Thank goodness. For a moment, the world stood still, framed in perfect post-summer, pre-winter picture. Then the madness started in a good way. The gates had been opened and fans were coming back.
Sensibly spaced but busy spectator areas were among the talking points of last weekend’s final round of this season’s FIA World Rally Championship at FORUM8 ACI Rally Monza.
And the service park was the same. Merchandise stalls were up and running, once again fans could clothe themselves in the colours of their hero driver, co-driver or team.
Video: FORUM8 ACI Rally Monza review
And they did. In their thousands. M-Sport Ford jackets, Toyota hats and Hyundai Motorsport flags were the order of the day for a colourful WRC army that marched among the towns and villages of northern Italy.
“We are here,” said Jacques. Draped in a French tricolor and slightly out of date Sébastien Ogier woolly hat, his allegiance was not hard to spot.
“We are here again. We have been away for too long. We didn’t know whether to try to come or if we could come. But the day before the start, we said: “OK. We go.” We take the car and we drive. We come from Gap, of course! We are from the town of the champion and we drive to Monza.
“It’s not possible to miss this…”
And with that, he was swept along with the remainder of the Ogier fan club – readily joining in a rather presumptuous Friday rendition of a well-known five-word song: Championes, championes, ole, ole, ole!
It was impossible not to walk around the Monza service park without a big, wide smile: the WRC felt almost back to normal.
Having been hosed down and then frozen 12 months ago, the Lombardy region was showing the world its most beautiful face last week. The restaurants of Monza and Milan were open and serving risottos washed down by a glass or two of rumbustious Piedmont Barolo.
Everything felt right in the world again. Even better, Monza had embraced Christmas in time for a fascinating WRC finale. Trees, lights, decorations and Babbo Natale abound.
The holiday season felt almost upon us, with a definite end of term edge as the drivers and co-drivers reflected on the year that was.
Italy does motorsport as well as any other nation in the world and the ability to showcase the raw emotion of the WRC tifosi made round 12 a very special occasion.
Grazie, Monza, grazie.