This year Rallye Monte Carlo has relocated from Gap to Monaco, and all the stages are run relatively near the principality. This has resulted in dusting off many stages that haven’t been used in years, making them mostly new to the current drivers. The route is also likely slower and more technical than ever, as if the new cars wouldn’t pose enough of a challenge!
The Shakedown of Sainte-Agnès – Peille is a part of the Col de la Madone stage, last driven on WRC level in 1991. This narrow and technical mountain road will be closed for spectators. It’s fairly representative of the route since it’s slow and technical, but there’s hardly any uphill or downhill. You can see the route on this video from 7:44 to 10:08.
The rally starts again with two night stages on Thursday, both classics from the Turini area. If this was a video game, the difficulty level on these two stages would be “Expert”.
SS1 Luceram – Lantosque has the honour of being the first timed stage to be driven with the Rally1 cars. This stage was last included in 2017 in a shorter format. Before that there was a nine year period of driving in the opposite direction, as 2008 was the last time this year’s configuration was used.
This is a technical and difficult stage. The first 4 km contains already 12 hairpins, although the road is rather wide. The section is seen on this onboard from 4:01 onwards (also available on WRC+ on SS14 of 2017).
The ending is more narrow and technical with constantly hard objects at the edge of the road, leaving zero margin for error. The ending is seen on this onboard from 7:19 onwards.
SS2 La Bollène-Vésubie – Moulinet is the infamous Col de Turini driven in the opposite direction than traditionally. It’s the longest stage of the rally at 23 km. This way the beginning with the iconic banking and tunnel is familiar from the latest years (last in 2020). Meanwhile the hairpin-packed ending hasn’t been used since 2015, when the stage extended longer (this year’s stage will end at 17:12 into this video).
The stage is pretty wide and smooth for this rally. The beginning is actually quite relaxingly fast-flowing with just a handful of hairpins spread across the ascent. Just before the iconic Col de Turini it gets more twisty. The ending of the stage is more tricky, not just because it’s downhill, but it’s also technical with frequent hairpins and there could be more snow/ice due to being shadowed by the mountain.
The Friday stages are medium long, all between 13 and 18 km, but there is no midday service apart from a tyre zone during the 97 km of special stages.
SS3+6 Roure – Beuil used to be a Monte staple until 1997 – with titles Col de la Coulloille or St Saveur – but after that it has been used only once in 2006, with a slightly longer beginning. Compared to the Thursday stages, it feels easy!
The beginning is another mountainous road, mostly quite wide. There’s a few tunnels on in the beginning. The rhythm and surface change constantly from wide to narrow, smooth to bumpy and flowing to technical. The middle section is straightforward between the hairpins, while the downhill ending is wide, smooth and fast-flowing like a racetrack. The onboard matches this year’s route from 2:49 onwards without the chicane at 10:40.
SS4+7 Guillaumes – Péone – Valberg has been used only once in Rallye Monte Carlo, and that year was 2006 like with the previous stage.
First of all, all the stage is uphill, which is exceptional in Monte. The road is again relatively wide and fast-angular where straightforward sections are connected by occasional tighter corners. Only the middle section has more densely occurring hairpins. The beginning has also some tunnels.
These two stages (and SS2) are the highest elevated stages of the rally, reaching over 1600 m above sea level.
SS5+8 Val-de-Chalvagne – Entrevaux is a mountain/forest stage with quite narrow road all the way through. It alternates between fast-flowing and technical. The beginning (familiar from 2015-2017 opening stage*) is more of fast-flowing and the ending (familiar from last year’s power stage) more of technical, with its string of hairpins at the end.
Just like on Friday, there’s no midday service apart from a tyre changing zone, but the whole day involves only 92 km of special stages. These stages are more countryside/forest-based than the primarly mountainous stages of other days, and have a different character, similar to the Gap area stages most of the rally was previously based on.
SS9 Le Fugeret – Thorame-Haute has been run only a few times in Rally Monte Carlo, last in 1997, in the opposite direction. This year’s beginning is extended to start at the town of Le Fugeret, very narrowly between the houses
The rest of the stage is just all mountain, on a narrow and technical road. The uphill is steeper and longer than the downhill, and there’s a straightforward fast passage at the top.
This 1991 onboard was all I could find, but it’s in the opposite direction. The finish this year will be at 1:18 (and the start after the finish of 1991).
SS10+12 Saint-Jeannet – Malijai starts on a road which has last been driven in 1981. It is narrow, first very fast in the countryside with sharp crests, then more technical going onto the top of the col and even slower with hairpins when coming down. The final part on the wider road – which was the start of 2020’s opening stage – is again faster. This could be the fastest stage of the rally.
SS11+13 Saint-Geniez – Thoard is actually better known as the legendary Sisteron, but the stage has been shortened by omitting the beginning. In this configuration, most of this stage is downhill. It’s also worth mentioning the 2018 run of Sisteron was run in the opposite direction than usually. The last time this year’s direction was used was 2015. The stage starts now from at 11:11 on the video and ends at 29:41.
The road is quite wide and the beginning very fast on a countryside section. Soon it becomes more twisty and mountainous. Subsequently the road becomes narrower at a short valley passage, but the next twisty mountain/forest is where the stage gets difficult: the first half is driven on the North side of the col, meaning it’s typically more snowy/icy. The final countryside section is again a bit faster, wider and smoother.
The tyre choice could be tricky because SS10+12 is elevated very low and could be all dry, while SS11+13 will likely have that tricky snowy section.
SS14+16 La Penne – Collongues has never been used in this configuration. It’s essentially a combination of parts of three stages, such as Col St Raphaël, St. Antonin and Pont des Miolans – St Auban. Thus it also has many rhythm changes.
The beginning is a narrow and bumpy mountain road which can be seen here from 9:22 to 11:52, where the stage will turn right.
The middle section can be seen here from 12:56 onwards. It’s still mostly narrow and technical, and all steeply downhill. After the town of Saint Antonin it gets even more twisty. However, at the end it gets straighter and where this onboard ends, this year’s stage proceeds with a long straight.
After a 90° junction the final section begins a kilometre before this onboard starts. The road is now wider with some camber, and the constant flow of corners is quite Corsican as we go from a valley back to mountains, ending at the town of Collongues at 5:48.
SS17+19 Briançonnet – Entrevaux is the only stage familiar from last year. Like mentioned, the hairpin-packed ending was already run twice on SS4+7. The beginning is a very narrow and tricky mountain/forest section which was very snowy last year. All of Gus Greensmith, Takamoto Katsuta and Pierre-Louis Loubet went off there.
* the corner where the 2017 spectator accident happened is not included on this year’s route
EDIT 8.1.2022 Added recce onboards for SS1, SS3+6, SS4+7 and SS10+12 and updated descriptions
EDIT 9.1.2022 Added more descriptions after watching onboards of all stages.