WRC: Monte Carlo Rally Top 5 Predictions
With the WRC set to kick off later this week just over a month after last season ended here are my top 5 predictions for the jewel in the WRC crown.
Ogier Makes a Statement
When last week we saw the images of Sebastien Ogier's Toyota Yaris following his high-speed crash during testing you became forced to ask yourself whether the reigning champions would be able to compete this week let alone be at one hundred percent. But remarkably both Ogier and Ingrassia were somewhat unmoved by the incident and are adamant that it will have no impact on their performance. For anybody else, you might take that with a pinch of salt but when it comes to the Monte it is simply impossible to look past Sebastien Ogier. He may not have won the Rally last year but the circumstances were against him and with the man who beat him last year having his own pre-Rally setbacks, it puts him in a great position to take a seventh world championship Monte Carlo victory.
Evans to Remain Nearest Challenger
If we were surprised last year that Elfyn Evans was leading the Monte coming into the final day, should history repeat itself this year we won't be quite so shocked, he was on the brink of a maiden title last season and seemed more than capable to fight amongst the big boys. He has had a good amount of testing and judging on his form on the event last year and his compatibility with the car along with the fact the majority of his main competitors have had troubles before the event it bodes well for his chances. Toyota seems to be very confident in backing Evans for another title push and seems to be no signs of a number 1 or number 2 status, however, this might change later in the year as the season evolves. He may have missed out last year in such heartbreaking circumstances, but at a time when British Rallying is on its knees what a statement it would be if a Brit were to win the Monte.
Hyundai Mixed Bag
When Hyundai set off for Monte testing a couple of weeks before the start of the event they must have been as optimistic for the event as they ever had been. They the reigning rally winner, as well as the current constructors' champions and, have arguably the strongest lineup in the championship. Then last week they had a shock, despite doing all of the pre-event tests, Nicolas Gilsoul, the co-driver of Thierry Neuville was announced to be leaving the team. Specifics still are not certain, but it seemed didn't seem like something anybody wanted to happen. And yet, it did. This has thrown a huge spanner in the works for Neuville who would have been confident to start the season in a similar manner to last year and finally be able to clinch that elusive first driver's title. A repeat of last years result now seems unlikely as a change like this is always going to have an impact and being one of the most challenging Rallies of the year a good partnership is crucial.
Then there is Ott Tanak who has yet to set the world alight since joining Hyundai and we are yet to see him at his devastating best in the i20 WRC even late on last season he never seemed to be at the same level as he was in 2019. Then you have to look at the fact that he didn't even manage to complete a full day on the Monte last year after his horror crash on Friday morning, this accident must still be playing on his mind for this event as a similar occurrence would be devastating for his chance of winning back his title. Because of this, it might be more to his advantage to drive in a manner to ensure points rather than put it all on the line, but as we know Tanak is not the cautious type.
M-Sport Slow and Steady
Big changes have been made at M-Sport coming into this season. Rather than fielding three cars to each event as last year, they have decided to have just two Fiesta WRC's, the reason for this is likely to cut expenses ahead of next years new regulation which they are a big advocate for. Despite this, they do have three drivers down to compete this season with one car being for Gus Greensmith and a second car to be shared for between Teemu Suninen and Rally1 debutant Adrien Fourmaux. For this event, it will be Suninen behind the wheel with Fourmaux competing in an R5 car. This year promises to be another tough one for the UK faction as they still are suffering from a variety of complications including COVID, however, a positive to take from this is the ability to is that they now have the ability to develop some incredible talent who will be able to compete for wins when the new car is ready with limited pressure or expectations.
Rally 2 Steals the Show
Every year as the WRC field seems to deplete the WRC2 and WRC3 fields just seem to get stronger and more competitive. In WRC 2 for this weekend there is a very impressive entry list, with the biggest name in WRC terms being that of Andreas Mikkelsen who is set to take part in a full campaign this season in a Skoda Fabia having made a return to Rallying at the end of last year in both the ERC and at Rally Monza, winning two out of the three events he entered. Because of this and the fact he won the class in 2017 once again in a Skoda, he has to be the favourite for victory in Monte. That being said there is a very strong number of young guns who will be looking to make a statement and show why they are the future, the two most likely challengers will be Adrien Fourmaux and Oliver Solberg. Fourmaux is no stranger to the Monte having competed there twice before both times in a Fiesta R5 and both times finishing second in class, then there is Solberg who is going to make his debut as a Hyundai driver in the WRC having made the switch to the team in the offseason. Both drivers are hoping to make the step up into WRC soon with Fourmaux already confirmed to enter some as yet unconfirmed events, whereas depending on how the season develops we could possibly see Solberg make his WRC debut as well.