Rallye Monte Carlo heralds the return of the World Rally Championship with one of the most unpredictable events of the year. In its 76th running, this four day rally is a notoriously tricky combination of snow, ice and demanding routes which often produces some surprise results.

Crews will leave the service park in Valence, near the river Rhône in south-east France, for three of the four days of competition until the finish of Saturday’s stages, at which point the WRC contingent will decamp to a second service park location in Monaco, opposite the Automobile Club de Monaco headquarters.

The asphalt roads twist and flow through the breathtaking but notoriously tricky mountain stages of the region. A welcome inclusion of the Alpes Maritimes region on Sunday will see crews tackle the spectacular Col de Turini and finish the rally with a high-speed blast around the harbour section of the famed Monaco Grand Prix circuit.

The 365 kilometres of competition starts on Thursday evening with two night stages. There is no gentle start to the year: the opening stage is just shy of being the longest of the event at over 28 kilometres.

The weather in January in Monte Carlo will be typically cold, and this year the rally has been scheduled one week later in an attempt to ensure the snow that the rally just missed last season. In the first rally in which the teams will use the Pirelli championship control tyre, there will be three options: the DS soft slick tyre, the snow WX tyre without metal studs, and the WX tyre with studs that provide extra traction on icy sections.

The team’s driver lineup remains unchanged; Petter Solberg will commence his tenth season alongside co-driver Phil Mills in one of the most established pairings in the WRC. Rallye Monte Carlo will be the duo’s 122nd rally on the world stage together.

In the second Impreza will be Chris Atkinson and co-driver Stéphane Prévot, who started together in Argentina last season. Spanish duo Xevi Pons and Xavier Amigo are missing from the entry list however, their negotiations with the team still ongoing.

The Subaru World Rally Team have entered two Impreza WRC2007s for Rallye Monte Carlo. Petter Solberg / Phil Mills will drive car number five and Chris Atkinson/ Stéphane Prévot will be in car number six. Petter and Phil have competed on these roads seven times. Chris, on his second visit, had his best finish of fourth overall in 2007 courtesy of three stage wins.

Team quotes
David Richards, Subaru World Rally Team Principal: “Monte Carlo Rally has often turned out to be a lottery, where the weather has thrown up some opportunistic and historic victories, and if we can snatch those chances, who knows? I wouldn’t be at all surprised if either of our drivers climbed the podium. It’s one of those events where anything can happen.”

Paul Howarth, Subaru World Rally Team operations director: “Monte Carlo is an event that is all about tyres. This year there will be a lot of snow and stages run in the dark, so consistency and optimizing the grip level on the changeable asphalt will be crucial to a good result. There are a lot of competitive drivers this season all bidding for top spots, so it will be a measure of pushing for pace without throwing it away in the opening round.”

Driver quotes
Petter Solberg: “It is important to get into a rhythm straight away and settle into a pace you feel comfortable with. With no anti-deflation mousse you can’t take risks in the stages as a puncture could finish your rally. There will be a lot of snow I think and Monte is always tricky anyway so it won’t be easy, that’s for sure. It will be about who can make the most of their tyres and adapt to the conditions fastest, but if someone manages something special with them people will follow quickly.”

Chris Atkinson: “It’s going to be an interesting event for sure. It’s raining here in Monaco so I’m sure it’s snowing in the stages already. I’ve never done this event with a lot of snow so it’s new for me. Both times I’ve run this rally we’ve had good results, but I don’t underestimate how much of a challenge it is. Although the tyre choices aren’t wide because we only have one slick and a winter tyre, it’s going to be important when we choose to take each one, and we have to watch out for punctures. I’m definitely looking forward to starting the season again now though.”

Between the rallies
For the Subaru World Rally Team drivers, the off-season was filled with a mixture of testing and media commitments, time with family and friends and preparations for this season. In early January, Petter and Chris took part in an asphalt tyre test near Lyon, France in preparation for Monte Carlo, followed shortly followed by two days in Sweden.

January also saw the return of Estonian Markko Martin to the Subaru World Rally Team in the role of official test driver. Martin, who won the Bettega Memorial Rally aboard a works-supplied and run WRC2007 in December 2007, will commence testing before the end of the month.
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