Neuville won his second rally of the season in Spain, his 15th of his career. A sure win in Spain was compromised at the very end when the car wouldn’t start. “That caused so much stress before, during and afterwards,” says Thierry Neuville. “When I gave an interview at the finish, it was difficult for me to put my emotions into words. It was only hours later that I was able to make the right analysis and conclude that it had been a very successful weekend.”
Last year’s Rally di Monza ended on an anticlimax for Neuville when his car came to a stop in a pool of water. This year he wants to do better.
“I have participated in this rally a few times, both in a show rally and last year when it was the closing race of the WRC,” said Neuville. “So I know the roads there quite well. They are quite unique GC stages with a lot of chicanes and cones. This year, more classification stages have been drawn up in the mountains. The rides on and around the circuit are always nice to drive. The goal is to push one more time this year and compete for the win.”
Ogier can end career in style
Sébastien Ogier (Toyota Yaris WRC) can say goodbye to the WRC in style on Sunday. The Frenchman, in his last full season, has dominated rallying for the past decade. Proof of this are the seven world titles. An eighth can be added on Sunday. In the title fight, he is 17 points ahead of his teammate Elfyn Evans (Toyota Yaris WRC).
From 2013 to 2016, Ogier won four consecutive titles with the then unapproachable VW Polo WRC. When Volkswagen withdrew from the WRC, the Frenchman moved to M-Sport where he won the world title twice with the Ford Fiesta WRC. In 2019 he switched to Citroën, but the Citroën turned out not to be competitive enough to compete for the world title. The plan to say goodbye with a world title at the brand where it all started did not work out. Instead of stopping, Ogier added another year. After his victory in Mexico, the pause button was pushed for months due to the corona pandemic. In the end, a limited championship was organized which was won by Ogier. Because of the short championship, he decided to complete a full program again this year. He can finish his career in style on Sunday.
“The truth is that I don’t think much about it,” says Sébastien Ogier. “It’s true that this is the end of a chapter for myself and my co-pilot Julien. But, I’m just trying to do my job from Thursday. The goal is to become world champion. That’s also the best possible way to finish. I’ve got everything in my hands, but it’s not over yet. But unlike last year, I’m in a much better shape now. Then I was 14 points behind, now I am 17 points ahead. But nothing is decided. We have to stay focused.”
When he looks back, Ogier is mostly content. “The past few years have been a fantastic journey. Looking back, I can only be satisfied with what I’ve done and the numbers that are out there. I will do rallies in the future, but that will be different. The emotional part of the job will be gone.”
The Rally di Monza will be the 168th rally of his career. 53 times he was on the highest podium, 7 times he finished as world champion. Whether Ogier becomes world champion on Sunday or not, it is the end of an era anyway.
Exciting final battle with drivers and constructors
For the second year, Monza is the battleground for the denouement of the world titles in the WRC. Among the drivers, seven-time world champion Sébastien Ogier (Toyota Yaris WRC) is 17 points ahead of lead chaser and team-mate Elfyn Evans (Toyota Yaris WRC). With the constructors, Toyota can no longer escape a new world title.
Monza and not Japan, as previously planned, is the end point of the WRC this season. The global pandemic is turning the WRC into an almost entirely European story, except for the Kenya rally. The Monza rally starts on Thursday evening with a shakedown of just over four kilometers.
Divided over three competition days, the participants will face sixteen classification stages. These will be historic GC stages that are not only decisive for the world titles, but also the last of a generation of cars. From next year, the new hybrid WRCs will enter the championship.
The Autodrome Nationale di Monza is again the beating heart of this rally this year. On Friday there will be two loops of three stages. GC stages drawn near Lake Como and in the Italian Alps. The day ends with an evening ride on and next to the Monza circuit.
On Saturday, another six GC stages are planned for a total of 108.24 km. The last three stages of this season will be held on Sunday. The final stage is also the powerstage where the drivers and constructors can earn extra points. In the case of the drivers, that powerstage might still be decisive. On Sunday afternoon around 1.15 pm we know the world champions among drivers and constructors.
As far as brands are concerned, the numbers say a lot: Toyota has won eight of the eleven rallies driven so far and is 47 points ahead of Hyundai, the world champion of the past two years, in the championship. With 52 points to earn, the Toyota world title can and should hardly escape.