Sebastien Ogier stood tall while others had trouble in ACI Rally Monza to not only win the event but also secure 2020 FIA World Rally Championship (WRC) as well.
Held around the Monza F1 circuit – also using the old banks – the WRC ACI Rally Monza was already looking to be tasty with the weather conditions on display along with snow. Ogier (co-driver Julien Ingrassia) started off well in his Toyota Yaris machine.
He led the Thursday stage but then lost it to Hyundai’s Dani Sordo (co-driver Carlos del Barrio). He led for just the one stage before losing it to M-Sport Ford’s Esapekka Lappi (co-driver Janne Ferm), who held it for three of the Friday stages.
By the end of the day, it was Sordo back on top despite penalty for him and Lappi. The Finn had a moment in the final stage, which dropped him to second, as Ogier was third with SS5 win, whereas teammate Elfyn Evans (co-driver Scott Martin) won SS4.
Sordo had won SS2 and SS6, whereas Lappi took SS3 in his pocket. While the Top 3 steadied their ship, Hyundai’s Thierry Neuville (co-driver Nicolas Gilsoul) was the first of the WRC title contenders to slip out after multiple offs and an engine issue.
The WRC stewards explained the penalties for Sordo and Lappi:
In relation to Sordo, the stewards’ statement said: “The driver of car No.6 locked wheels on the approach to the chicane in an attempt to stop, was confused as the chicane differed from that of a previous special stage. He saw that there was no bale in front of him and went straight on.”
Concerning Lappi, the stewards said: “The driver of car 4 locked their wheels on the approach to the chicane and made an effort to stop. The team representatives stated that the driver decided to take what he felt was the safest option by going straight on, striking the hay bale in the process.”
The Saturday running started off well for Ogier, who was straight into the lead by winning SS7. But Sordo fought back by winning SS8 to retake the position, which he lost again in SS9 – where Evans won the stage but SS11 changed the course.
With the cancellation of SS10 and SS12, Ogier built all the lead in SS11 as he surged ahead of Sordo by 20s despite the Spaniard winning SS13. It was also the stage where Evans’ WRC title hopes were dashed, after he slid into a small ditch in slippery conditions.
With Evans gone, Hyundai’s Ott Tanak (co-driver Martin Jarveoja) moved into third, ahead of Lappi, who survived a spin as fifth-placed Toyota’s Kalle Rovanpera (co-driver Jonne Halttunen) was unharmed after sliding into a wall.
It wasn’t an escape for M-Sport’s Gus Greensmith (co-driver Elliott Edmonson), who had another crash after Friday. Teammate Teemu Suninen (co-driver Jarmo Lehtinen) was forced to retire on Friday itself due to mis-firing engine in his Ford Fiesta.
Neuville, meanwhile, did not take part in Saturday proceedings as in a strange situation, WRC 3’s Umberto Scandola in his Hyundai R5 won SS11. After all the shenanigans, it all came down to Sunday, where Ogier started well to win SS14.
A late push from Sordo to win SS15 was not enough still as the Power Stage saw him drop to third behind Tanak as Ogier not only won the ACI Rally Monza but also secured the 2020 WRC title – his seventh drivers’ championship victory, which came out of nowhere.
He was 14 points down on Evans coming into the final WRC round but with his problems, it allowed Ogier take advantage and end up with 122 points as Evans ended up second in a Toyota 1-2 with the latter on 114 points. 2019 champion Tanak was third with 105.
Hyundai, though, clinched the WRC teams’ title. Meanwhile, the order behind the Top 3 had Lappi in fourth from Rovanpera, the last of the lead category runner in the Top 10.
Here’s the full results: https://www.wrc.com/en/wrcplus/live-timing/
Here’s news on Sebastien Ogier continuing in WRC