Paddon among 14 WRC entries for Rallye Monte Carlo
The first set of answers to the questions surrounding the 2016 World Rally Championship have been answered with the publication of the entry list for Rallye Monte Carlo which starts January 21.
The winter classic raced on often snow and ice-covered tarmac mountain roads promises to provide one of the strongest fields of the season.
Volkswagen and Hyundai will field three car factory efforts on all 14 rounds of the expanded championship.
Citroen will also be present in Monte Carlo - one of an as yet unconfirmed number of events on a limited schedule – while speculation still surrounds whether the M-Sport Ford Fiestas will run the complete season.
The world champion Volkswagen Motorsport squad will make its usual three car effort with world champion Sebastien Ogier (France) supported by Jari-Matti Latvala (Finland) and Andreas Mikkelsen (Norway). The German marque powered to a 1-2-3 clean sweep in Monte Carlo 12 months ago.
The biggest anticipation surrounds the debut of Hyundai’s second generation i20 WRC contender.
The new five-door i20 WRC features a new engine and upgrades across almost all components – only the brakes are carried over from the first generation car – and carries the hopes of all rally fans eager to see a serious threat to Volkswagen’s superiority.
Hyundai's new World Rally Championship contender i20 WRC.
Hyundai Motorsport has entered three cars with Thierry Neuville (Belgium) and Dani Sordo (Spain) set to debut new cars.
Kiwi star Hayden Paddon is expected to have a 2015 spec car for his Monte Carlo debut with the number 20 Hyundai Motorsport N entry.
Northern Ireland’s Kris Meeke recently signed a new three-year Citroen contact. It will focus new car development and a limited programme of rallies in preparation for the 2017 season.
The team is running under the Abu Dhabi Total World Rally Team banner – with no mention of Citroen in the official team name. Meeke will be joined by young Frenchman Stephane Lefebvre for the opening round.
The two official M-Sport Fiestas registered for Manufacturer points will be driven by Norway’s Mads Ostberg and young Frenchman Eric Camilli. The ranks of the Fiesta fleet also includes cars for Robert Kubica (Poland), Ott Tanak (Estonia), 2011 Monte Carlo winner Bryan Bouffier (France), Lorenzo Bertelli (Italy).
It makes a 14-strong entry of WRC cars for Rallye Monte Carlo and it will be interesting to see how often that number of WRC-spec cars is matched or exceeded during the following 13 events.
Rallye Monte Carlo has a slight variation from the usual three-day format for modern WRC events. There will be two night stages on Thursday January 21 (totalling 41.63km) as the rally heads from the ceremonial start in Monaco’s Casino Square to its main base at Gap.
There are six stages on Friday (116km) and five on Saturday (174km), when the majority of the competitive mileage is provided by two runs through the 51.55km Lardier Et Valencia-Faye stage.
A short Sunday morning loop of three stages (45.5km) includes the traditional run across the Col du Turini before the finish in Monaco.
2016 FIA World Rally Championship
Rally Monte Carlo January 22-24
Rally Sweden February 12-14
Rally Mexico March 04-06
Rally Argentina April 22-24
Rally Portugal May 20-22
Rally Italy June 10-12
Rally Poland July 01-03
Rally Finland July 29-31
Rally Germany August 19-21
Rally China September 09-11
Rally France September 30-October 02
Rally Spain October 14-16
Rally GB October 28-30
Rally Australia November 18-20