The cones, to be clear, will be gone. No cones. And, by extension, no penalties for hitting the cones. Monza Rally 2020 is a round of the FIA World Rally Championship – it’s not Wolverhampton and South Staffs’ BTRDA Autotest on the runway at Halfpenny Green.
It’s fair to say there was a significant degree of discussion about making what was the Monza Rally Show more rally than show ready for its WRC debut. Could it be done? Can it be done?
It can, according to two-time world champion co-driver Tiziano Siviero.
Siviero’s the man who was charged with converting a made-for-fans spectacle into something worthy of offering the same number of points as the season-opening Monte Carlo Rally.
Sounds like he’s done a good job.
“In practice, the starting concept was to move from a race based on the show to a real rally that will give us the new world champion and trying to make sure the best driver and the best car win the event,” said Miki Biasion’s former co-driver.
“The idea is that we run on real special stages [that are] difficult and complicated. With this philosophy, obviously, there will no longer be cones in the circuit and all the other things that, in the past, we gave penalties for.”
Moving into the specifics of a route which will divide itself between action on the Monza circuit (Thursday, Friday and Sunday) and roads out in the north-east of the Lombardy circuit (Saturday), Siviero outlined the nature of the stages for Italy’s second WRC round of the year.
He told Autosprint: “The super special on Thursday evening – the King of Show – is all made [completely] on the pit straight.
“The stages A1/2, B1/2, C1/2 and D1/2 have been prepared using both the track and the internal roads of the circuit, which connect the various marshals’ positions. Obviously, in all the stages we also included some parts of the high-speed upper oval.”
So, not only do we get to see current Rally1 cars on the banked oval, but we’ll also see them running asphalt-specification tyres on gravel sections of road.
“The novelty is that the King of Show and the Grand Prix stages are the only ones run all on asphalt,” continued Siviero. “All the other stages on the circuit have some gravel tracks used. In particular it is the D stage, that is also the powerstage, where there is more gravel.”
Don’t be thinking this is a mixed-surface event in the style of Rally Spain. There won’t be any 75-minute set-up change services here. We’re talking smooth gravel that will seriously reduce grip and encourage the cars into an all-angle line of attack.
Out of the circuit, Siviero confirmed the crews would be bound for Bergamo rather than Como, which had been the other option.
He added: “I went to see timed sections throughout all Lombardy region and I must say that the special stages that I liked the most were those in the Bergamo area.
“These stages are all three of the best stages to drive. Evaluated as a whole, they are fast with very fast sections, but, because they develop on the roads of the mountains, there are also some narrow and slow sections. The track varies from wide to narrow with changes in surface and grip.
“Going into detail, the first stage of Selvino has continuity of rhythm, with changes of asphalt, you go from uphill to downhill, and from a roadway that was first wide and then narrow.
“It also has some slippery sections because they are in the shade and also full of leaves, in short, it is a truly world championship test.
“The second, that of Gerosa, is shorter and faster with an uphill start, but it is easy for there to be big gaps because you have to know how to drive it and know how to take the right pace.
“The third stage, Costa Valle, is certainly the one that will be feared the most by the drivers. It has a slow first part followed by a very fast part, a very technical section and a stretch almost like a track.
“The stage then ends with a final descent where it takes heart and courage. Proof [on this section] that if you don’t do it with the right rhythm and concentration, you can also lose important seconds.
“On Sunday there will be the Grand Prix stage first and then the drivers will face the special called D, which is a cocktail of the other specials held on the circuit.”
With so much of the circuit being used in so many different iterations, the emphasis will be firmly on Siviero’s colleagues being on the money.
“You will pass in various points of the track in both directions, depending on the stage being held,” he said. “That’s why a correct drafting of the pacenotes will certainly be very important even on the circuit.”
So, there you have it; not the final round of the WRC we were expecting at Rally Japan, but it’s never going to be a bad thing to have a world champion crowned in the Cathedral of Speed.
(And, just to be clear, I’m a big fan of autotesting – especially at Halfpenny Green.)
Monza Rally itinerary
Thursday December 3
Shakedown Monza Circuit (2.48 miles) 1001
SS1 Monza King of Show (1.25 miles) 1408
Friday December 4
SS2 A1 (8.25 miles) 0758
Service Paddock 0818
SS3 A2 (8.25 miles) 1008
Service Paddock 1028
SS4 B1 (9.96 miles) 1238
Service Paddock 1302
SS4 B2 (9.96 miles) 1508
Service Paddock 1532
SS5 Grand Prix 1 (6.41 miles) 1738
Service Paddock 1758
Saturday December 5
SS7 Selvino 1 (16.39 miles) 0801
SS8 Gerosa 1 (7.02 miles) 0912
SS9 Costa Valle Imagna 1 (13.75 miles) 1008
Service Paddock 1123
SS10 Selvino 2 (16.39 miles) 1331
SS11 Gerosa 2 (7.02 miles) 1442
SS12 Costa Valle Imagna 2 (13.75 miles) 1538
Service Paddock 1655
SS13 Grand Prix 2 (6.41 miles) 1738
Service Paddock 1758
Sunday December 4
SS14 Grand Prix 3 (6.41 miles) 0748
Service Paddock 0808
SS15 D1 (9.33 miles) 1008
Service Paddock 1030
SS16 D2 (9.33 miles) 1218
Finish Pit lane 1400