Route Preview: Rally Monte Carlo 2023

Last year Rally Monte Carlo relocated to Monaco instead of having the service and most of the stages around Gap. This resulted in lots of new roads compared to the previous years and slight character change among that. However, this year most of the route is familiar from last year as well as partially from the past previous few years, at most with just some slight changes.

Maps @ rally-maps.com
Cover Image by Tapio Lehtonen / Rallirinki (C)

Thursday

The shakedown of Sainte-Agnès – Peille is the same as last year. It’s the middle part of a stage that was run in the rally from 1973 to 1991 with titles Peille, Col de la Madone and Col des Banquettes.

The shakedown is a very narrow and quite slow stage. It’s not very representative for the rally since there will be also wider and faster sections as well as hairpins, which this stage does not include. Also, it’s set in relatively low altitude, resulting in likely less snowy conditions than other stages.

Thursday starts like traditionally with two stages in the dark. And like last year, they are set in the Turini area.

SS1+16+18 La Bollene-Vesubie – Col de Turini is one of the most legendary stages of the WRC history. This year it has a new never before driven section in the beginning. Meanwhile the ending is at the top of the Turini, turning twice right while last year’s route proceeded left towards Moulinet.

La Bollene-Vesubie – Col de Turini 2023 (red) and La Bollene-Vesubie – Moulinet 2022 (brown)

The new start is similar to the shakedown – worn tarmac on a very narrow road and thus very technical even on slighter bends. There’s also a very tricky-looking uphill hairpin.

At 3.3 km the stage joins the familiar Turini start through a downhill hairpin. The character of the stage changes here into a wide and smooth road, which is first quite fast-flowing, only climbing occasionally through some hairpins. Just before the end it gets more sinuous and then the ending is at the hotel yard.

Most of the stage can be seen on this video until 8:22, obviously just without the new start section

SS2 La Cabanette – Col de Castillon is an extended version of the 2018-2020 power stage using also the 2015 power stage and new sections. It’s the longest stage of the rally at 25 km and the only one to be run just once. Furthermore, it’s one with many interesting rhythm changes. A stage called La Cabanette featured in the 1973 Monte Carlo rally, but its route is unknown.

2023 La Cabanette – Col de Castillo (red), 2018-2020 La Cabanette – Col de Braus (green) and 2015 Col St Jean – St Laurent (pink)

The start of the stage is wide and smooth, but there are narrower parts. This section involves an infamous descent, going through 15 hairpins on the way.

It becomes thoroughly narrow and more worn at 5.2 km at a junction onto a bridge. It’s mostly quite fast apart from a few tight corners. A technical section in the forest follows up at 8.8 km, being also very narrow for a short bit. Sebastien Loeb went off on this section in 2020 at 10.1 km.

Esapekka Lappi had a similar mistake as Loeb in 2018, just 600 m later than Loeb’s corner.

Subsequently the road becomes smoother but increasingly sinuous, with even some hairpins, where the power stage finish was from 2018 to 2020.

Next up the stage joins a wider mountain road which was used on the 2015 power stage but in the opposite direction. It’s very fast and flowing apart from a three-hairpin series and four more hairpin pairs, all descending. We can see this section on this 2015 onboard in the opposite direction until 3:46 where the stage will appear from the narrow road.

The final section of the stage was used as the shakedown back in 2003 in the opposite direction. It’s narrow and worn, mostly fast-flowing apart from a sinuous passage and a couple of tighter corners. We can see the section on this local rally onboard from 4:44 onwards, in the opposite direction.

Friday

Friday stages are driven North-West from Monaco. There’s only 105 km of stages but at the same time no midday service, only a tyre change. The stage where Gus Greensmith scored his first stage win is not included in the route this year.

SS3+6 Roure – Beuille is another stage run as early as 1973 with previous titles Col de la Coulloile or St Saveur. This year it’s run similarly to last year, and we remember it from Adrien Fourmaux’s scary crash. The same location also has the highest elevation of the whole rally, 1678 m above sea level, a bit higher than Col de Turini.

The stage starts on a mountainside road which is medium wide and medium fast, with four tunnels on the way. It starts climbing up through several hairpins. Some corners are in the shade and could be more slippery. As the stage starts descending, the first corner is Fourmaux’s. After that the stage becomes soon very wide and fast.

SS4+7 Puget-Theniers – Saint Antonin is a mix of two stages driven in 2021 and 2022 with a bit of “new” in between. It’s also vintage Monte, driven previously as Col St Raphael, as early as 1983.

2023 Puget-Theniers – Saint Antonin (red), 2022 La Penne – Collongues (blue) and 2021 Puget – Theniers – La Penne (brown)

The start is on a wide and quite smooth road, climbing up on a medium-to-fast-flowing road with just several hairpins and a handful of square bends. It’s on the North side of the col so it could be slippery. The tarmac becomes fresher at 2.9 km. A sinuous passage leads into a junction turn away from the 2021 route. We can see the start of the stage on this onboard until 5:00.

This section also features the corner where Roman Kresta went off in 2002, leaving the car hanging on the railing.

