choice, and therefore demands a very particular set of skills from both members of the crew to survive and then succeed.
In short, it’s mega. But you didn’t need me to convince you of that, did you?
Perhaps the Junior WRC does, though.
For a brief moment last week, my eyes lit up. Scrolling through social media, I caught wind of the hype: Monte’s regulations appeared to have leaked that next year’s JWRC would be heading there with the class ‘WRC3 Junior’ printed.
For context, Junior WRC hasn’t been to Monte since 2005, where Kris Meeke won in a Citroën C2 S1600. The fact it could have been coming back was massive news.
But it was all a ruse. Junior WRC quickly moved to correct the speculation with the following statement:
“Due to conflicting information published, the ‘23 JWRC Championship will not start on Rallye Monte Carlo. Calendar coming soon.”
Suspicion is that part of the Monte’s regulations were a copy and paste job of another event’s, thus leading to the confusion. But it teased me, and my creative juices were still flowing.
So I took my unexpected passion for a topic I’d never really considered to the Junior WRC championship manager, Maciej Woda, to understand why this dream will never happen.
“There is a number of reasons but one of the reasons is the WRC calendar has not been published yet,” Woda mused.
“The calendar will be published I believe this week, and the entries for Monte Carlo will be closing in the middle of December. So we’ve, let’s say, a month or even less from the publication of the calendar.
“So realistically we would have absolutely no chance to have the drivers signed up for Monte Carlo and therefore it would be absolutely a disaster to start the championship there.”
Fair point. But that’s a very unique scenario for (hopefully) 2023 only. Why has it never been considered in any of the past 15+ years?
“It’s probably not the most cost-effective event for the Junior WRC drivers,” Woda argued.
“We need to have this aspect now in mind. And we like to go to Sweden, all the drivers really enjoy Sweden, and going to Monte Carlo and Sweden would be very difficult for the Juniors. So we were not even considering starting Junior WRC in Monte Carlo because realistically it would be a killer and wouldn’t work very well for the calendar.
“It is a fantastic event don’t get me wrong, but considering there are a lot of really nice events in WRC and we’re only choosing five, we need to make sure we’re including the events that will really work for the drivers and will give us good space in between events.”
I’ve now landed back on Earth after my brief spell in utopia. But Woda can at least see my point that, purely on a sporting basis, Monte would be a special way to start the year.
“I agree 100%,” he said. “To be honest if there were more rounds in Junior WRC, I think Monte Carlo should be one of them because it’s, like you say, such an iconic event, such a specific challenge for the drivers that for sure it would be very valuable for their experience, for their development.
“But you would need to have, realistically, a seven-round Junior WRC to offer all of this experience to them, but with seven events the cost would be pretty much prohibitive so we probably wouldn’t get many drivers – especially these days.”
News of the full five-round Junior WRC calendar is expected imminently. And as sad as it makes me, I fully understand the reasons for not including Monte Carlo.
But to channel your parents whenever you did something wrong as a child, I’m not angry. I’m just disappointed.