The 2021 World Rally Championship season is now five rounds old, and it’s Sébastien Ogier that once again showed his rivals how it’s done on last week’s Rally Italy.
Winning is becoming rather habitual for the seven-time champion of late as he’s now won three rallies this season already and four events from the past six.
Sardinia was Ogier at his very best, but not everybody was on top form last week. Indeed, only four of the 10 World Rally Cars that started made it to the finish in Olbia without having retired at any point throughout the weekend.
With that being said, here are Colin Clark’s driver ratings from Rally Italy 2021.
Toyota Gazoo Racing
Sébastien Ogier 10/10
Rally Italy result: 1st
One of the very best drives we’ve seen from the seven-time World Rally Champion. It should be impossible to win from first on the road in Sardinia but Ogier showed with some style that that is very much not the case. Took calculated risks and pushed hard on the opening day to mitigate the time loss caused by sweeping the road clean and then capitalised on others’ misfortune and mistakes to take what turned out to be a relatively easy victory.
This was a rally that was always going to be about intelligence and experience and Ogier once again showed that he has bucket loads of both. Looking ominously confident with the tools at his disposal this season and you’d be a brave hunter to bet against him making it eight championship wins by the end of the season.
Elfyn Evans 8/10
Rally Italy result: 2nd
Maybe I’m beginning to sound like a broken record, but again I got the feeling that Elfyn wasn’t firing on all cylinders last week. Struggled with set up on the first day after a bit of a knee jerk reaction to the lack of pace in Portugal but progressively found more confidence and pace after reverting back to a more familiar set up from Saturday onwards.
Somehow salvaged second place from what was looking like a difficult weekend for the Welshman. Very much still in the title fight but will be looking to find that ultimate pace if he is to stop the Ogier juggernaut that’s in danger of flattening all in in front of it in this year’s championship.
Kalle Rovanperä 6/10
Rally Italy result: 25th
Did he or didn’t he hit anything to cause the suspension to break on his Yaris WRC on Friday morning? I really don’t know but what I do know is that having looked blindingly fast through the opening tests on Friday, a retirement was the last thing the frustrated Finn needed. Rovanperä is way past the point in his career where he can take positives from fast stage times – everyone knows that he’s right up there amongst the very quickest.
That’s three disappointing events in a row now and what’s needed is a cool head and a calculated approach to get the Rovanperä show very much back on the road in Kenya. No need for anyone to hit the panic button yet, these things happen in the development years of all great champions.
Takamoto Katsuta 8/10
Rally Italy result: 4th
The young Japanese flyer continues to impress in his first full season in WRC machinery, and I’m racking my brains to think of any other driver who’s shown such consistency in their first full year. This event was always going to be a tricky one for Taka-san; its only eight months after all since he destroyed his Yaris WRC on this island with a massive final day shunt.
A driver who’s way more comfortable on the fast flowing gravel roads of Finland and Estonia, he adapted well and showed great rally craft to look after his car and equal his best ever finish.
Thierry Neuvuille 8/10
Rally Italy result: 3rd
A proper rollercoaster of a weekend for Neuville in Sardinia. At times he struggled massively to control his i20 Coupe WRC and lacked confidence in his machinery all weekend. But then we saw the very best of the Belgian ace in the powerstage where the win went a long way to keeping him the championship hunt – just.
Much like Evans, Neuville’s season hasn’t really hit top gear yet but he’ll need to find that little bit extra if he is to maintain a challenge to Ogier as the season progresses. The Hyundai seems to have the pace but have they sacrificed an element of handling in pursuit of extra speed? For Neuville’s championship chances let’s hope not.
Ott Tänak 8/10
Rally Italy result: 24th
Started where he left off in Portugal in terms of pace – Tänak was the quickest of the lot and looked remarkably assured in his i20 Coupe WRC. But finished the same way as in Portugal – stopped at the side of the road with smashed suspension. There’s no question that Tänak hit a rock in SS12 but there remains a lot of debate as to wether it should have been a car-breaking rock.
So yes, there are questions emerging as to the possible fragility of the Hyundai suspension and that is talk it will want to dispel mighty quickly with the Safari and then the Acropolis rallies both still to come. Is it too early to say that Tänak’s championship hopes disappeared in the dust and rocks of SS12 in Sardinia? Never say never with a precocious talent like Tänak but at the same time I’d advise caution about putting any of your hard earned dollars on a Tänak title in 2021.
Dani Sordo 6/10
Rally Italy result: 17th
Looking to make it three wins in a row on the island, the Spaniard’s chances were effectively over by the end of day one. Yes, he was lying in second but a twenty second deficit to the leader was not what was expected nor needed. Sordo was in the perfect place on the road on Friday to build a lead that he could then go on to try and defend over the remaining two day of competition.
Being on the back foot rarely suits Dani and he had no answer to Tänak or Ogier’s Saturday morning pace. When Tänak retired, the pressure was on Sordo to keep Evans behind him and sadly he wasn’t up to the task, crashing out on SS15. Very, very rare for Sordo to make this kind of mistake – when he’s not comfortable he invariably resorts to pace that’s super safe if a little slow. You have to question perhaps the pressure that was put on Sordo after the retirement of Tänak and if this ultimately had anything to do with his uncharacteristic mistake.
Pierre-Loius Loubet 2/10
Rally Italy result: DNF
Was he at this event? I didn’t notice and that’s a sad inditement of where the young Frenchman is right now. I understand he completed more stages than in Portugal – so you have to call that progress – and as such he gets one more point than he did in Portugal.
If ever a young drive needed a wise guiding hand a cool head to steer him through the choppiest of WRC waters, then it’s Loubet. Let’s hope he finds that person, listens to the guidance and gets his career back on track before it sinks forever.
Teemu Suninen 4/10
Rally Italy result: 31st
I think I’m being a little generous here after Teemu’s inexcusable first stage off. And don’t forget, he did exactly the same thing on the Monte. If ever a driver needed a good result in Sardinia it was Suninen. This is a rally where he’s gone well in the past and perhaps had the stage of his life last time out eight months ago.
There’s so much debate and speculation about the M-Sport line-up for 2022 and this was a golden opportunity for the enigmatic Finn to shout his credentials from the roof tops. Sadly, he walks away from Sardinia with more question marks than top marks. Were there extenuating factors? Maybe. But there’s no doubt Suninen blew a fabulous opportunity to silence the doubters and put himself in the box seat for 2022.
Gus Greensmith 7/10
Rally Italy result: 26th
Didn’t do anything wrong all weekend but was plagued by reliability issues with his Fiesta WRC. Coped extremely well with the last minute co-driver switch and showed great maturity in his handling of the multiple issues he faced.
He’ll be looking forward to having Chris Patterson back in the car for the Safari and resuming his pursuit of that first so far elusive stage win.
Kris Meeke 10/10
I really didn’t give him full marks that often, if ever at all, during his driving days but he deserves nothing less for his WRC All Live debut in Sardinia. How refreshing was it to hear the views and analysis of a top-level driver who’s not afraid to voice an opinion or offer a cogent comment?
The TV coverage has been crying out for this kind of commentary and boy was it entertaining. I’d much rather see Meeke out on the stages but failing that, let’s get him back out and about in the service park and commentary box on event – you never know what you’re going to get from Meeke and that makes him utterly compelling viewing.
Do you agree with Colin’s ratings? Drop us a comment below and let us know.