Sebastien Ogier wins the Monza Rally and takes his seventh championship.
The Frenchman started the final round on the back foot, but when series leader and Toyota Yaris team-mate Elfyn Evans crashed on Saturday, Ogier took advantage to win the asphalt fixture by 13.9sec and take the crown by eight points.
Outgoing champion Ott Tänak finished second, 1.4sec ahead of team-mate Dani Sordo. The double podium was sufficient to secure back-to-back manufacturers’ titles for Hyundai Motorsport.
Takamoto Katsuta won the live TV Wolf Power Stage in a Yaris to collect five bonus points. Tänak was second to claim four points, with Evans taking three in third. Esapekka Lappi took two points in fourth in a Ford Fiesta and Ogier secured the final point in fifth.
MAD OSTBERG REMAINS WITH THE WRC 2 CHAMPIONSHIP
The Norwegian’s event got off to a rocky start. He struggled with the set-up of his Citroën C3 R5 on Friday and ended the first full leg in third.
The tables were turned on Saturday morning when leader Adrien Fourmaux suffered a puncture during the Costa Valle Imagna speed test. Østberg had already leapfrogged title rival Pontus Tidemand at that point and snatched the lead as Sunday beckoned.
A conservative approach during the final day saw Østberg win the category by 25.6secs and lift the title trophy, an accolade he missed out on by one position last year.
“It’s unbelievable, I am really happy,” smiled Østberg at the finish.
“It was such a difficult weekend, with so many ups and downs all through the year. We have won the championship as the underdogs and we have developed the car through the year – just an amazing job by the team to get to this point,” he added.
Tidemand was disappointed to lose out on the victory, but remained positive despite getting a front right puncture during the rally-closing Wolf Power Stage.
“We did what we could and I think the performance was there, but we made bad tyre choices. I am happy to finish and it was really fun,” said the runner-up.
JARI HUTTUNEN WAS CROWNED WRC 3 CHAMPION
After blasting into an early lead on Thursday evening, the fast Finn opted not to get drawn into the scrap for the rally win.
Instead, he drove his Hyundai i20 R5 at a comfortable pace throughout the weekend’s remaining speed tests to come home 1min 19.2sec behind Andreas Mikkelsen in third. The result was enough to give Huttunen the title at the conclusion of a hard-fought season.
Huttunen was almost lost for words at the end of the final Serraglio Wolf Power Stage and said:
“It’s an amazing feeling. Thanks to my team, all of my sponsors and everybody who has helped me. I’m really happy, I can’t really say any more.”
Mikkelsen’s performance stood out as one of the best of the rally. The Norwegian returned to the WRC for the first time since 2019 and guided his Skoda Fabia Evo to several stage wins to take category honours and seventh overall..
Oliver Solberg kept the winner honest in his similar car. The pair traded times from the get-go and only 15.9sec split the pair on Sunday afternoon.
Emil Lindholm was 38.6sec behind fellow compatriot Huttunen in fourth despite a puncture on his Skoda during Saturday, whilst Kajetan Kajetanowicz rounded out the top five another 1min 40.5sec further back. The Pole ends the year third in the championship standings.
Bolivian hotshot Marco Bulacia had a steep learning curve with limited Tarmac experience in his Citroën C3 R5. He completed the event 4min 51.6sec down on the winners in sixth and secured second in the championship
Championship debutante Josh McErlean showed impressive pace in his Hyundai to finish a mere 16.5sec behind Bulacia in seventh.
Yohan Rossel ripped a rear wheel off his Citroën on Friday morning’s opener and was left playing catch-up for the remainder of the event.
Gregoire Munster also hit trouble when he rolled his i20 into retirement on the final stage.