Tuesday | 08 Dec 2020

View from the service park

Monza’s a place well used to creating legends. Icons. Heroes. Sebastian Vettel’s first Formula 1 win springs to mind, 12 years ago, at a rain-lashed Cathedral of Speed.

Monza is also well used to creating drama. Think back to McLaren’s near-perfect 1988 season. Where did it falter? Retiffilo. Ayrton Senna collided with Jean-Louis Schlesser, while lapping the Williams.

That race was just a month after the death of Ferrari founder Enzo Ferrari. So you can only imagine the tifosi response when Gerhard Berger and Michele Alboreto finished one-two for the Scuderia.

Last weekend, the FIA World Rally Championship wrote its own chapter in the history of the Autodromo Nazionale di Monza.

Video: ACI Rally Monza

It’s a chapter with plenty of heroes. And no end of drama. And an ending which rivalled any of the great finales of previous WRC campaigns.

Seeing Elfyn Evans slide off the road was a heart-breaker for the Welshman. He’d been inch-perfect for a day and a half when he was caught out by a shockingly slippery third-gear right-hander. There was nothing he could do. The unexpected snow simply accentuated the slide and the drop down the bank.

You could have heard a pin drop when the first shots of the stricken Toyota Yaris were beamed across the service park.

It didn’t take long for that silence to be broken by applause for Evans’ immediate actions. Warning his team-mate, but also his championship rival, Sébastien Ogier to slow and avoid the same fate was one of the year’s more enduring emotional moments.

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Evans knew if he let Ogier tackle that corner unaided there was a strong possibility the Frenchman could crash. That wasn’t the way Evans wanted to take the title.

Ogier got through, made it back to service and finished the job a day later. Championship number seven was his.

The Frenchman’s delight and relief contrasted starkly with the emotion etched deep across Evans’ face. Twenty-five years on from British rallying’s finest hour when Colin McRae was crowned 1995 world champion, an Evans title would have gone very well for his home fans.

The dignity and decency with which Evans dealt with losing a dream that seemed entirely within his grasp was inspiring. And certainly not lost on Ogier. The champion wasted no time in talking of his team-mate in terms of further rivalry next season. And that is the greatest compliment the Gap man could pay him.

The challenge of this final round was immense and the weather certainly fed into that. Watching drivers deep in conversation with gravel note crews, phones plugged to their ears, desperate for the latest meteo announcement from the mountains gave this event a genuine Rallye Monte-Carlo feel.

It was, of course, a successful one for Hyundai Motorsport, which celebrated back-to-back championships. As an Italian, celebrating in his native northern Italy, team principal Andrea Adamo was ready to provide more emotion.

Monza delivered. It was a thriller, a fitting finale and a rally entirely in keeping with a place where speed, bravery and success is so dearly cherished.