The wait is over for the final clash of the 2020 World Rally Championship. The ACI Monza Rally will run from the 3 to the 6 of December in Italy. A total of four contenders are currently in the bid for the drivers ‘title and two teams are still disputing constructors’ one.
Stakes are therefore very high at an appointment which was only pencilled into the championship schedule as a last-minute substitution. The coronavirus pandemic and the numerous cancellations that ensued has reduced this year’s WRC series to just seven stops.
In any case, this year’s challengers will face an unprecedented test of skill with an appointment that combines runs at the ‘Temple of Speed‘ and its surrounding areas, as well as some stretches over the Italian Alps. It is precisely the mountain stage on Saturday which could be decisive in the bid for the title. Whatever happens, the thrill and entertainment are guaranteed.
The snow is set to be one of the rallies’ guests of honour and will perhaps play a determinant role on the outcome of the series. In view of the challenging weather conditions, Pirelli has sent special snow tires. The snow-covered tarmac scene is sure to reminisce of some of the Monte Carlo sections.
Evans and Ogier: Favourites, teammates and rivals
At a competitive level, we can expect an intense civil war to unfold in Toyota. Elfyn Evans leads teammate Sebastien Ogier in the standings by 14 points, and there is a maximum of thirty points at stake in Monza.
The Welshman and only winner of two rounds in this most unusual of seasons (Sweden and Turkey), is eager to seize the unique opportunity to become the third Briton in history to conquer the prestigious trophy, after Colin McRae (1995) & Richard Burns (2001).
On a mission to stop him, however, will be the second most successful rally driver in history. Ogier will fight for a seventh crown, with which to edge a little bit closer to the nine of his compatriot: Sebastien Loeb.
The Frenchman has already started the psychological warfare against his Welsh teammate, by declaring he is confident that the harsh weather conditions forecasted for race day could play in his favour.
Hyundai: To defend their title
The Toyota leaders, and their third teammate, the Finn Kalle Rovanperä, will also have to deal with the charges of the ‘Hyundai Armada’ at the Italian race. Hyundai’s stars, defending champion Ott Tänak, and 2017-19 runner-up Thierry Neuville, will not give up as long as they have a chance to snatch the trophy, however remote this might be.
With 30 points at stake and the Estonian and Belgian drivers 24 and 28 points behind Evans respectably, their only chance would have to involve the leaders running into trouble.
Beyond their individual ambitions, Tänak and Neuville will try and hold on to the seven-point advantage that their team currently holds over Toyota for the constructors’ title. The teams still have 43 points up for the taking this weekend.
To fulfil that goal, the team led by Andrea Adamo will also trust on Spaniard Dani Sordo, to drive the third i20 Coupe WRC. Their spectacular triumph at the previous WRC appointment, the Rally Italy-Sardinia, has earned them this leading role at such a momentous point in the season.
The itinerary of the ACI Monza Rally comprises a total of 513.90 km, 241.14 timed, divided into 16 stages. Some of these will be disputed at the Monza track itself with others taking part at some very challenging alpine tracks in the northeast of the country.
The weekend will kick off on Thursday afternoon with the spectacular ‘Monza Legacy’ stage. On Friday, competitors will tackle the old oval racetrack in-depth, where they will have to deal with some of its legendary curves such as “The parabolic“, as well as entering some dirt roads.
The real challenge, however, will come on Saturday’s queen stage in the mountains which runs over some treacherous snow-covered alpine roads. The promise of fog further increases the degree of difficulty. On Sunday the action will return to the legendary circuit.
Images of 2020 World Rally Championship: WRC.