If someone were to ask you what makes Rally Monte Carlo so unique, the answers would be too numerous to count. Where to begin? How about the glamor of the ceremonial start in Monaco? Perhaps you would mention the heritage of the rally and the legends who have driven over its stages through the years. Then there’s the incredible difficulty of the event with its twisting mountain roads and unpredictable weather conditions. There isn’t another rally in the WRC, or any other championship in the world for that matter, that comes close to the challenge that Monte throws down. Let’s not forget the obvious… most of the time, it signifies the start of a new season, full of anticipation and excitement for the future.
While it may not be as obvious as some of the reasons stated above, there is another way that Rally Monte Carlo is one of the most special rallies of the year. As tough and unforgiving as the Monte can be, at times it seems to smile on an unlikely hero. Over the past few years, at the end of Leg 1, there have been one or two unexpected surprises towards the top of the timesheets. Remember 10 years ago back in 2006? In his Monte Carlo debut, Chris Atkinson finished Leg 1 in an incredible 2nd place! Though he dropped some time through the next two days, he still managed a very respectable finish in 6th. Fast-forward to 2014, and it was Bryan Bouffier in a privateer Fiesta that was leading the rally after the first day. He went on to his best ever WRC finish in 2nd place. Let’s not forget the incredible drama of Leg 1 last year. We all knew Sebastien Loeb would have some pace, but no one expected him to jump out to a 30 second lead over the defending world champion in just one stage!
So what surprise will Monte Carlo hold for us this year? Who will it smile upon? Will it be a young driver making a big splash? If I were to put money down, I’d have to go with Eric Camilli. He may be the “sleeper” of this rally. The Monte is his WRC debut so no one is going to be expecting too much from him, and that could be the perfect situation for a great result. On top of that, Eric has done most of his rallying on French tarmac, so he is a bit of a specialist on these types of roads. Keep an eye on this kid, he might have something special this weekend.