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91st Automobile Rally Monte-Carlo: Monaco stays in focus

The exceptional sometimes tends to replicate! Following the huge success of its previous edition, and under the recommendation of the Organizing Committee at Automobile Club de Monaco (ACM), Rally Monte-Carlo 2023, the inaugural event of FIA World Rally Championship (WRC), will again settle down next winter in the Principality. More compact geographically, but still very selective, the rally route – with 50% of the itinerary being modified, compared to 2022 – will have new features and a high number of difficulties, thanks to a series of very demanding special stages in the departments of Alpes-Maritimes and Alpes-de-Haute-Provence.

After three days devoted to recce, from Monday January 16 to Wednesday January 18, it will be time for the shakedown session, scheduled for Thursday January 19 from 9:31 am. Reserved to Priority 1 drivers only, and closed to the public for safety reasons, it will use the Col des Banquettes road (744m) towards Peille, starting from Place Saint-Sébastien in Sainte-Agnès, the highest coastline village in Europe. A winding climb of 2.29km and a perfect road to make final set-up adjustments before the official start on the same evening, from 6.30 pm, in the sumptuous setting of Place du Casino in Monte-Carlo. On the menu for this very first “Turini” night session, two special stages for a total of 40.02km, including a brand new version of “La Bollène-Vésubie / Col de Turini” (SS1 – 15.12km – 8:05 pm), starting for the very first time from Camp de Millo, and a very pacy stage “La Cabanette / Col de Castillon” (SS2 – 24.90km – 9:03 pm) which, for the very first time in the history of the rally, will allow drivers to race through five passes in a row: Col de l’Orme (1000m) then Col de l’Ablé (1149m), Col de Braus (1002m), Col Saint-Jean (642m) and Col de Castillon (706m).

On Friday January 20, crews will be heading for the north of the Alpes-Maritimes department and the second day of racing will total 105.34km against the clock. With a loop of three special stages to be covered twice, and an intermediate stop for a regroup and change of tires in Puget-Théniers, this will be a tough cocktail of hardships! Starting with “Roure / Beuil” (SS3/6 – 18.33km – 09:09 am / 2:08 pm) to be run at the foot of the Mercantour National Park, via Col de la Couillole (1678m), then a demanding sequence consisting of “Puget-Théniers / Saint-Antonin” (SS 4/7 – 19.79km – 10:22 am / 3:21 pm) followed by “Briançonnet / Entrevaux” (SS5/8 – 14.55km – 11:25 am / 4:24 pm) via Col du Buis (1196m) and Val-de-Chalvagne. In other words, this 2nd leg promises to be lively!

Next on the menu are Alpes-de-Haute-Provence for the third day of racing on Saturday January 21. The longest day of the Rally, starting with the 2022 version of “Le Fugeret / Thorame-Haute” (SS9/12 – 16.80km – 8:24am/2:25pm), and continuing « Malijai / Puimichel » (SS10/13 – 17.31km – 10:05am/4:05pm) and « Ubraye / Entrevaux » (SS11/14 – 21.78km – 12:23am by day / 6:23pm by night). This loop will be run twice for a total length of 111.78km for six special stages, before and after a tyre changing zone and a compulsory regroup in Puget-Théniers, just like Friday.

Last but not least, for the final leg on Sunday January 22, four special stages totaling 67.88km are scheduled, still without assistance. Two well-known stages in the hinterland, in the north-east of Alpes-Maritimes, to be covered twice by all the remaining crews, and not limited to 50 competitors by the regulations, as in previous years, in order to thank amateur crews for their commitment over the past few years. They will all have to deal with the long version of a traditional stage, “Lucéram / Lantosque” (SS15/17 – 18.82km – 07:57 am / 10:40 am) and a couple of passes in the inaugural stage of this 2023 edition “La Bollène-Vésubie / Col de Turini (SS 16/18 – 15.12km – 09:05 am / 12:18 pm). This famous special stage, at the second pass, will serve as Power Stage. Crews will then return to Monaco around 2:30 pm to pass the finish line, the best of them heading then to the Prize- Giving Ceremony on Place du Casino.

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