The WRC 2017 season begins in Monte Carlo

2017 FIA World Rally Championship / Round 01 / Rallye Monte-Carlo / 16-22 January 2017 // Worldwide copyright: Hyundai Motorsport GmbH / RaceEmotion

The first round of the World Rally Championship got underway last night with the annual season opener in Monte Carlo.

This is the first opportunity for fans to see the new generation of cars following a rule change by the FIA and WRC organisers, which gives the car more power and stability through the corners.

However, the first night of racing was overshadowed by an accident involving Hyundai's Hayden Paddon and a spectator, who has since died in hospital.

In a statement, Hyundai Motorsport said: "We are deeply saddened to learn of the tragic passing of a spectator during the opening stage of Rallye Monte-Carlo on Thursday evening.

"The incident occurred at the same time as the #4 Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC of Hayden Paddon and John Kennard crashed into the mountainside, after the car hit a patch of black ice at the entry to a left-hand turn.

"The team and crew have pledged their full support to the event organisers and authorities to understand the full details.

"Hyundai Motorsport extends its condolences to the family, friends and individuals affected."

Paddon's car was later retired as a sign of respect to the spectator, who is yet to be named.

With the power output of all the cars up from 330bhp to more than 380bhp, the cars should be faster than last year's models and with the addition of an active central differential, handling will be much improved through tight corners.

Last year's second-placed team Hyundai Motorsport return with the i20 Coupe WRC, while M-Sport is running the latest generation Ford Fiesta.

Citroën and Toyota are both returning to the championship full time after some time out of the sport. Citroën is taking the championship on in the C3 WRC, after spending last season to develop the new car, while Toyota is back on the WRC scene following an 18-year absence.

The Rallye Monte-Carlo continues until Sunday.

The WRC 2017 season begins in Monte Carlo

The WRC 2017 season begins in Monte Carlo

Written by Jack Healy