The World Rally Championship returned to Gap this week as Monte Carlo Rally testing kicked off in the mountains surrounding the host town for round one – and hometown for Sébastien Ogier.
Toyota and Hyundai tested their World Rally Cars respectively, running Pirelli rubber for the first time.
Hyundai ran Ott Tänak, Thierry Neuville and Dani Sordo, while Toyota went with Ogier, Kalle Rovanperä and Takamoto Katsuta. WRC runner-up Elfyn Evans skipped this test, preferring to defer his running to his Monte pre-event test in January.
With testing ongoing the teams were keen to save comment for the conclusion of the week, but both reported “worthwhile and interesting” running in representative conditions for next month’s season opener in the French Alps.
With its driver line-up still under discussion, M-Sport will run its first Pirelli test early in January.
The FIA has granted the teams an additional nine days of testing on top of the permitted three days ahead of each event. The teams will, of course, be busier in 2021, with 30 days of testing allowed in preparation for the introduction of hybrid-powered 2022 cars in 13 months.
Ogier is the only current driver to have competed at the highest level on Pirelli tires – he took his maiden world championship win on the Italian rubber in Portugal 2010.
The Frenchman, like his contemporaries, has driven with Michelin since 2011 until Rally Monza earlier this month.
In signing off on his time with the Clermont-Ferrand firm, Ogier said: “I just wanted to say a small word to our friends from France at Michelin, who are leaving us after many years of cooperation. I think it is deserved for the job they’ve done all over the years with us to say a big thank you.
“Grand merci à vous tous et à très bientôt peut être!”
(“Many thanks to all of you and see you very soon.”)