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PHOTO: World champion Sebastien Ogier heads the Rallye Monte-Carlo entry list (Volkswagen pic)

A TOTAL of 90 crews, 15 in the premier world rally car category, will start in the opening round of the 2016 FIA World Rally Championship at Rallye Monte-Carlo on 21-24 January.

Defending champion Sébastien Ogier heads the seeded entry list, with his Volkswagen Motorsport team-mate Jari-Matti Latvala second, reports. Andreas Mikkelsen and new co-driver Anders Jaeger will drive a third Polo R under VW’s Motorsport II banner.

Thierry Neuville and Dani Sordo are the two registered drivers of the Hyundai Shell World Rally Team and both will pilot the much-anticipated new 2016-spec i20 WRC. On this opening round, New Zealander Hayden Paddon will drive for the manufacturers’ second, Mobis, team and will be at the wheel of a 2015-spec car.

The M-Sport World Rally Team will run Fiesta RS cars for its new driver line-up of Mads Østberg and Eric Camilli. The squad will also run a customer Fiesta RS for asphalt ace Bryan Bouffier.

There are also Fiesta RS World Rally Cars for Lorenzo Bertelli, Ott Tänak and Former Formula 1 driver Robert Kubica who will return to the WRC despite uncertainly surrounding his 2016 plans late last year.

Kris Meeke and Stéphane Lefebvre will make their first appearance for the new Citroën-supported Abu Dhabi Total World Rally Team, while Italian privateer Felice Re rounds off the WRC runners in a third DS 3 World Rally Car.

A fabulous fight is in prospect in the WRC2 category, which has attracted 16 entries and a mix of cars including R5-spec machines from Ford, Skoda, DS and Peugeot.

Teemu Suninen, Armin Kremer, Julien Maurin and Lambros Athanassoulas head the Skoda R5 runners while Quentin Giordano, Jourdan Serderidis and last year’s Junior WRC winner Quentin Gilbert will pilot DS 3 cars. Also in the mix will be Welshman Elfyn Evans, who heads the Fiesta R5 entries after two seasons in an RS World Rally Car.

There are nine entries in the opening round of the WRC 3 competition. Former works driver Francois Delecour, Finnish rising stars Esapekka Lappi and Max Vatanen are among other notable drivers entered into the event.

The rally, which this year commemorates its 84th running, gets underway from Place du Casino in Monte-Carlo on Thursday 21 January.

Rallye Monte-Carlo entry list, CLICK HERE

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Chris Nixon

Chris Nixon is Media Manager for Kennards Hire Rally Australia.