A further change, albeit unrelated to the pandemic, is the omission of the opening ceremony as decided by The Automobile Club de Monaco. The event, which was traditionally held at the Casino square, lengthened the rally by one extra day.
Because of this, the shakedown used to take place on Wednesdays in Monaco rather than on the usual Thursdays for most of the races in the calendar. This year, and in order to avoid any crowding it was decided to move the shakedown to Thursday morning on the 21 of January.
Also, the night-time stage on that very same day would now start at 16.38 in the afternoon, rather than at 19.08, as initially scheduled. As for Friday, the kilometres remain the same, but the starting of the action has been moved forward a quarter of an hour, to avoid a start in the dark.
On Saturday, the ‘St Clément – Freissinières’ stretch is still there while the section St Apollinaire – Embrun has been eliminated. Drivers will go around twice the ‘La Bréole – Selonnet’ special, in the morning and in the evening.
These modifications are also aimed at reducing night-time racing as much as possible. The traditional night finish of Saturday’s stage in Monaco will be brought forward three whole hours and so the ‘check-in’ will take place at the covered park by the port from 19.08.
Sunday’s itinerary will be one of the most drastically altered. In this case, however, it again has nothing to do with the omnipresent pandemic but with the aftermath of storm Alex which hit western France hard last September.
The vicious storm destroyed roads and bridges connecting the South of the Maritime Alps Region in its wake. Faced with such deterioration, directors of Rally Montecarlo were forced to change the itinerary towards the northeast and southeast of the Alps in Haute Provence, altering the length of the itinerary significantly.
Perhaps the most famous casualty of the edited layout is the Col del Turini special, which has been replaced by some equally spectacular sections such as the Puget-Théniers and Briançonnet, which also enjoys great popularity among Monte Carlo Rally fans.
Regarding Sunday’s changes, the reigning seven-time WRC world champion and local hero recently had this to say: “I don’t think it is a drama if we don’t have the Turini this year. Honestly, I think there are other nice stages that offer good possibilities in that same area”.
Overall, the loss of a stage on Saturday and the shorter last day will reduce the 2020 route by 24.14 kilometres. As a general rule, the Rally Monte Carlo has been getting shorter over the years, with 2013 being the last really long event (468.42 k).
That 83rd edition will always be remembered for the spoils of Sebastien Loeb. After a faultless performance, the Alsatian took his seventh and last WRC victory, a record only matched six years later (2019) by his compatriot and seven-time WRC Champ, Sebastien Ogier, on that very same stage.