M-Sport Ford team principal Richard Millener has raised the prospect of a Monza-based World Rally Championship round attracting the kind of star guest drivers that usually flock to the event.
The potential for this year’s WRC finale running at the northern Italian circuit is still being discussed – even though some sources are reporting the deal has already been done.
While Millener is cautious over the use of the circuit, he’s quick to point out the potential show that could be achieved given the event’s reputation for star guest drivers.
The likely date on the first weekend of December clashes with Formula 1’s second Bahrain race, so rally-keen F1 racers like Valtteri Bottas and Kimi Räikkönen would be off the Monza list for 2020.
But the event has been contested by plenty of stars from elsewhere in motorsport over the years, with MotoGP legend Valentino Rossi a regular participant for over two decades and even 2004 NASCAR Cup champion Kurt Busch contesting it in 2014.
Three-time Le Mans 24 Hours winner Rinaldo Capello has won the Monza Rally Show four times, including a 2005 victory driving for the factory Škoda squad as team-mate to Colin McRae, while Formula 1 race winner Robert Kubica took a win of his own in 2014.
Fellow F1 alumni Jean Alesi, Giancarlo Fisichella, Alex Zanardi, Nicola Larini and Ivan Capelli have also competed on the event in years past, as have Rossi’s fellow two-wheeled stars Loris Capirossi and the late Marco Simoncelli.
MotoGP finishes for 2020 in November, so Rossi – who is the most successful driver of all time at the Monza Rally Show with seven wins – would in theory be free to return, adding to his three WRC appearances made between 2002 and 2008.
M-Sport has also supplied current-generation WRC cars to Valentino Rossi’s VR46 team at previous editions of the Monza Rally Show.
“Even as a one-off, Monza is quite a long way away from the DNA of what we do on [regular] WRC rallies,” said Millener.
“But then again it could be a really interesting idea to showcase WRC in a different way.
“A lot of Formula 1 drivers have done that event and you could have a lot of names competing against the top [WRC] guys – it could be an interesting show.
“But we need to be careful that we don’t put the show over the top of what WRC is. We’ve got a little bit of time on that one and we need to see how that develops.”
Millener admitted Monza had been under discussion from the manufacturers for months.
“This was a suggestion from our side at the start of the whole lockdown process, not knowing if we’d get any rallies,” he said.
“We’ve had two now and the third and fourth ones seem OK, we need to just weigh this one up a little bit.
“There are two views to look at whether it would be suitable for a WRC event.”
Millener was more lukewarm on the potential for a Croatian round, pointing out: “They haven’t had a candidate rally and to ask an organizer to come up with a new event, in a matter of weeks, would be challenging. In these times, it would be more than challenging.
“I’m not against the idea of going, but I think we should be very careful not to take any risks trying to organize an event in such a short space of time.”