The next road is smooth and medium wide – occasionally narrower or wider as well. It is technical, turning all the time but not super slow, alternating between medium and fast paces. Next up is a downhill section on a narrower and slightly worn road involving two hairpins. After the hairpins there’s a fast passage followed by a sinuous one and another fast one while the road also widens a bit.

SS5+8 Brianconnet – Entrevaux has been the power stage for two years in a row, now just as a normal stage rounding out the Friday loop. Furthermore, the second half has been altered to use a different route than before – the same that was run last year in the opposite direction on the Val-de-Chalvagne – Entrevaux stage. In contrast to the previous stages, this is mostly a quite new stage, having not featured in the rally before 2021.

2023 (red) and 2021-2022 (blue) Briançonnet – Entrevaux

The start is now 2 km earlier than before. This road is alternating between straightforwardly fast and sinuously slow sections. It appears even narrower because of constant obstacles right next to the road. We can see the beginning from 2 km onwards on this onboard in 4:57, in very treacherous conditions.

At 6.5 km the stage turns left from a hairpin and joins the route of last year’s Val-de-Chalvagne – Entrevaux stage in the opposite direction. It’s also the same section used on the 2015-2017 opening stage, also in the opposite direction.

2023 Briançonnet – Entrevaux (red) and 2015-2017 Entrevaux – Rouaine (or 2023 Rouaine – Entrevaux) (green)

The ending of the stage is a quite narrow road, descending down mostly fast-flowing, with sinuous sections at 7.5 km and 11.9 km, as well as three hairpins between them. Rock walls and railings are constantly at the side of the road, leaving no margin for error. At the very end there’s another more technical section.

Saturday

Saturday goes into the same area as Friday but proceeds further West. Sadly the Saint-Geniez – Thoard stage – a part of the legendary Sisteron with lots of snowy action last year – had to be canceled for this year and replaced with another stage. Again there’s only 111 stage kilometres but no proper servicing.

Saturday kicks off with SS9+12 Le Fugeret – Thoraume-Haute was driven once last year. In the past it has been drive’n in a longer format under the titles Annot – Pont de Villaron and La Colle – St. Michel, as early as 1981 but not after 1997.

The start is on a medium wide and quite smooth road in a village with houses close to the road. Soon the stage becomes a bit wider going uphill into the mountainside with mostly medium pace and some narrow bridges. There’s a very fast passage in the middle of the stage on top of the col. After that the stage starts descending again at medium pace. Finally it becomes narrower and more technical at 14.5 km until the end.

Next up is SS10+13 Malijai – Puimichel, which was the opening stage of 2020 in the dark. The beginning of the stage was also run last year as the ending of the Saint-Jeannet – Malijai stage. This stage also was used often in the 80’s and early 90’s, twice with the title La Chaffaut.

2023 Malijai – Puimichel (red) and 2022 Saint-Jeannet – Malijai (turquoise)

The stage begins on a quite wide and smooth-surfaced but occasionally bumpy road. It’s turning all the time while being still quite fast, with some sinuous passages and several narrow bridges on the way. There’s even some jumps at the end of the section.

At 5.4 km the stage turns from a hairpin left onto a road with more worn and patchy tarmac. It starts climbing up sinuously with medium pace. The two biggest rhythm changes on this section are a fast passage at 6.1 km and the last two kilometres after the climbing has ended, with a more fast-flowing character. This latter half of the stage can be seen on this 1991 onboard

SS11+14 Ubraye – Entrevaux is a reversed version of the 2015-2017 opening stage and thus will share the ending with Friday’s SS5+8. We can see it on this onboard from 2015 in the opposite direction. The section shared with SS5+8 (and last year’s Val-de-Chalvagne – Entrevaux) ends at 6:08. This will likely be the fastest stage of the rally. This stage featured once in 1983 (with the 2021-2022 power stage ending, in reversed direction) but wasn’t then used before 2015.

The stage starts on a quite narrow and patchy worn road with a technical section having rock wall close to the road. As the stage goes into a forest the road becomes wider and a bit faster with still tight turns on the way. At 5 km it changes character into narrower but very fast and flowing over crests and cambered corners, with only occasional tighter corners, in a forest/countryside setting. There’s even some jumps at 6 km, after which the stage becomes again wider. The character doesn’t change until we join the ending of Friday’s closing stage at 13.8 km where it becomes narrower and there’s two more sinuous sections and three hairpins, as well as many obstacles close to the road going downhill to the finish.

Sunday

Sunday is a relatively long final day, packing as much as 67 km of stages. The route takes the crews back to Turini for a double loop of two stages with no service or tyre change in between.

SS15+17 Luceram – Lantosque was last year’s opening stage. This year it’s extended a bit from the end. The stage is one of the staples run all the way from 1973 when titled Col de la Porte. Sometimes the stage has also been titled Loda.

Luceram – Lantosque 2023 (red) and 2022 (brown)

The start is on a wide but slightly worn and bumpy road, climbing up through several hairpins with also a few faster passages. At 4.1 km the road becomes narrower, bumpier and more worn, while the character turns more technical with constant sharp turns and only occasional faster passages. The downhill section of the stage is on the North side of the col, meaning it will likely be more slippery.

Sunday is rounded out with two more runs of Thursday’s Col de Turini stage, the latter run acting also as the power stage.

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