Sébastien Ogier will carry a 0.5-second lead over Elfyn Evans into the final day of the 2021 World Rally Championship season, leaving him firmly on course to secure an eighth world title.
Ogier began Saturday’s final Monza Rally stage 0.3s adrift of Evans but outpaced his Toyota team-mate by 0.8s, retaking the rally lead with just three stages – all at the circuit – left to go on Sunday.
It was the fifth change of lead between the two on Saturday’s six stages.
Dani Sordo grabbed his first stage win of the weekend and remained in the final podium place, albeit 27.4s down on the leader.
Thierry Neuville has designs on that third position but admitted at the end of SS13 that his team-mate is likely “impossible to catch” given the nature of the circuit stages.
Sordo and Neuville were the quickest two drivers on Saturday’s final test; Sordo beating Neuville by 0.5s to protect a 19.2s overall advantage.
Oliver Solberg had looked to be under a little bit of threat from Takamoto Katsuta, leading the Toyota junior by 14s ahead of SS13.
But Solberg was determined not to be beaten on the second pass of Sottozero and found 3.6s over Katsuta to increase his cushion over sixth place to 17.6s.
“I was fed up with myself earlier so I went flat out now!” Solberg said. “I was on the limit in many places but it’s so good fun. On the gravelI was flat out, it was so fun.”
Katsuta’s run was not perfect. “I think I made a mistake, I put too much pressure on myself maybe, but everything’s fine,” he said. “Let’s see tomorrow, I’ll try and push as much as I can.”
Gus Greensmith has his sights firmly set on Teemu Suninen’s seventh spot, but despite showing the potential to take an incisive bite out of his deficit on SS13 he only bettered the Hyundai by 0.2s.
Kalle Rovanperä had what he called “another cruising day”, sticking to his brief of getting round safely to ensure Toyota does enough to secure the 2021 manufacturers’ title.
Yohan Rossel was overtaken for 10th overall by Andrea Crugnola, but still ended the day provisionally in position to win the WRC3 title against Kajetan Kajetanowicz.
1 Dani Sordo/Candido Carrera (Hyundai) 9m10.7s
2 Thierry Neuville/Martijn Wydaeghe (Hyundai) +0.5s
3 Sébastien Ogier/Julien Ingrassia (Toyota) +1.6s
4 Elfyn Evans/Scott Martin (Toyota) +2.4s
5 Oliver Solberg/Elliott Edmondson (Hyundai) +2.5s
6 Takamoto Katsuta/Aaron Johnston (Toyota) +6.1s
Leading positions after SS13
1 Ogier/Ingrassia 2h13m27.2s
2 Evans/Martin +0.5s
3 Sordo/Carrera +27.4s
4 Neuville/Wydaeghe +46.6s
5 Solberg/Edmondson +1m21.2s
6 Katsuta/Johnston +1m38.8s
7 Teemu Suninen/Mikko Markkula (Hyundai) +2m17.1s
8 Gus Greensmith/Jonas Andersson (M-Sport Ford) +2m24.8s
9 Kalle Rovanperä/Jonne Haltunnen (Toyota) +3m39.1s
10 Andrea Crugnola/Pietro Elia Ometto (Hyundai) +8m07.1s