Come on then, who’s your money on for the last two rounds of this year’s ever so slightly odd World Rally Championship.
Francois Duval? Robert Kubica? Bruno Thiry? By extension, Gregoire de Mevius. Or Valentino Rossi? Or Tony Cairoli. Or Kris Meeke.
Forget the very, very sharp end. The championship challengers and those looking to trouble the podium’s top step. For now, there’s serious interest in who might join the WRC regulars when the series lands in Belgium for a first-ever Ypres Rally and subsequently at Italy’s Monza Rally a fortnight later.
We’ve already heard M-Sport Ford World Rally Team principal Richard Millener talking about the potential for Valentino Rossi to be driving a Fiesta WRC at the Cathedral of Speed in December and his opposite number at Hyundai Motorsport, Andrea Adamo is talking in the same terms.
Monza has always been and will always be an end-of-season spectacle that offers an almost unique opportunity to bring drivers from outside the service park and give them a glimpse at planet WRC. Monza’s a chance to do something different.
Endurance racers Dindo Capello and Marco Bonanomi have done it. Thierry Neuville has co-driven for Andreas Mikkelsen. Andreas Mikkelsen has co-driven for Thierry Neuville.
It’s an event which lends itself to making a noise and showing off what our sport can do.
The only regret for Monza is that it falls within the confines of the Formula 1 season. As Millener pointed out last month, there’s every chance we could have landed ourselves an F1 racer or two (a pair of Finns spring easily to mind).
Beyond the spectacle, more cars mean more opportunity to impact on results and more opportunity to take a tactical approach to put cars in the right place to maximize points and possible prizes.
If I were Adamo, I’d be running four cars in Monza, with Craig Breen and Dani Sordo alongside Ott Tänak and Thierry Neuville. If either of his permanent drivers are to have any chance in this championship, they need their colleagues to be denying the likes of Elfyn Evans and Sébastien Ogier of points.
Ypres is different. The above still holds for the Belgian classic, but the chance for Duval to come – who is understood to be talking about a Rally1 entry – is born out of what’s potentially a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to take on the world’s best rally drivers on Belgium’s round of the world championship. It’s huge. And it’s another reason why we should be getting excited about rounds seven and eight of this year’s WRC season.
- The original version of this article stated Freddy Loix was in talks for a Rally1 entry. Loix has instead been confirmed as a member of Ott Tänak’s Hyundai gravel crew for Ypres Rally.