The wait is finally over for rally fans! This Thursday, the 23rd of January, the curtain raises on the 2020 World Rally Championship with the inaugural race of the season’s calendar: Rally Monte-Carlo.
The 87th edition of the Championship starts jammed packed with excitement and expectation. After Citroën’s departure and a series of frantic moves on the driver’s market, the three teams coming head to head this year (Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT, Hyundai Motorsport y M-Sport Ford), have considerably changed their line-ups.
More ambitious than ever, the team lead by Andrea Adamo is aspiring to conquer both the driver and manufacturer crowns. On Thursday they will start defending the Constructor’s Title which they earned last season thanks to their four victories and twelve podiums.
Hyundai, considerably stronger after signing current champion Ott Tänak, are the greatest favourites. The Estonian champion, who has never had a victory in Rally Monte-Carlo despite having been on the podium over the last three years, is the cornerstone of Hyundai’s project. He will make up a fearsome team with Belgian driver Thierry Neuville.
With the arrival of Tänak and after four consecutive sub-championship, the driver from Saint Vith must get the slippery title this time. Short term, he would want to improve on the second place that he took last year at the French Alps.
Both drivers will be supported on the inaugural race by the invaluable experience and know-how of Sèbastien Loeb. The Alsacian champion is the one that has had the most victories (7) in Monte-Carlo. A great asset to face the most challenging appointment in the calendar. Loeb will take turns at the wheel of the third I20 Coupe WRC with Spaniard Dani Sordo.
Hyundai is, a priori, the most complete team of them all but Toyota is also going strong. Tommi Mäkinen’s squad could compensate – to some extent – for the departure of their Estonian star with the hiring of Seb Ogier.
Ogier will have the opportunity to fight for his seventh title at the wheel of last season’s best car: The Yaris WRC. Teaming up with him will be the Briton Elfyn Evans, coming from M-Sport Ford and the debutant Kalle Rovanperä.
The Finish pearl, 2019 winner of the WRC 2 Pro class, will be adapting to driving in the top category while trying to accrue the most number of points for his team. A luxury line-up to attempt and defend the individual title and why not? Fight for the manufacturer one at the same time.
Never having had a victory at the Alpine appointment, the team lead by Tommi Mäkinen would love to rise the Japanese flag on Monegasque soil. That challenge, together with the thrill of sealing his seventh consecutive win before his compatriots will fuel Ogier’s motivation.
Last but not least, M-Sport Ford appears more Finnish and youthful than ever. With a mean age of 25, the lowest of the WRC, the team from Cumbria has made the most of what they had on offer. After being abandoned by their star driver Elfyn Evans, who had developed the whole of his career with them, they hired Esapekka Lappi.
The young driver from Pieksämäki had been left without a seat at the WRC after Citroën’s departure from the competition. The third member of the team will be Gus Greensmith. The Briton will start his part-time programme in Monte-Carlo onboard a third Fiesta WRC. All in all, it seems very unlikely for the English team, twice winner over the last three years at the Alpine race, to be able to repeat the feat.
Images Rally Monte-Carlo: Toyota Gazoo WRT.