The old adage says ‘points make prizes’. Well, there’s a host of points to be won and lost in four categories before the FIA World Rally Championship titles are settled on Sunday at ACI Rally Monza (3 – 6 December).
There’s a plethora of possible permutations but we try to make sense of who needs to do what on the race circuit and in the mountains near Lake Como.
WRC Driver and Co-driver
Elfyn Evans / Scott Martin hold a 14-point lead over Toyota Gazoo Racing team-mates Sébastien Ogier / Julien Ingrassia. Thierry Neuville / Nicolas Gilsoul are 24 points off the top, with Hyundai Motorsport colleague Ott Tänak / Martin Jarveoja 28 adrift.
With 25 points for the winners and bonus points available in the rally-closing Wolf Power Stage, the British pair is guaranteed the title if they score 17 in total. Second place outright, or fourth overall and fastest time in the Power Stage would be sufficient.
If Evans retires from the event, then the options are many, but Ogier would require 21 points to be guaranteed a seventh title. Even if Neuville won the rally and the Power Stage, second overall and third in the Power Stage is sufficient for the Frenchman.
It’s a long shot for Tänak. Realistically the Estonian must win and score maximum Power Stage points. Even then, it requires a disastrous weekend for the three crews ahead to retain the title.
Hyundai heads to Italy seven points clear of Toyota. Victory in Monza for the Korean manufacturer would mean one point from either of their other two cars would be enough, even if Toyota bagged second and third.
If Toyota claims a 1-2 at the rally, the title is theirs. Any other permutations and it’s time to set the fingers and thumbs to work…..
It’s a two-way Scandinavian fight here between 2017 champion Pontus Tidemand and co-driver Patrik Barth from Sweden, and Norwegians Mads Østberg / Torstein Eriksen.
Tidemand is 18 points clear, but a driver only counts his best five scores. He already has five, so if the Skoda Fabia pilot scores in Monza, he must discard his lowest score of 15 to add to his total.
Østberg has scored in only four rounds so can keep whatever he bags in Italy.
To aid Tidemand, Toksport has entered Jan Kopecký, and the Czech champion’s presence could be crucial. If he places himself between Tidemand and Østberg in the Monza result, it will severely dent the Citroën C3 driver’s chances.
A Tidemand win, second for Kopecký and third for Østberg means the title goes back to Tidemand. If Østberg wins, the title is his.
The teams’ championship has already been won by Toksport.
This is a little easier…….
Marco Bulacia is two points ahead of Jari Huttunen, with Kajetan Kajetanowicz 15 points off the lead. Nobody else can win the title.
Drivers count their best four scores from their first five nominated events. Bulacia must drop 12 points if he scores highly, while both Huttunen and Kajetanowicz can keep all they gain (Kajetanowicz will drop a zero score).
The odds are, therefore, in favour of Huttunen, who would take the crown if he finishes first or second. If Bulacia wins the rally and Huttunen comes home third, then it gets incredibly complicated. And we mean incredibly……
The co-drivers’ title will be fought out between leader Mikko Lukka (Huttunen), Maciej Sczepaniak (Kajetanowicz) and Marcelo Der Ohannesian (Bulacia), who has only partnered the Bolivian for part of the season.
The simple part here is that the drivers’ and co-drivers’ titles will go to one of Martins Sesks / Renars Francis, Tom Kristensson / Joakim Sjöberg or Sami Pajari / Marko Salminen.
Sesks is 10 points clear of Kristensson, with Pajari a further four behind. All three will have their scores multiplied by a factor of 1.5 by virtue of starting two of the first three rounds.
All three must discard their worst result if they score in Monza and that significantly favours Kristensson, who retired in Estonia and would drop a zero. Sesks would discard 15 from Rally Italia Sardegna and Pajari 10 from the same round.
Bonus points for stage wins add to the uncertainty but one thing is clear. If Kristensson wins the rally then the title is his (apart from a freak set of circumstances involving additional penalties which we won’t bore you with….).
Full coverage from ACI Rally Monza will be available on WRC+ All Live here, including every stage broadcast as it happens as well as key interviews, features and expert analysis from the service park.