Toyota’s Kalle Rovanperä set the quickest time on the Monza Rally shakedown, while World Rally Championship points leader Sébastien Ogier was only eighth.
The precursor to the final round of the 2021 season was run on the 2.5-mile PZero test around the Monza circuit, and also gave the field an idea of what to expect on the night stages held at the Grand Prix venue across the weekend.
Rovanperä, who is guaranteed to finish at least fourth in the WRC standings due to 2019 champion Ott Tänak’s absence for personal reasons, posted a time of 2m55.1s on his third run, emerging some three tenths of a second faster than Hyundai’s Thierry Neuville (pictured above).
Behind Neuville was the impressive Adrien Fourmaux who, driving his first Monza Rally in World Rally Car machinery this weekend, set the third-quickest time.
With a 17-point deficit to his Toyota team-mate Ogier, Elfyn Evans is targeting nothing less than victory come Sunday afternoon, commenting after his first run that “a balance” needed to be found if he is to stand a chance of becoming world champion.
He finished shakedown fourth, just ahead of M-Sport’s Gus Greensmith – who used the time between his first and second runs to pen a contract extension with the Ford team for 2022. Greensmith had five runs of the shakedown stage.
Dani Sordo was sixth in his Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC, a mere tenth of a second faster than Teemu Suninen; the Finn contesting a one-off top-class drive in place of Tänak.
Ogier only managed the eighth-fastest time, but the seven-time champion did not seem perturbed about the 3.7s deficit to Rovanperä, instead saying his aim was to “enjoy the last moments” in the WRC with his co-driver Julien Ingrassia.
He finished ahead of Takamoto Katsuta, while Oliver Solberg completed the top 10, having struggled for visibility amid heavy fog midway through the opening runs.
The best of the Rally2 entries was Andrea Crugnola, who edged out WRC2 Champion Andreas Mikkelsen by nine tenths of a second.
1 Kalle Rovanperä/Jonne Halttunen (Toyota) 2m55.1s
2 Thierry Neuville/Martijn Wydaeghe (Hyundai) +0.3s
3 Adrien Fourmaux/Alexandre Coria (M-Sport) +1.0s
4 Elfyn Evans/Scott Martin (Toyota) +1.3s
5 Gus Greensmith/Jonas Andersson (M-Sport) +1.3s
6 Dani Sordo/Cándido Carrera (Hyundai) +3.3s
7 Teemu Suninen/Mikko Markkula (Hyundai) +3.4s
8 Sébastien Ogier/Julien Ingrassia (Toyota) +3.7s
9 Takamoto Katsuta/Aaron Johnston (Toyota) +3.8s
10 Oliver Solberg/Elliott Edmondson (Hyundai 2C Competition) +5.8s