Depending on how you look at it, a maiden world title moved either closer or further away for the Welshman over the weekend, following the announcement of the addition of Monza to the calendar from 04-06 December. Taking on the unenviable task of being the first on the roads in Sardinia, the Toyota Gazoo Racing man produced another measured performance, avoiding any issues to finish one spot off the podium, with 12 points and another two from the Wolf Power Stage. It was enough for now, to maintain his place atop the drivers’ championship.
For a second consecutive rally, Neuville ended one spot shy of the top spot on the podium, overtaking Sébastien Ogier on the final stage. With a maiden WRC journey to his home Tarmac roads still waiting for him and a trip to Monza (also Tarmac) to finish off the year, Neuville should be feeling quietly confident. The previous two times the WRC ventured onto Tarmac – Rallye Monte-Carlo and last year’s mixed-surface rally in Spain – it was the Belgian standing atop the podium.
Sardinia was an incredibly frustrating weekend for the reigning world champion, who was completely off the pace through Friday morning’s opening loop, but was not giving too much away as to why. Some consolation for the Estonian was his consistency over the remainder of the weekend, which included gaining maximum points on the Wolf Power Stage – something that keeps him within a fighting chance of defending his title.
Dani Sordo forms part of a welcoming headache for Hyundai Motorsport team boss Andrea Adamo. Effectively sharing a seat this season with Sébastien Loeb and Craig Breen, the Spaniard did everything Hyundai could have possibly asked of him in Italy, repeating his victory there from a season previous. It begs the question of what Sordo might be able to achieve, if he were to agree to a full-time drive in the WRC.
Despite confirmation following Rally Turkey that, for now at least, we will not be seeing Loeb back in the WRC this season, the Frenchman still holds onto fifth place in the rankings, confirming what the now 46-year-old can still offer to any team offering him a contract, should he agree to accept it, going forward.
Starting second on the road, it was clearly a frustrated Ogier that was on display throughout the weekend, a mood that was likely not helped after being pipped from second to third on the podium, on the weekend’s final stage. Following on from a Sunday morning exit in Turkey, the six-time world champion can take solace in the fact he is still holding second spot in the drivers’ championship, despite his current frustrations.
The promising young Toyota Gazoo Racing driver showed that this is still a season for development. After crashing his car following the flying finish line on his first shakedown run, a high-speed accident on Saturday then ended his weekend for good. Still mathematically in with a chance of winning the championship, it seems unlikely to happen this year, with both his team-mates (Evans and Ogier) ahead of him in the standings. Regardless, Ypres and Monza will give Rovanperä invaluable Tarmac experience. To date, his only Tarmac event in the Yaris was in Monte-Carlo.
On his two previous call-ups this season, Breen has finished in the points both times out for Hyundai, a record he will be hoping to maintain when the WRC moves to Ypres, a place where the Irishman has a proven record. Last year, before Ypres joined the WRC, Breen won it in a Volkswagen Polo GTI R5.
“F**k I was sending it.” Indeed, Teemu was, when he uttered this to the WRC+ All Live TV end-of-stage reporter at the completion of SS1 on Friday. The M-Sport Ford man would continue to push the tempo throughout Friday, sitting in second behind eventual winner Sordo when the day came to an end. However, handbrake issues on Saturday would cost the Finn, who saw his standing slowly slip. He still managed a commendable fifth, showing that when everything goes his way, Suninen behind the wheel of a Fiesta is a force not to be taken lightly.
If this was a power ranking for the unluckiest man in the WRC this season, Lappi would be sitting atop the standings with little competition. First of all, there was the fire in Mexico. When he stepped back into the cockpit during a local rally in Finland, the weekend was over before it started, after the car faltered in pre-testing. Mid-table finishes in Estonia and Turkey, as he built time back up behind the wheel suggested his fortunes were turning. But that all came crashing down on SS2, when he was forced to pull over with a technical issue, spelling an end to his Sardinian week.
Following what could be considered a breakthrough event for Greensmith in Turkey when he recorded his first-ever top-five finish, the young Brit looked to be building nicely on that result in Sardinia. At the halfway point on Saturday, Greensmith was tucked into sixth place, with current world champion Tänak behind him. But a technical issue on his way to SS10 forced him into early retirement. With a less than memorable Tarmac debut in the Fiesta back in January, Greensmith will aim to make amends in Ypres and Monza.
HOW IT WORKS
Leaving out emotional factors, the WRC Power Rankings are based on the 2020 active drivers' previous three WRC results driving in a WRC car. For example, Sébastien Loeb's average takes into account his performance at RallyRACC Catalunya in October, 2019.
Wolf Power Stage points are also factored into the equation.