Rallye Monte Carlo sorts WRC list
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Most of the 2017 World Rally Championship team-and-driver jigsaw has come together with the publication of the Rallye Monte Carlo entry list.
The field for the January 19-22 season opener comprises 11 factory team crews with three-car efforts from M-Sport (Ford), Hyundai and Citroen. while Toyota debuts with a pair of its new Yaris WRC machines.
Defending world champion Sebastien Ogier (France) has carried No. 1 with him on his move from the discontinued Volkswagen Motorsport effort to his new Ford Fiesta WRC. He’ll campaign in Red Bull colours for the M-Sport squad.
Ogier’s teammates will be Estonian Ott Tanak and Welshman Elfyn Evans, who returns to the top level of the sport after contesting WRC2 and British Rally Championship events in 2016. Tanak has a new co-driver with compatriot Martin Jarveoja taking over from Raigo Molder.
The Hyundai Motorsport line-up of Kiwi Hayden Paddon, Belgian Thierry Neuville and Spaniard Dani Sordo carry car numbers 4, 5 and 6 respectively on the new i20 Coupe WRC.
Citroen Racing gets 7 and 8 with Kris Meeke (GB) and Stephane Lefebrve (France) debuting the new C3 WRC in Monte Carlo while Craig Breen (Ireland) will start the season in a 2016 specification Citroen DS3.
Toyota’s return with its new Yaris-based contender will see Jari-Matti Latvala (Finland) in car 10 and Juho Hanninen (Finland) campaigning No. 11 for Toyota Gazoo Racing WRC.
One leading driver missing from the Monte Carlo entry list is Norway’s Mads Ostberg. He’s expected to announce a 2017 programme driving a 2017 Ford Fiesta beginning at the second round in Sweden.
There is just one entry for the new WRC Trophy for privateers in 2016 specification cars, with Greek driver Jourdan Serderidis fielding a Citroen DS3. There is no sign of either 2016 or new 2017 Volkswagen Polo WRC cars appearing in the hands of private teams.
The Monte Carlo entry list features a host of WRC2 contenders competing in the second-tier championship headed by Norway’s Andreas Mikkelsen.
He is the most recent winner of a WRC event — the 2016 finale in Australia — but having been left out in the cold by Volkswagen’s exit from the sport he will start the season with Skoda Motorsport in WRC2. His team-mate is Czech driver Jan Kopecky.
Also stepping down to WRC2 is young Frenchman Eric Camilli in a M-Sport entered Fiesta R5 while Quentin Gilbert (France) will chase WRC2 success with the new Hyundai i20 R5 car and former Monte Carlo winner Bryan Bouffier (France) will also campaign a Fiesta R5.
There are several R5 front runners not entered in the WRC2 category. They include Hyundai test driver Kevin Abbring (Netherlands), Sweden’s Pontus Tidemand (Skoda) and French driver Simone Tempestini in a Citroen.
World endurance champion Romain Dumas (France) will hurry home from the Dakar Rally — where he is campaigning a Peugeot 2008 DKR — to start in an R-GT class Porsche 911.
R-GT interest is also boosted, with a trio of new Abarth 124 entries including former Monte Carlo winner Francois Delecour (France).
The Monte Carlo Rally has a four-day format, beginning with two evening stages on Thursday January 19 and running through till Sunday, January 22. There are 17 special stages that provide 382.65km of competitive driving.