Monte Carlo. One of the most famous places in the world. A place famed for the finer things in life. And for rolling the dice and taking the odd gamble. Especially in January. And especially in a rally car.
When Rhys Yates arrives in the principality for the ceremonial start of Rallye Monte-Carlo on Thursday (January 23), Casino Square’s spotlight will provide the full glare of global motorsport publicity for the Chesterfield star.
Despite 2020 only being Rhys’ second season in the World Rally Championship – and Monte Carlo being just his 12thstart at the sport’s highest level – he has been selected to represent the multiple world championship-winning squad, M-Sport Ford World Rally team.
Rhys will drive a factory-prepared Ford Fiesta R5 Mk II as part of M-Sport’s works WRC 2 line-up this year.
That’s a big deal.
It’s also something Rhys has put firmly to the back of his mind.
“I’m not thinking about any of that,” he said. “All of that promotional stuff was for last week. It’s funny, you sit on the centre stage at Autosport International and talk about driving with M-Sport and everything that means and it’s all great. But then we went to France for our pre-event test, where we were given the most amazing car and a road completely covered in ice.
“That first big slide really focuses the mind on what you’re really there for!
“This year is a massive opportunity for me and, of course, I want to make the absolute best of it. But at the same time, this is only the second time I’ve started Rallye Monte-Carlo – an event where experience is everything. I start this rally with my sights set on the finish. I’m sure there will be some sections where I can push on, places where I’ll feel more comfortable and we’ll have a good go there. These are the target areas we use to monitor our progress in terms of progression in performance.”
Rhys finished an astonishing fourth in class on his Monte debut last season and knows a similar result would represent a solid start to 2020.
“We’ve moved up a class this year,” he said. “Last year we were in the amateur class and now we’ve moved up to the pro section. We’re just one step down from the top flight of the world championship – there’s no denying the competition’s going to be tougher this year. It’s going to be hard, but we have to take on the best to improve ourselves.
“Monte’s a massive journey into the unknown. We’ve got no idea of what’s coming in terms of the weather, the conditions or the grip. Every corner’s going to be an adventure. Let’s see what happens.”