Rallye Monte-Carlo: Preview
TOYOTA GAZOO Racing targets the top step on classic season opener
The TOYOTA GAZOO Racing World Rally Team is preparing for the 2021 season to begin with Rallye Monte-Carlo on January 21-24, and has its sights set on victory on the legendary winter event. Since the Toyota Yaris WRC came second in 2017 on its debut in the FIA World Rally Championship, the team has finished with at least one car in the podium positions in Monaco every year. It aims to climb to the top step this time around with its continuing full-season driver line-up, formed of seven-time and reigning champion Sébastien Ogier, last year’s runner-up Elfyn Evans and rising star Kalle Rovanperä.
Ogier is a seven-time winner of Rallye Monte-Carlo, which is based in his hometown of Gap in the French Alps. The oldest rally on the WRC calendar – which this year celebrates its 110th anniversary – is also one of the most challenging, thanks to the changeable conditions which can range from dry asphalt to snow and ice, sometimes within a single stage. This means tyre choice is often a critical element of the rally.
This year, the teams will be using new tyres from Pirelli, which becomes the sole supplier of the WRC’s top categories. In the six weeks since the final round of the 2020 season, the team has tested in France with the four tyre options for Rallye Monte-Carlo in a range of different weather conditions typical of the event.
The rally is set to start on Thursday afternoon with a pair of stages just to the north of Gap. On Friday morning the crews will head west for three new stages, two of which will be repeated after midday service. Saturday morning takes the rally to the east for two stages prior to the final service in Gap, with the La Bréole – Selonnet test to then be run for a second time before the crews make the journey to Monaco. The final day takes place further to the west of the Principality than usual, with a pair of stages to each be run twice.
Jari-Matti Latvala (Team Principal)
“Building up to Rallye Monte-Carlo this year is a very different feeling for me in this new role; seeing the cars in the workshop and not thinking about driving them but instead making sure that everybody in the team is ready for the first round of the season. The atmosphere in the team is very good. This time last year it was the first rally for all three drivers in the Yaris WRC, and still, Seb and Elfyn were both fighting for the victory. Now they are more familiar with the car, so they should be in a stronger position. As we know, Monte is probably the most demanding event of the year, and there can always be surprises and the weather conditions can play a big role. But I feel that we are well prepared. Moving to a different tyre supplier is usually quite a big change and this has been the focus of the team’s testing for Monte; getting comfortable with the new Pirelli tyres and getting the car setup correctly. There has been quite a lot of snow in the area but we have been able to try out all of the different tyre options in the various different conditions, and this will be valuable information for the rally.”