Star-studded entry list marks Monte Carlo Rally centenary
Leading drivers from F1, rallying and sportscars will descend on Monte Carlo in a few days in a bid to win world rallying's greatest event.
The Monte Carlo Rally is the sport's jewel in the crown. If you want comparisons, think football World Cup, the Ashes and Wimbledon and you'll get an idea of how big the Monte is. Which makes this year's event even bigger as the rally celebrates its centenary with an entry list that was heavily over-subscribed.
So, who will be on the starting line on 19 January for four days and nights of rallying that will test drivers' nerves and skills on narrow icy mountain road above the Principality?
Well, since the rally was dropped from the World Rally Championship calendar in 2009 - a real shot in the foot by the FIA there - the Monte has been part of the Intercontinental Rally Challenge, with many of the leading stars absent.
However, a number have since returned and so fans can look forward to seeing former world champion Petter Solberg hope to break his Monte duck as well as Francois Delecour, Chris Atkinson and Toni Gardemeister. There's also the added attraction of current F1 driver, Robert Kubica, who will be making his Monte debut.
To discover why the Monte is so special to competitors and fans alike we must hark back to a time when Monte Carlo seemed a million miles - geographically, socially and financially - away for most people. Travel was far less a common event than it is today, so to set off from different points around Europe in the dead of winter with the aim of reaching the Mediterranean was a real challenge. Other rallies were running before Monte Carlo's debut in 1911 but none had such a sense of adventure.
For drivers, winning the Monte Carlo can be a career highlight but that's not to say the rally is a popular event. Many of the stages are run on narrow, twisty mountain roads often with sheer drops to contend with. Add the unpredictability of the road conditions into the mix - drivers can find the tarmac, dry, wet, ice or snow-covered on a single stage - and the potential for disaster is very real. Never mind winning the rally, reaching the end is achievement in itself when you have to drive in such conditions.
The event runs from 19-22 January. Before all that, click on the video below for action from 2010.