Monza’s inclusion on the 2020 World Rally Championship calendar has potentially opened the door for some big names from other motorsport disciplines to join in as a one-off – something M-Sport Ford team principal Rich Millener is keen to facilitate.
Midway through Rally Italy in Sardinia, the rumors about Monza Rally Show being added to the WRC to form an eight-round season after Ypres Rally Belgium were put to bed as it was confirmed on the calendar with a December 2-4 date.
The event will offer 135 stage miles with two days (Friday and Sunday) based within the confines of the Monza circuit and one on closed public roads in the Lombardy region.
Monza – and indeed a predominantly single-venue style of event – is new to the WRC but Monza is not new to rallying, with its first ever event being held in 1978.
Seven-time MotoGP champion Valentino Rossi is the event’s most successful driver, claiming seven wins between 2006 and 2018, and starting his first ever Monza Rally Show 23 years ago in 1997.
He is therefore a name that is immediately being linked to this year’s event, as he is also no stranger to the WRC having made three appearances before (Rally GB 2002, Rally New Zealand 2006 and Rally GB 2008) with a best finish of 11th.
Rossi is keen to try and make his home rally fit within his schedule now that it has become a round of the WRC.
“I know about Monza – a lot of people have already called me,” Rossi said on Friday.
“The plan was not to race in Monza because I wanted to race in Abu Dhabi [Gulf 24 Hours] again like last year. But for sure the situation has changed and to make it the last round of the world championship makes it a lot more interesting, and I have to see what happens now.”
Millener would be keen to see Rossi compete alongside the established WRC stars and preferably in one of his cars. Rossi and M-Sport have history, with all seven of his Monza wins coming in M-Sport-built machines.
“I think Monza’s going to bring a really interesting opportunity to WRC,” Millener told DirtFish.
“It’s attracted some great names in the past, we’ve worked with Valentino a number of years, it would be great to see someone like him at the event. For the whole of the WRC to bring interesting new faces for what is more than likely a one-off event that will never happen again [is positive].”
Rossi is just one global motorsport star that could be tempted though. Robert Kubica competed in the WRC’s top class full-time in both 2014 and 2015 before returning to circuit racing and completing his incredible Formula 1 comeback with Williams in 2019.
Mercedes-Benz F1 driver Valtteri Bottas meanwhile is known to be keen on rallying too and compatriot Kimi Räikkonen had a stint in the WRC of his own with Citroën in 2010 and ’11.
A clashing F1 grand prix in Bahrain rules Bottas and Räikkonen out, but there’s no such clash for Kubica who now races in the DTM with BMW.
“There’s a lot of other people that have been there in the past,” Milener added. “Kubica for example, it might be something of interest to him so we’ve now got to wait and see who’s available.
“There’s a lot of motorsport calendars cramming a lot of events into the end of the season. Unfortunately it does clash with one of the Formula 1 races so that puts some of the other guys that are into the rallying like Bottas out the window on that occasion but it would be really great to see some different names there.
“In the past at Monza there’s been huge names from all over the motorsport world so maybe we can get some of them to compete against the WRC boys in this interesting event.”