Whether they’re considered ‘Mickey Mouse’ or not, Friday’s Monza Rally stages will be key to being in the right place on the road.
If the anticipated snow does arrive in the mountains on Saturday, the World Rally Championship crews will all want to be as far back on the road as possible – hoping those going before them will act as a snowplough to clean the line.
Sébastien Ogier has done more than enough of his fair share of snowplough driving. So he has a plan for Friday’s five stages.
“The plan is very simple, we have to push,” Ogier, who is the early Monza Rally leader, told DirtFish.
“It’s going to be very important to pick up a good start position for the second day on Saturday, if it keeps snowing in the mountains, with our snow tires made for asphalt it can be a big disadvantage running at the front of the field.
“Friday is very important to be at the back of the [Rally1] pack on Saturday, so it’s a nice challenge.”
Hyundai driver Thierry Neuville agreed, but pointed out that getting through Friday’s stages quickly would require a “perfect” day.
“It’s true, Friday is very important, but it’s not going to be easy,” Neuville added.
“We know the roads a little bit on the circuit, but the surface will be getting more and more tricky all the time and you know that every small mistake, every small slide or missed braking [point] will be translated in a bad time.
“It’s going to be important to drive 100% perfect to be fastest on those stages.”
Following his first look at the Monza circuit stages, championship leader Elfyn Evans agreed with Neuville that keeping it clean would be the quickest way through.
“It’s going to be key to drive fast and drive well and drive clean in those stages,” said Evans.
“In terms of what we want from the car for those [stages], you do want a lot of grip. [But] I’m not 100% sure what you want around here to be honest. It’s quite different to what we’ve driven before.
“We’ve got a good idea for the mountain stages but in terms of the circuit it is very low grip for the most part and could get very dirty. It’s going to be tricky.
“The weather on the recce didn’t help either. It’s never easy to conduct a recce in those kind of [snowy] conditions, especially when the stages are new and with new notes potentially.
“It was very difficult to see the inside of the corners, for example, so it was quite important to have a good run through them yesterday [when there was less snow].
“It’s always difficult in these conditions because you can’t lean on the tyre you’re just trying to get through and make sure you’ve got what information you can.
“The surface of the road’s not visible so it’s hard to put in all the detail you normally would on the second pass.”