JANUARY 15, 2002
Attention turns to rallying
The World Rally Championship kicks off very early on Friday morning with the 70th running of the Monte Carlo Rally, which takes place in the Alpes Maritime area of southern France.
The Monte Carlo Rally is the first of 14 rounds of the WRC and will feature a battle for honors between Peugeot (World Champions for the last two seasons), Ford, Subaru, Mitsubishi. There are also factory teams from Hyundai, Skoda and Citroen. The off-season has seen a major switcharound of drivers with World Champion Richard Burns switching from Subaru to Peugeot, where he joins the 2000 World Champion Marcus Groholm and Gilles Panizzi. Ford retains Colin McRae and Carlos Sainz but Francois Delecour has been replaced by Estonian Markko Martin. On the engineering side there have been big changes as chief engineer Gunther Steiner has moved to the Jaguar F1 team and Gerd Pfeiffer has joined Toyota's F1 operation.
Mitsubishi has lost multiple World Champion Tommi Makinen to Subaru but has taken on Delecour and former Hyundai driver Alister McRae (Colin's brother). Makinen joins Norway's Petter Sohlberg in the Prodrive-run Subaru World Rally Championship team while his 2001 Mitsubishi team mate Freddy Loix has joined Armon Schwarz in the Hyundai team.
In the course of the last two years David Richards has been restructuring the WRC and this year will the unveiling of those plans with increased and innovative TV coverage and plans to expand the series to Germany in 2002 and to Japan and the United States in the years ahead. Like Formula 1 the series is European-based with only four of the 14 rounds taking place outside Europe (Argentina, Kenya, Australia and New Zealand).
The championship runs until the Rally of Great Britain in mid-November.