It’s Friday. The second Friday in January. Two weeks from today – in fact, right at this time – I should be talking to the leader of the Monte Carlo Rally. They will have returned from a morning loop of three stages to offer insight and reflection on their morning to the readers of DirtFish.
Will I be there?
I have absolutely no idea.
Anybody thinking 2020 becoming 2021 would wave a magic wand across the World Rally Championship is very sadly mistaken. COVID still calls the shots – with Britain’s exit from the European Union all too ready to shove its own spanner in the works as well.
Of all the uncertainty the last year has brought, this year’s Monte Carlo Rally is the hardest to call. We were told on Wednesday that Gap had green-lighted the event. It was at that time that we were also told the decision was a regional one to take. Paris’ influence wasn’t such a consideration at this point.
By Thursday, Paris, a press conference and the French prime minister were being scrutinized for the latest news. I burned two batteries in the phone, chasing news and any sort of detail. Sources out of France offered a tentative positive, with further news coming.
In the coming days.
The Automobile Club de Monaco is doing all it can to provide some sort of certainty, but as we saw with a decision from the Belgian authorities last year, when the wider world gets involved, the world of rallying gets very firmly put in its place.
That was the dark side of the autumn of last season, looking on the brighter side, Rally Monza demonstrated quite brilliantly that it’s possible to run a rally safely from within the clutches of a global pandemic. A month out from going to Milan and the chances of us going were remote. Given the Lombardy region’s miserable history as a coronavirus hot spot, the odds were probably longer than they are for the Monte.
But the FIA and WRC Promoter worked hand-in-glove with local government and made it happen. We have to trust in our governing body this time around too.
The teams are taking this one very much step-by-step right now. M-Sport Ford team principal Richard Millener has been a difficult man to get hold of this week. For good reason.
He’s been up to his eyes in planning and planning for planning and planning for another aspect of that last bit of planning.
“We’re just bashing on,” Millener told DirtFish.
“The trucks leave for the test this weekend, once we get them gone, we get the four days of testing for the factory cars and two days for Adrien [Fourmaux] in the Rally2 car next week and then we get to the rally. We’re definitely taking it one step at a time and dealing with one decision at a time. It’s fair to say it’s been pretty busy with plenty of challenges and dealing with Brexit has been another hurdle to get over.
“We’re a resourceful team, we’ll get there and when we do, we put our trust in the FIA and the promoter and, of course, the local health and regional government authorities. If they deem the event good to go then that’s what we do.”
That attitude of extreme pragmatism is reflected across the service park – the focus is fixed firmly on the variables which can be impacted on here and now. Anything else, everything else, can wait.
Anything else like the event’s actual timetable – a third evolution of which is due to land on Monday morning and, with the six o’clock curfew in place, it’s going to be one packed with early starts to get the crews up and through the stages in daylight.
I like that. I love the Monte; it’s always been an absolute favorite of mine. It’s the start of something new, it’s in the mountains, every corner takes a turn into the unknown and, it’s in the winter. What’s not to love. That we’re going to be up and at it in the stages from six in the morning only adds to the energy, atmosphere and emotion – not least because of a strange phenomenon which drops temperatures five or 10 degrees right around sunrise.
I’ve had this one explained to me time and again, it’s to do with heat radiating out of the Earth’s surface (that might actually be into the Earth’s surface) and then jumbling up the warm air sitting just above the surface. That jumbliness disturbs the air and means it’s spread thinner over the surface; less insulation means the temperature drops.
If you’ve got five minutes, you might like to run that last bit past your favorite meteorologist. I might have got some of that science a bit mixed up.
Regardless, we’re moving into Monte time and that’s a reason to get excited.