The World Rally Championship (WRC) embarks on a new season with the Monte Carlo event, marking the absence of defending champion Kalle Rovanpera, who has opted for part-time racing to focus on personal pursuits.
The Finn's decision follows in the footsteps of Toyota teammate Sebastien Ogier, who will also race selectively. Toyota, aiming for a fourth consecutive title, fields a lineup including Elfyn Evans and Takamoto Katsuta, while Ford and Hyundai contribute to the manufacturer competition.
The Monte Carlo rally, now headquartered in Ogier's hometown Gap, offers an opportunity for Ogier to secure a record 10th win.
With Rovanpera sitting out, Evans eyes the chance to pursue his first WRC title. Ford introduces Frenchman Adrien Fourmaux and Belgian-Luxembourger Gregoire Munster, both promoted from WRC2, as part of their lineup.
Hyundai welcomes back Finn Andreas Mikkelsen alongside Thierry Neuville, aiming for their maiden drivers' world title. The calendar, comprising 13 rallies, sees the return of Poland and Latvia while dropping Mexico and Estonia. Organizers have adjusted scoring rules to prevent drivers from conserving tires for the power stage, emphasizing fair competition.
The decision of Rovanpera and Ogier to race part time reflects a trend of drivers seeking balance between professional commitments and personal interests. Toyota, as the dominant force in recent seasons, faces competition from Ford and Hyundai in the pursuit of WRC glory.
The Monte Carlo rally, steeped in history, provides a fitting backdrop for the start of the season, with drivers like Evans aspiring to etch their names in the annals of WRC champions. The 2024 WRC season promises exciting challenges and intense competition among top-tier drivers and manufacturers.