With the exception of the Monaco Grand Prix, the one race that is best identified with the glamorous city state in the French Riviera is the Monte Carlo Rally. And for 36 seasons from 1973 to 2008, the event served as the season opener of the World Rally Championship (WRC).
After 2008 the event has been absent from the WRC calendar. But it looks like that's about to change. In a recent meeting of the Fédération Internationale de l'Automobile's (FIA) World Motor Sport Council (WMSC), motorsport's governing body has announced that the event will once again serve as the season opener for the 2012 WRC season on January 22.
The WRC's return to Monte Carlo is very timely as the 2012 season also sees the Mini marque returning to compete in the series for its first full season. Today's Mini John Cooper Works WRC, though, has some big shoes to fill as its predecessor, the Mini Cooper S, won the Monte Carlo Rally in 1964, 1965 and 1967 with rally legends Paddy Hopkirk, Timo Makinen and Rauno Aaltonen behind the wheels, respectively.