The legendary Monte Carlo Rally starts today, with a prologue stage in the French Riviera, en-route to Monte Carlo.
The ‘Monte’ is one of the longest running motorsport events, dating back to 1911, and is normally part of the World Rally Championship. Due to the ridiculous FIA rule that rally venues need to rotate in and out of the World Championship, the premier class this year is the popular Intercontinental Rally Championship.
The 'IRC' started in 2006 with the assistance of Eurosport TV Channel who gives the series extensive Television coverage. Unlike the WRC, the IRC concentrates on cheaper Group A and N and the FIA S2000 class.
Current Champion, Kris Meeke will want to put his crash on last year’s event to the back of everyone’s minds with a win on this rally. One of the favourites, Meeke had a fantastic season in 2009. He's a Brit by the way, just in case you were not sure
Last year’s Monte Carlo IRC winner, Sebastien Ogier returns with a sister Peugeot 207 S2000.
The Kronos 'Peugeot UK' team will come under pressure from the factory Skoda Fabia’s of Jan Kopecky and Juho Hanninen. Another S2000 car, which we featured on Speedhunters last year. The team will be releasing an Evolution version of the car later in the season.
Skoda UK have also entered a car for Guy Wilks, who finished off last season with a win in the Rally of Scotland. Meeke and Wilks is going to be an interesting battle for Britain, each with Union Flag based liveries.
Another British entrant, Ford Rally Team, M-Sport will be interesting to watch with their new Ford Fiesta S2000.
This has to be seen as a development year, but with Mikko Hirvonen in the driver’s seat, dont discount this entry.
Rally legend Tommi Makkinen returns to the Monte Carlo Rally, but as a team owner. With a successful Subaru rally preperation business in Finland, the team have entered Bryan Bouffier, who has three Polish Rally Championship titles. However, this car is in the Production Group N class and not S2000.
Stephane Sarrazin will be a familiar name to rally and circuit racing fans. The ex Minardi F1 and current Peugeot Le Mans driver started rallying back in 2004 and included a season in the Subaru World Rally Team. Sarrazin concentrates on Endurance Racing these day, but this tarmac rally could easily see him back on the podium. The Frenchman finished 3rd in 2009
Another driver from circuit racing, having a play on the French Riviera is Robert Kubica. Now a Renault F1 driver, the Polish driver will be running in a Renault Clio R3
This should be an interesting rally. No WRC cars, but last years IRC series was good and competitive and while these cars might not have all the trick features of the full WRC Car, I like this. Reminds me of days gone by.
Full entry list here.
Images: Intercontinental Rally Challenge, Peugeot, Skoda, M-Sport