The World Rally Championship gears up for the last round of the season this weekend (19-21 November). The Rally Monza WRC 2021 will again decide this year’s World Rally Champion, just as it did eleven months ago at the previous campaign’s finale.
Coincidentally, the title contenders this time around are also the same as last year. Toyota teammates, Sebastien Ogier and Elfyn Evans will thus reenact their vibrant duel of 2020, albeit in the opposite roles this time.
Last year, the Welsh driver arrived in the final round as the clear favourite with a 14-point lead over his teammate. This weekend, however, it is the Frenchman that leads the standings ahead of the Briton, who is 17 points adrift of his teammate.
The champion from Gap, winner in Montecarlo, Croatia, Sardegna & Kenya this season, has everything in his favour to claim his eighth world title in nine years. If he does so, he would be only one crown away from drawing up level with his compatriot and archenemy Seb Loeb.
The situation is, in fact, so advantageous for the crown defendant that Ogier just needs to finish in the top three in order to claim the title, regardless of Evans’ result.
The latter, on the other hand, needs to at least get on the podium and then hope for a miracle at the Rally Monza WRC 2021.
Despite Ogier’s advantage anything can happen
Despite the odds, the truth is that the outcome remains to be decided, and anything can happen in title deciders. One just has to look at what happened in 2020, when Evans lost his crown just before the end of the race following an accident.
Given the circumstances, Evans arrives in Monza with nothing to lose… and in great shape. In the last two races, he has claimed one victory (Finland) and one second-place (Spain). It is thanks to those fantastic results that he managed to cut back the distance with Ogier from 44 to his current 17 points.
In any case, both teammates and rivals are about to engage in a fascinating final duel which is also to mark the end of an era for the WRC. This weekend’s round marks not only the end of the season but also the last for the current World Rally Car vehicles, which, after 25 years, are clearing the way for the new Rally 1 models that will compete in the upcoming hybrid era.
As for the individual farewells, Ogier is to transition from being a full-time WRC driver to going part-time next season. His loyal co-pilot Julien Ingrassia, for his part, is to completely retire after this weekend’s Rally Monza WRC 2021.
Toyota, very close to becoming Constructor Champions
Besides the individual title, the Constructor’s crown is still up for grabs although Toyota is almost ready to uncork the champagne. The Japanese Scuderia only needs for either Ogier, Evans or the Finn Kalle Rovanperä to finish in the top seven in order to snatch the sceptre from Hyundai.
Its Hyundai rivals are also at a disadvantage without the invaluable presence of Ott Tanak, absent to attend some family matters. The Estonian and 2019 champion will be replaced by Teemu Suninen. Joining the Finnish rookie and completing Hyundai’s line-up will be the Belgian Thierry Neuville and the Spaniard Dani Sordo.
As for M-Sport, this will be their last race competing with the Ford Fiesta WRC, which, after eleven seasons and fifteen victories at the World Rally Championship since its debut in 2011, will give way to the new Puma.
A challenging route
The snow played a key role in the last edition of the Rally Monza WRC, and although this is not expected to fall this weekend, the weather could again be determinant.
Rain, ice or mud could all wreak havoc during the race, making it even more unpredictable. On top of that, there is the extraordinarily challenging nature of the route (16 specials and 253.18km), which runs along the winding mountain roads of the Bergamos Alps near Milan.
Back inside the legendary Temple of Speed, drivers will have to face other kinds of demanding sections including the chilling cambers of the famous oval track as well as the extremely complex service tracks in the vicinity of the racetrack.
Images of the Rally Monza WRC 2021: Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT.