The 2020 World Rally Championship finale at Monza will go ahead next week. But the World Rallycross Championship finale at the Nürburgring next month has been called off.
David Evans is delighted the WRC can conclude properly, but has concerns over consistency – as he explains in his latest opinion column:
Rome has spoken. Or it will on Sunday. And the news is good. Or it will be.
The news is that coronavirus restrictions in Lombardy will be eased from Sunday.
When the recce starts for the final round of this year’s World Rally Championship it will do so in an orange, not red zone.
What does that mean? I’m not entirely sure, but I do know that, just for once in motorsport terms, not being in the red zone will be very welcome.
It’s probably just as well. One of the reported restrictions was for folk travelling together in cars in Lombardy. Up to three per motor were permitted, but only one in the front.
Presumably, that would have left current co-drivers searching for Christian Geistdörfer’s telephone number to ask him what it was like to guide Walter Röhrl from the back seat of their factory Fiat 131 Abarth. That one-off shift was to improve traction for the rear-wheel drive car on the 1978 RAC Rally.
Geistdörfer wasn’t a fan. And nor was the governing body. Such a move was banned the following year.
So… hopefully an orange zone allows for two people up front next week.
I can’t wait for Rally Monza.
Like you probably have, I’ve hated this season. Being so horribly starved of our sport is not normal.
It’s amazing that we have a championship fight going into the final round and we have a final round that’s so different to anything we’ve seen before.
I’ve heard all the nonsense about Monza being a show event and nothing more. Forget it. It’s going to be sensational. I’m just sad we won’t be seeing Elfyn Evans and Sébastien Ogier banging door handles through a split junction at Rettifilo.
The Autodromo Nazionale di Monza is, without doubt, one of the most beautiful and beautifully placed circuits in the world.
Built within the confines of the Royal Villa of Monza in 1922, it is, for me, at its best at this time of the year. Close enough to the mountains to catch the coat tails of an early winter freeze, it’s an enchanting place at an icy first light.
And then there’s a Saturday on the roads around Bergamo. I mean, Bergamo… have you seen the place? It’s bloody gorgeous. And so are those roads.
So, yes, all-in-all, I’m pretty chuffed that orange is the new northern Italian red.
I’m also, it has to be said, slightly confused at the mixed messages coming out of our governing body.
I’m sure we all saw the FIA’s message about the World Rallycross finale in Germany earlier this week.
If not, allow me: “In light of continued health concerns regarding COVID-19, the organizers of the FIA World Rallycross of Germany, scheduled to take place on December 12-13, have taken the decision to cancel the event, with the health and safety of everyone involved remaining the priority.”
Next month’s World RX event was being held in Rhineland, a region which has registered 41,682 cases of coronavirus. Of those cases, there have been 492 deaths. The current infection rate is 835 people per 100,000 and, at the time of writing, there were 835 new cases.
The FIA’s reluctance to go is understandable – especially given stated priority of the health and safety of everybody involved.
Let’s compare Rhineland with the soon-to-be-orange-not-red Lombardy.
For Rhineland’s 41,682 cases, read 393,000. And 21,212 deaths. The current infection rate is 2816 people per 100,000 and there were 5697 new cases in the last 24 hours.
I don’t get it.
I sought an explanation on the back of these numbers from both the FIA and WRC Promoter. Both declined to comment.
Is it just me, or is this almost as uncomfortable as FIA president Jean Todt tweeting about “Protecting people first” when Formula 1’s Bahrain and Vietnam Grands Prix were officially postponed on March 13?
Some in the service park would, no doubt have agreed with that principle, had the FIA’s World Rally Championship not been busy on the opening day’s stages at Rally México.
I believe everything has been considered to make it safe anyway, and that we are running a bit in our bubbleSébastien Ogier
Now, I’m not saying whether it’s right or wrong that Todt praised the postponement of two world championship events while another – and, don’t forget, one with a far, far more widespread footprint – continued. Like I’m not saying it’s right or wrong that World RX loses its final round, while the WRC keeps its decider.
All I’m asking for is consistency from the governing body.
Sébastien Ogier was the driver banging the drum hardest for us to get out of México early. And he has his concerns about next week.
“I expected that it would be very difficult to do this rally regarding what we were seeing in the news and the situation in the area,” Ogier told DirtFish.
“I was very definitive on that fact that we do the rally, but now it seems that it’s happening, I don’t know.
“I believe everything has been considered to make it safe anyway, and that we are running a bit in our bubble.”
Ogier takes comfort from containment. The containment of the WRC service park and entire entourage spending two of the three days inside the track.
“I think on the Monza track, we’ve seen a lot of races on track happening [this year], and it’s much more easy to make a closed environment,” he said.
“That will be the most difficult,” Ogier continued.
“I hope they will plan on that side to be sure no spectators want to come.
“When we see the enthusiasm from Italians for motorsport, I’m not so sure…”
Having attended a few no-spectator events in Italy this year, Ogier’s concerns are entirely justified.
Next week marks the WRC’s long overdue return to the north of this rally-fanatical country; do we really expect the WRC tifosi to sit at home and wait to read the results?
There are some cynics out there who suspect there could already be a plan to can Saturday and shift Sunday’s stages forward by a day – easy enough to do on a closed circuit. With everybody in place, a two-day WRC finale would, surely, be better than a no-day WRC finale?
Not according to the champ. The Toyota man is insistent the vastly impressive 95-strong Monza entry list has to be tested in the mountains as well as on the circuit.
“If it’s only in the circuit, we all believe that it’s not really worth a world championship event,” said Ogier.
“I believe the compromise from both was good and I’m hoping it’s possible to still be there [in the mountains, even] if it’s only one day and three stages.”
One way or another, Monza looks set to provide a suitably entertaining – as well as politically charged – finale to what’s been a season like no other.