FIA World Rally Championship, Rallye Monte Carlo

7 February 2016

The blend of tarmac, ice and snow, the unrivalled atmosphere and the sheer beauty of the landscape makes the Rallye Monte-Carlo an unmissable experience

When you start to talk about the world’s most iconic motorsport events a few names spring to mind; the Le Mans 24 Hours, the Monaco Grand Prix, Indy 500, and last but by no means least, the Rallye Monte-Carlo.

An event draped in history makes this one of the all time greats. The event has been run ever since 1911 with legends such as Paddy Hopkirk, Walter Rohrl, Tommi Makinen, Carlos Sainz and now Sebastien Ogier taking the win at this iconic event.

So what makes the Rallye Monte-Carlo so unique? It’s blend of tarmac, ice and snow certainly helps its appeal with part of the challenge picking the right tyres for the stages ahead. As a driver, you’ll always never be on the right tyre as the conditions constantly change. Seeing the drivers tip toe around corners covered in sheet ice may not sound like a spectacle to watch but these roads would be virtually impassable for any sane human being, perhaps that says something about a rally driver’s mentality…

The atmosphere of the Rallye Monte-Carlo is also not to be missed. I’ve been to a few fair FIA World Rally Championship events nowadays but the atmosphere on this one is definitely one of the best. Crowds flock to the stages to catch the best of the action – all searching for those elusive snow covered sections. It’s the most spectators that I’ve ever seen heading towards rally stages. Even Wednesday afternoons ‘shakedown’ was positively heaving with crowds gathered not only in the stage but also around the starting area and queue leading into the stage. You don’t see access like this in any other motorsport.

My “Monte-Carlo” moment occurred whilst I watched cars tackle a particularly treacherous hairpin turn on a hill opposite. Whilst photographically speaking it wasn’t a particularly amazing view point it was fantastic to watch the different approaches the drivers had. Along with the small crowd that had gathered along side me began a diving style scoring system as fans would cheer louder if the driver made a particularly good effort. This is part of the Monte-Carlo experience.

The next reason why Monte is an iconic rally is the roads. Whilst they may well be covered in ice, snow, mud and anything else in-between really they are some of the best roads in the world. As they skirt along the edges of hugely impressive mountains as the roads traverse the beautiful peaks of the Alps. Just even utter the words ‘Col de Turini’ to any rally fan and watch them instantly light up – the Col de Turini is as famous as any old school race track.

There’s no wonder why landscape photographers love this area so much – it’s jaw droppingly pretty. From the towering mountains to the idyllic Alp villages and ski-resorts…it’s all just incredible.

As a spectator Monte-Carlo is not easy – we definitely didn’t have a problem free rally but we powered through and we’ve learnt more for when we return hopefully in 2017.