The fight for the FIA World Rally Championship manufacturers’ title is balanced on a tight rope ahead of next week’s season finale shootout at ACI Rally Monza (3 – 6 December).
Just seven points divide reigning champions Hyundai Motorsport and Toyota Gazoo Racing and with a maximum 43 points on offer at Italy’s asphalt encounter, the crown remains firmly up for grabs.
Toyota has held the advantage for the balance of the season but a 1-2 finish at last month’s Rally Italia Sardegna enabled Hyundai to overturn a nine-point deficit. However, team principal Andrea Adamo says everything is still to play for.
“On paper, we have an advantage of seven points but at the pinnacle of rallying this is nothing,” he said. “We can’t take anything for granted as we prepare for the first-ever WRC event in Monza, a truly historic and special venue for any motorsport fan.
Hyundai fields Thierry Neuville, Ott Tänak and Dani Sordo, all of whom have scored event victories this season. Neuville won the opening round at Rallye Monte-Carlo, Tänak scored on home ground in Estonia and Sordo claimed a second consecutive success in Sardinia.
“We have three crews who have all shown this year that they can win, but even that doesn’t guarantee results. We will have to work hard for that and keep pushing right up to the final Power Stage. It’s entirely in our hands,” added Adamo.
His Toyota counterpart, Tommi Mäkinen, is preparing for his final rally in charge of the Japanese team before stepping down. The Finn would like nothing better to bow out with a second manufacturers’ success to follow up the squad’s 2018 victory.
Elfyn Evans and Sébastien Ogier, the principal protagonists in the drivers’ title battle, will be joined by season rookie Kalle Rovanperä.
“The format will be a bit different to what we are used to. I think the stages in the mountains will be particularly challenging for the drivers as they will be new for everyone,” admitted Mäkinen.
“Our drivers do not have so much experience with the car on asphalt, but we have prepared as well as we can for this rally, including our pre-event testing this week. The manufacturers’ title is still very open so we have to push for the best result at the finish.”
Full coverage from ACI Rally Monza will be available on WRC+ All Live here, including every stage broadcast as it happens as well as key interviews, features and expert analysis from the service park.