Christian Merli racing at the Rallye Monte-Carlo
On Thursday evening after 8pm, several times hill climb champion Christian Merli will be in Place du Casino in Monaco taking the start at the 91st Rallye Monte-Carlo, the opening round of the World Rally Championship. He and his co-driver Marco Zortea from Primiero in Trentino will be racing the Group Rally2 Skoda Fabia Evo 2 of Team Erreffe bearing the number 49. The first one off the grid will be reigning world champion Rovanperä from Finland (Toyota Yaris). After three minutes he will be followed by Tänak from Estonia (Ford Puma) and then Neuville from Belgium (Hyundai). The WRC2 contestants will then take the start one after the other, with a two-minute gap each time. They will all be facing the ups and downs of the track, the stretches in the shade, the treacherous layers of clear ice and snow of what is undoubtedly considered the hardest race of the entire season. Four days of racing, a total length of 1534 km, of which 325 km make up the 18 special stages. The team from Trentino, racing for Scuderia Pintarally Motorsport, will be competing against the stars of the discipline.
A dream come true for the champion from Trentino
“I’m incredibly excited. I think all motorsport lovers would want to be present at the Rallye Monte-Carlo, and I’ve often said that rally is my great passion. There are two reconnaissance passages scheduled on the special stages, and on Thursday begins the competition itself. We’re leaving Monaco on Thursday evening to go to the start of the first special stage in the dark, the Col du Turini, immediately followed by the 25km special stage of La Cabanette. The shakedown is only for the Rally1 cars, the official cars of Ford, Toyota and Hyundai. In our group there are just over 40 teams, who’ll be competing with each other in this spectacular event.”
“First of all, to bring the car back to Monaco in one piece on Sunday. We’re competing against drivers who have done this track already, and we want to avoid making mistakes. We’re aiming for regularity, but I also don’t want to waste the opportunity to do well. Everything is new to us. It’s definitely the hardest race of the entire WRC. It starts at sea level and goes up to an altitude of 1600 metres, then descends through valleys where there is no sun and where there are insidious icy surfaces everywhere. In addition, there will be around 40 cars before us. The surface will be damaged, and there will be mud, snow and gravel on the track. Like I said, a treacherous track, variable and fascinating too. Those who do the reconnaissance have a decisive role; they take the special stages a few hours before us and will let us know what the surfaces are like. This helps define the right car setup and pick the right tyres for the eighteen special stages and the four days of racing.”
The fourth “Casco d’Oro”
Let’s take a look back. At Bologna in December Christian Merli was awarded the “golden helmet”, the Casco d’Oro Autosprint for winning the 2022 European Hill Climb Championship. “It’s always a great pleasure and a reward for the many sacrifices we make. I’d like to thank the Scuderia Vimotorsport, the sponsors and all our friends.”
Translation by Ruth Scheithauer