The 2004 FIA World Rally Championship kicks off on Friday and defending driver's champion, Petter Solberg, admits he has much to prove at Rally Monte Carlo - the first of 16 rounds in this year's series.

The 2004 FIA World Rally Championship kicks off on Friday and defending driver's champion, Petter Solberg, admits he has much to prove at Rally Monte Carlo - the first of 16 rounds in this year's series.

The rally in Monte Carlo is the oldest and most prestigious event on the world rally calendar, which also makes it one of the most eagerly anticipated.

Essentially a tar run, its takes teams through the area's twisty mountain roads where the unpredictable weather is always a challenge as the narrow roads turn to ice and snow on the mountainous climb.

Manufacturer titleholder in 2003, Citroën, not only went on to win the Monte Carlo Rally with the Xsara WRC in 2003, but also secured a thunderous one-two-three finish. On Friday, the team will return to defend its title, under the skilled guidance of drivers Sebastien Loeb and Carlos Sainz.

Ahead of what would be a gruelling start to the 2004 campaign, statistics reveal that the Citroën pair happen to be the only drivers on the line-up to have already won the event.

Current driver's champion, Petter Solberg has admitted that the Monte Carlo event is not his "best rally".

"I start the year as World Champion, but in terms of driving it makes no difference to me at all," he said. "Monte Carlo has not been the best rally for me in the past and I've yet to prove myself in the first few events of the season. In fact, after Turkey last year (round three) I think I only had three points in total!"

I'm planning for things to be different this year, so I'm changing my strategy for the opening rounds. One good thing is that I never feel any pressure in the early part of the season... I'm relaxed and just thinking about driving."

Team Subaru's newcomer, Mikko Hirvonen, has said that with a new team and new car he'll have a lot to learn.

Hirvonen said: "My main aim is to finish, get more experience in the car and hopefully some points for the team.