Ott Tänak sixth after season opening Monte Carlo WRC rally shakedown run
Estonian Rally Driver Ott Tänak is in action in Monte Carlo for the opening stage of the 2023 World Rally Championship (WRC) series. Tänak was in sixth place at the time of writing, after the second initial shakedown run, ahead of the rally proper starting, Thursday evening.
Tänak and his Estonian co-driver Martin Järveoja looked like they would be without a drive for 2023 until the last month of 2022, when they signed for M-Sport Ford, a team both of them have driven for in the past, most recently in 2017.
While the pair have made the podium in Monte Carlo, the traditional season opener, three times, including once for M-Sport back in 2017, they had to pull out in both 2021, after a scary plunge down a ravine in the i20, and 2022, while they were at Hyundai.
Ahead of the shakedown stage, Tänak, 35, from Saaremaa, said: "I really hope we can do better than top six. While getting into the top six usually takes a decent effort, let's say if we made the podium, we'd be happy still.
"The approach we are using is actually one whereby we need good points to start [the season] with. At the same time, doesn't seem like it can be the easiest Monte Carlo race ever. The weather may get in the way, and it could be interesting again, as in the old days, at a proper Monte Carlo rally," he went on.
First run of Shakedown completed. ✔️ #RallyeMonteCarlo #WRC #MSPORTERS #goOtt #TanakFanArmy pic.twitter.com/i9o6cAbvin— Ott Tänak (@OttTanak) January 19, 2023
This year's WRC Rallye Monte-Carlo is the 91st ever, and 75 crews will be starting across the various categories.
M-Sport Ford won the event this time last year, thanks to legendary nine-time world champion Sebastien Loeb, who made some guest drives last season.
The race is 335.02km in length across the regulation four days – Thursday to Sunday – while the ongoing shakedown run covers a 2.29km test, followed by the first two stages proper on Thursday evening (see itinerary below).
The position after the second shakedown run, led by reigning champion Kalle Rovanperä (Finland, Toyota) at the time of writing, can also be seen below.
Monte Carlo Rally itinerary (times in UTC+2, 24-hour clock):
Thursday, January 19
Shakedown run Sainte-Agnès / Peille (2.29 km) - 10.31
SS1 La Bollène-Vésubie / Col de Turini 1 (15.12 km) - 21.05
SS2 La Cabanette / Col de Castillon (24.90 km) - 22.03
Friday, January 20
SS3 Roure / Roubion / Beuil 1 (18.33 km) - 10.09
SS4 Puget-Théniers / Saint-Antonin 1 (19.79 km) - 11.22
SS5 Briançonnet / Entrevaux 1 (14.55 km) - 12.25
Maintenance break - 13.40
SS6 Roure / Roubion / Beuil 2 (18.33 km) - 15.23
SS7 Puget-Théniers / Saint-Antonin 2 (19.79 km) - 16.36
SS8 Briançonnet / Entrevaux 2 (14.55 km) - 17.39
Saturday, January 21
SS9 Le Fugeret / Thorame-Haute 1 (16.80 km) - 9.24
SS10 Malijai / Puimichel 1 (17.31 km) - 11.05
SS11 Ubraye / Entrevaux 1 (21.78 km) - 13.17
Maintenance break - 14.36
SS12 Le Fugeret / Thorame-Haute 2 (16.80 km) - 15.31
SS13 Malijai / Puimichel 2 (17.31 km) - 17.05
SS14 Ubraye / Entrevaux 2 (21.78 km) - 19.23
Sunday, January 22
SS15 Lucéram / Lantosque 1 (18.82 km) - 08.57
SS16 La Bollène-Vésubie / Col de Turini 2 (15.12 km) - 10.05
SS17 Lucéram / Lantosque 2 (18.82 km) - 11.40
SS18/Punktikatse La Bollène-Vésubie / Col de Turini 3 (15.12 km) - 13.18
Hyundai's main drivers remain Thierry Neuville (Belgium) and Dani Sordo (Spain), joined by another Finn, Esapekka Lappi, who joined the team after Tänak left late last year.
Another French legend and another Sebastien, Ogier, is reportedly favourite for the race, driving for Toyota alongside Rovanperä, Welshman Elfyn Evans and Japanese driver Takamoto Katsuta.
M-Sport Ford, Toyota and Hyundai remain the only teams competing at the top level.
Tänak won the WRC championship in 2019 with Toyota, after which he moved to Hyundai, where he often struggled. He put together six wins in the three seasons however, with last season being his best of these, winning in Sardinia, Belgium and Finland.
Readers with Estonian can follow ERR' sports portal's live blog here, while the calendar for the full 2023 WRC season is below (or if you can't make that out, here).
Editor: Andrew Whyte