As a kid, I was told countless times: “If you’re going to do something, then do it properly.” Which makes it all the more remarkable that I never learned.
Quite rightly, the organisers of Rallye Monte-Carlo were praised for doing an excellent job under Covid-19 restrictions, having received dispensation from the French government to run the event only days before the start.
It needed a substantial rework of the route to fit in with local curfew laws (which require people to be at home by 6pm each night), making this the shortest Monte ever, at just over 257 kilometres (160 miles).
Yes, there was certainly all sorts of weather and close competition, but was it a proper Monte? No. The entire route consisted of just 15 stages (Saturday featured only three), and on most days, the competitive action was over by lunchtime.
Anyone caught spectating on the stages was fined and there were more gendarmes and blue lights than you would find on Bastille Day. All the restaurants and bars were closed, access to everywhere was restricted, masks were de rigueur and the atmosphere was about as welcoming as a slammed door.
This isn’t what rallying is about. It’s the most convivial form of motorsport that exists, where people get so close to the cars that they help to push them out when they slide off. Monte just isn’t Monte without the packed bars at the top of the Col de Turini and fans jostling for autographs at the service park.
The drivers might disagree, but this year’s rally was a sad shadow of its former self. And if you’re not going to do it properly, don’t do it at all.
A better solution, in my view: how about running it at the end of the year as a spectacular season-closer in December? Or even just waiting until next year, when we can have a Monte as it should be?