20/01/2022 Off By admin


The 90th edition of the legendary Rallye Monte Carlo got underway in the darkness of the mountains to the north on Monaco with the first of two night stages. SS1 Lucéram – Lantosque at 15km in length took the honours for opening up the 2022 FIA World Rally Championship season, in this all-new Hybrid technological era.

The conditions were dry with an air temperature of around 4 degrees but although there was a lack of snow and ice this year, the opening stage was still to be a challenging one to kick off the proceedings with.

Reigning and 8 times World Champion Sébastien Ogier, who topped the timings in the mornings Shakedown test, led the crews away for Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT, launching his all-new Toyota GR Yaris Rally1 off the start line. The Frenchman was alongside Co-Driver Benjamin Veillas for the first time in competition and set the benchmark time but at the stop line he said:

“It didn’t feel so great, it wasn’t easy and I was a little bit safe to be honest”.

The times though told a different story, Ogier had recorded a time that was 9.3-seconds faster than his team-mate Elfyn Evans who followed him into the stage and 15.9-sec faster than the leading Hyundai of Thierry Neuville.

Perhaps the surprise performance of this opening stage came from the M-Sport Ford Pumas, first to cross the line was Irishman Craig Breen who despite having what he described as “An average stage” got the better of Neuville, but then astonishing along came Brit Gus Greensmith to trump Breen. 

On the other hand, what was maybe not so much of a surprise was the performance of Sébastien Loeb, who secured the second-fastest stage time, 4.5 seconds behind Stage winner Ogier. This was a great result for his first-ever competitive stage in a Ford World Rally car. 

“We had a good start, It feels really good – a lot of power and the feeling with this car is great” Loeb said at the stop line.

Loeb is reportedly looking to have more outings in the WRC this year and will be looking to his sponsors Red Bull to perhaps make that happen. So we may well see him once again out to play in the Ford Puma.

Photo: Red Bull Content Pool


The crews then headed for the legendary Col-De-Turini to climb up the iconic mountain summit, tackling the longest test of the whole rally, the SS2 La Bollène-Vésubie Moulinet stage at 23km in length.

The conditions were good, the run-up the Col was dry with only a short damp section on the descent. Ogier pushed on and reached the finish line with a slight air of relief to be through this opening night of The Monte in this new Yaris GR.

For Thierry Neuville, after he left the stop line, his Hyundai i20 left behind a puddle of some oily like substance, which potentially came from the gearbox, thankfully for the Belgian, it was back to service for the overnight halt. Teammate Ott Tänak’s face told a story of disappointment already. Facing engine issues since the pre-event shakedown, his troubles continued on into the night to affect his opening night performance. Young Oliver Solberg was plagued with intercom issues and then spun his i20 at the top of the Col, for Hyundai the opening night of action was a bit of a poor showing all around.

Loeb has many years of tackling the Col De Turini stage under his belt and used all of his experience to claw back a little time to the overnight Rally leader, Ogier. Loeb posted a time that was just 1.3-seconds slower than Ogier on the second stage but Ogier was heading into the overnight lead of the rally with 6.7-seconds in hand.

“It’s a little bit better in there” “We are just trying little things in the car and we are happy to be through.”

Sébastien Ogier

Elfyn Evans rounded off the top three a further 11.7 seconds off the pace of the two French rallying legends but let’s not forget that he is the only one to be competing in the full season.

Photo: Sébastien Loeb | SS2 – Col De Turini | Red Bull Content Pool / Jaanus Ree


The performance of the Toyota’s was to be expected and we knew that Hyundai were late to the party both in their commitment and their Hybrid programme. That opening night of competition and the problems that the Hyundai crews had experienced has shown that the delays from the Korean outfit has really hurt the Hyundai teams performance out on the stages.

Hyundai clearly have a lot of work to do if they are to contemplate all cars finishing the rally, let alone challenging for the rally win. So much so that they now also appear to have the likes of M-Sport Ford to content with this season.

In the M-Sport Ford camp, it was all smiles from the Boss Malcolm Wilson and Team Principle, Richard Milner and that was understandably so, considering their drivers were singing the praises of the new Puma Rally 1 car that the team had built.

“We were very happy with that” “It’s a fantastic start but a very long rally and a very long season, but we are over the moon with the pace of the car that the guys have shown there.”

Richard Milner – M-Sport Ford
Photo: M-Sport Ford WRT


In the WRC2 field, reigning champ Andreas Mikkelsen was back in the Skoda Fabia Rally 2 EVO with the TokSport WRT team to defend his title. This time around, however, he had Torstein Eriksen beside him who parts ways from Mads Ostberg. The Norwegian pair would face a decent selection of competition on the Monte this year.

It would be local boy Eric Camilli in the Citroën C3 Rally 2 car who would top the timings on the opening test, getting the better of Russain rocket, Nikolay Gryazin by 5.1 seconds.

For Brit Chris Ingrim, that opening test on his first-ever Monte would be one hell of a baptism of fire. Stepping up to the WRC2 this year with Tok Sport WRT in a Rally2 Skoda Fabio EVO, however, the young Brit arrived at the stop-line off SS1 stuck in 3rd gear. Facing another stage in the darkness the re-group between the two night stages was his only chance of fixing the issue.

Whilst Gryazin was arriving at the stop line of SS2 with flames coming from his left rear wheel, out front Eric Camili was stretching out his lead over Andreas Mikkelsen to lead the WRC2 category by 9.1-seconds heading into the overnight halt.

Ingram alongside Co-Driver Ross Whittock were late at the time control for the second stage and was slapped with a 10-min time penalty. This opening night was not the start the British pair were hoping for and put them on the back foot so early on.

Words By Andy Cook | Feature Photo: Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT / Sophie Graillon