Max Vatanen prepares for the full Monte

Max Vatanen prepares for the full MonteFrom General Article [ 20/01/2016 ].
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This year is going to be a busy season for Max Vatanen, the son of 1981 World Champion Ari Vatanen. Not only will the 25-year-old Finn be competing alongside Elfyn Evans on the British Rally Championship in a DMACK-backed Ford Fiesta R5, but he is also contesting a series of international events, starting with the Monte Carlo Rally this weekend. Max will drive a Ford Fiesta R2 on the classic event, similar to the one in which he clinched a podium place during last year's Drive DMACK Trophy, having finished as top rookie on the series the year before.

Monte Carlo is quite rightly described as the jewel in world rallying's crown, and it's an event that is synonymous with the Vatanen name after Ari staged one of the most impressive fightbacks ever seen in the championship's history, clawing back eight minutes lost as the result of a co-driver error in 1985 to seal a famous flat-out victory.

Max has followed in his father's footsteps by competing in Monte Carlo for the first time last year, winning his class on his debut. He's aiming for more success this year on what is practically a home event for him, as Max mostly lives in the south of France.

However, as well as the most glamorous event on the world rally calendar, Monte Carlo is also the most unpredictable - which is what makes it such a challenge to master. The key to it is predicting the weather and surfaces, with many stages starting off dry, moving onto full snow at the top of the mountain, and then ending in slush and ice.

Choosing the right tyres to cope with these different parameters is an almost impossible task, so drivers have to think in terms of what will be the best compromise over a loop of stages, rather than focussing on specific stages. As a result of this, big chunks of time can be won or lost, with the drivers relying heavily on information they gain from their safety crews, who pass through the stages shortly before the drivers and note any changes in conditions that have taken place since the recce.

For the co-drivers in particular, the Monte Carlo Rally is synonymous with extremely hard work, as they make those last-minute changes to the pace notes, under extreme pressure of time. Luckily Max can rely on the experience of his navigator Jacques-Julien Rennucci, who reads him pace notes in French, to make exactly the right calls when they are most needed.

Speaking towards the end of the first day of the recce, Max said: "It started to snow on this last stage and there was quite a lot of snow and ice so it's quite good; I'm looking forward to having some tricky conditions. I will of course aim to win the class again if it's possible, but we just have to focus on our own race and focus on giving everything. A rally like this can be so tricky depending on the conditions so anything can happen, but definitely if we have the opportunity we'll try to win our class. I'm hoping to have some snow to help me do that!"

The Monte Carlo Rally will get underway on Thursday, with two stages in the evening following a ceremonial start from the Place du Casino in Monaco. The action will continue throughout Friday and Saturday, before the rally concludes on Sunday with the iconic Col de Turini stages.