On roads that are a skating rink, thanks to frequent ice and snow. Most hazardous of all is verglas, as the French call it: the insidious phenomenon that we know as black ice. This can suddenly appear even on roads that were completely dry up to that point, and it’s easy to imagine the terror on encountering it at the speeds that drivers easily reach on the ‘Monte’. As a result, the tyres play an even more important role than usual.
That was as true at the end of January 1995 as it is now. But the difference is that these days, it’s almost hard to remember just how cold and snowy some of the previous editions of the traditional season-opener used to be.
These were conditions that Carlos Sainz loved. We’re not talking about the current Formula 1 driver, but his father of course: one of the top stars of world rallying, who won the championship in 1990 and 1992. By the 1995 Monte-Carlo he was driving the legendary Subaru Impreza 555, complete with its Pirelli tyres. The previous year, the Spaniard had just missed out on the title, after going off the road just a few corners from the end of the season-closing Rally Great Britain.
Sainz arrived in Monte-Carlo at the beginning of the next year with just one clear objective: victory. He needed to win, just to lay down his statement of intent for the season. Carlos was the perfect poster boy for Pirelli: he had made a decisive contribution to the development of the P Zero range for rallying, which in a number of situations had made the difference compared to rivals; especially when it came to versatility and grip in highly slippery conditions.
And for that Rallye Monte-Carlo, Pirelli had a special tyre up its sleeve, called the RT95 and distinguished by a particular feature designed for the tricky mountain roads above the Principality. It had no studs.