Ogier claims seventh WRC world title in Monza

Toyota’s Sebastien Ogier took his seventh WRC world championship at a dramatic Monza Rally, as Hyundai claimed the manufacturers’ crown.

It was a relatively low-key run around the Villa Reale for the surviving crews, following the drama on Saturday’s closed road stages in the mountains.

Ogier won the first stage of the day with his Toyota teammate Kalle Rovanpera second, which helped to open up the gap to the pursuing Hyundais of Dani Sordo and Ott Tanak.

Early leader Sordo slipped to third behind Tanak, then reasserted himself to win the second stage of the morning with Tanak second and M-Sport’s Esapekka Lappi a strong third.

That made little difference to the overall result, and Ogier only really had to complete the final Power Stage to claim his seventh drivers’ world title.

The Power Stage saw Takamoto Katsuta finish fastest in the fourth of the works Toyotas as the rain progressively made conditions more treacherous as the field passed through.

Those maximum bonus points claimed by Katsuta would have been welcomed by Elfyn Evans, who returned after a Saturday crash all but ended his title hopes. The Welshman pressed on a little too hard and had a messy run with the car stalling twice.

Evans ended up third fastest, behind outgoing champion Ott Tanak’s Hyundai but ahead of M-Sport’s Esapekka Lappi and the Hyundai of Dani Sordo, who cleaned up the last remaining bonus points.

It was to prove an emotional day for Lappi, who announced that this would be his last WRC appearance for the foreseeable future as he crossed the finish line at the end of the day.

Ogier’s run through the stage was far from comfortable, driving through the churned-up gravel on asphalt settings and in teeming rain.

The Frenchman’s predicament was made worse when the windscreen wipers failed briefly and he was forced to kick-start them by using the screen wash before the road ahead disappeared entirely from view.

But Ogier held on to take the overall win with a margin of 13.9s from Tanak, enough to secure his seventh crown in eight years with the third different manufacturer.

“It doesn’t sound so bad, I have to say!” he said at the finish.

“Of course we feel for Elfyn also today he has made a very strong season, very consistent, and we had really good fun to fight each other…

“But today, yeah, I’m very happy. Not jumping in the air maybe like crazy because right now we are living in a time that, you know, a lot of people are suffering all over the world and I mean, you have to be decent.”

With second and third place points in the bag, separated by just 1.4s at the finish, Hyundai was able to bring home the manufacturers’ title that team principal Andrea Adamo prioritised above all else in the season.

“It’s complicated. So many images are passing by now,” Adamo said.

“I know how much we have fought, how much pressure we had, what I had to do to try to protect everyone. Everyone has been somehow personally touched [by COVID-19] and this year everyone lost someone, maybe… I also have some friends that are no more with me due to this.”

In the other classes, WRC refugee Mads Ostberg finished a strong rally in his factory-backed Citroen C3 to beat Skoda’s Pontus Tidemand to the rally win and the title.

“It’s been a crazy year, I mean we are winning the championship as the underdog, the other teams has done more rallies than us, we have the fewest rallies and we have developed the car through the year,” he said.

“It’s for sure something special to be world champion. Even though it’s WRC2, it’s a world championship and we have just won it.”

The WRC3 class saw a 1-2 finish for Skoda as another WRC refugee, Andreas Mikkelsen, headed home rising star Oliver Solberg. The title, however, fell to Hyundai’s Jari Huttunen, whose third place was enough to overhaul Bolivian-British driver Marco Bulcacia Wilkinson.

Sweden’s Tom Kristensson completed the title winners crowned on the event, claiming the Junior WRC title and winning a fully-funded season in WRC3 in an M-Sport Fiesta for 2021.

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