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Monte-Carlo Rally: the WRC reinvents itself to bounce back from its deserting champions

With only eight cars and three manufacturers (Toyota, Hyundai, Ford) engaged full-time in the premier category, the WRC has struggled to appeal in recent years, as can be seen by the partial defections of several stars like Rovanperä (23 years old) or the French Sébastien Ogier (40 years old), eight-time world champion and who will continue to follow a lighter program, as in 2022 and 2023.

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Monte-Carlo Rally: the WRC reinvents itself to bounce back from its deserting champions

With only eight cars and three manufacturers (Toyota, Hyundai, Ford) engaged full-time in the premier category, the WRC has struggled to appeal in recent years, as can be seen by the partial defections of several stars like Rovanperä (23 years old) or the French Sébastien Ogier (40 years old), eight-time world champion and who will continue to follow a lighter program, as in 2022 and 2023.

“Perhaps the optimal number of manufacturers would be four in order to have 10-12 cars in each race, but the discipline will continue to grow this year regardless. Obviously, we would have liked Kalle to defend his title, but that will not prevent the championship from being exciting and very open,” Andrew Wheatley, director of road events for the International Cycling Federation, told AFP. automobile (FIA).

The body, organizer of the competition, therefore decided to modify this year the allocation of points during the races and in particular on Sunday, where the drivers tended to save time for the last special, the “Power Stage”. , which sees the first five score additional championship points in addition to the 25 units promised to the winner of the rally.

Thus, the top ten at the end of Saturday will be awarded points, including 18 to the leader of the event. And on Sunday, the first seven will collect points, including seven for the leading duo. The “Power Stage”, for its part, will always reward the five fastest with five points for its winner.

The FIA ​​thus hopes to revitalize the entire weekend but more particularly Sunday, which was less spectacular: “This will bring an interesting dynamic on Sunday morning because the leading crews will have to fight for all the points,” underlined to AFP Andrew Wheatley.

Furthermore, the FIA ​​set up a working group at the end of 2023 to work on the future of the discipline, which will report its conclusions and propose its ideas to the World Motor Sport Council in February.

Pending possible reforms, three drivers are favorites on the starting line for the 2024 season: Estonian Ott Tänak, 2019 world champion returning to Hyundai after a year at Ford, his Belgian teammate Thierry Neuville and Welshman Elfyn Evans, who will have the difficult task of extending the hegemony of Toyota, three-time reigning world champion among manufacturers.

This weekend at the Monte-Carlo Rally, local hero Sébastien Ogier will attempt on the roads around Gap, his hometown, to win at the wheel of his Toyota Yaris a record tenth title in the event, a ninth in the WRC.

“It’s an unmissable event and there are high hopes for this rally. This ordeal still exerts the same magic on me. Of course, we don't forget our first victory in such a rally, but honestly, the sensations remain the same. If I could achieve a tenth victory in this event, it would be something very special,” explained the Gapençais.

In the absence of Rovanperä, who will begin his season in three weeks in Sweden, the Frenchman will especially have to be wary of Tänak, Neuville and Evans, unless his compatriot Adrien Fourmaux (M-Sport Ford), back full time in the premier category after a year of absence, does not create any surprises.

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