Hyundai left with "a lot of work" as Sébastien Loeb takes Monte Carlo Rally lead

Rally News

Toyota and Ford-backed M-Sport have set the early pace in the 2022 Monte Carlo Rally, while Hyundai is left lagging as the new WRC Rally1 hybrid cars make their debut

Fireworks for Sebastien Loeb on Monte Carlo Rally 2022

Loeb fans braved freezing temperatures to watch his WRC return


The all-new, hybrid WRC has been let loose in anger for the first time as Toyota, M-Sport/Ford and Hyundai battle round the stages of Monte Carlo. 2022 is no mild upgrade of the previous year’s machinery; rather than retrofit a hybrid system to production shells, the WRC and FIA opted instead to depart entirely from the traditional, production-based ruleset.

Rally1 cars are now silhouette racers; Puma, Yaris and i20 in name only. Under their all-composite bodies are spaceframe chassis, and 100kW (134bhp) hybrid systems which, combined with the engine’s power, give a Group B-rivalling 500bhp. As is always the case when a ruleset gets tossed on the fire and a new one brought in, there is opportunity for upset and on first impressions, the WRC pecking order is in for a shake-up.

The ever-tricky opening stages of the Monte Carlo, taking place as they always do on the Thursday night, saw an ascent into the frost band from the warmth of Monaco. Conditions out on the stages, traversing the famed Col de Turini, were complex. Though free of snow, seemingly dry roads quickly acquired a coating of hoar frost as temperatures dropped. Confidence in cars and tyre choice make all the difference in such conditions and it seemed M-Sport’s drivers had this by the bucket-load.

As the two Sebs, neither of whom are supposed to be competing full-time in the WRC, took the lead – Ogier staying with Toyota, Loeb (in something of a coup of the team) driving the M-Sport Puma – it became apparent that Hyundai were trailing the pack. As to which machine was quicker out of the Puma and the Yaris, they were hard to split.

From the archive

M-Sport has a tried and tested approach of ensuring the performance of its cars is as accessible as possible even with extra power on tap, the opinions of its drivers showed this was still the case. Returning to the WRC full time, Craig Breen exclaimed at the end of the opening stage. “Amazing! Everybody that’s been involved in this – you’ve done an amazing job!” His sentiment was backed up by teammate Gus Greensmith, confident that M-Sport effectively sacrificing 2021 development to concentrate on the new car was worthwhile. “We’ve been waiting two years for this car! I did the run on shakedown today and I said to Jonas, I absolutely love this car.”

Even Loeb, fresh off the Dakar and more used to 600bhp rallycross machines of late, was impressed with his Puma, “It feels really good – a lot of power and the feeling with this car is great.” Tellingly, the team’s normally coy technical director, Chris Williams, was upbeat and seemed confident that it had a car which could take the battle to Toyota.

As the rally rolled into its second day (literally in the case of M-Sport’s Adrien Fourmaux and Alexandre Coria, who had a terminal excursion down a cliff on SS3), it was increasingly clear that M-Sport and Toyota had got it right while Hyundai had dropped the ball. Veteran Loeb was nipping at Ogier’s heels as both tackled the frost-laden early morning hairpins, and took the lead after Stage 5. Though there were glimpses of pace from Hyundai, Tanak pulling some time back, it clearly wasn’t in the same league.

That this is the case shouldn’t be surprising. Internal turmoil with the departure of team principal Andrea Adamo and what was acknowledged as a delayed development schedule, were always going to take their toll on the Alzenau team. Its problems appear far more fundamental than simply not finding the right setup. A candid Neuville admitting at the end of SS3. “It’s a nightmare. I have never been so scared while driving. There’s a lot of work left.”

Hyundai i20 of Thierry Neuville at Monte Carlo Rally 2022

Headed in the right direction? Hyundai's i20 is not yet on song, said Neuville


Toyota Yaris of Elfyn Evans on 2022 Monte Carlo Rally

There's little pace difference between Toyota's Yaris and the M-Sport Ford Puma