The first leg of ACI Rally Monza was completely run inside the boundaries of – and mostly on –Autodromo Nazionale di Monza. The rally crews even had to tackle the iconic banking, last used by F1 cars back in 1961. The second 2020 WRC event on Italian soil started with a single stage on Thursday evening in most treacherous weather conditions. Temperatures just above zero and heavy rain transformed the former Royal Park virtually into a mud bath. Standing water and even some patches of snow made tyre choice also for Friday’s five mixed tarmac and gravel stages kind of a lottery.
Andreas Mikkelsen opted for snow rubber for his Eurosol Racing Team Hungary run ŠKODA FABIA Rally2 evo, a bold choice considering he might need his allocation of only eight such tyres on Saturday’s mountain stages. But the gamble paid off. The experienced Norwegian scored category wins on four of Friday’s five stages, extending his WRC3 lead in the process to nearly a minute. After the first leg, Mikkelsen and co-driver Anders Jæger not only head RC2 class. They also hold seventh position overall, blatantly mixing with the much more powerful Word Rally Cars.
Another ŠKODA FABIA Rally2 evo inside top 10 overall is shared by Emil Lindholm and Mikael Korhonen from Finland. The privateers occupy ninth place on the leader board, in WRC3 trailing category leaders Mikkelsen/ Jæger by 52.5 seconds. Hot on their heels are ŠKODA Motorsport supported Oliver Solberg and co-driver Aaron Johnston. “I stalled the engine in stage 2, losing roughly 20 seconds,” the 19 years old Swede reported. “We experienced some crazy conditions – so wet and slippy. It’s been a rally of survival so far.” Solberg made up time during the day, reaching the overnight halt in tenth overall only 1.2 seconds from Emil Lindholm.
In WRC2, ŠKODA privateer Pontus Tidemand chose a cautious approach to the muddy conditions. “I took it quite safe, maybe braking a little bit too early some times,” the WRC2 champion from 2017 explained his strategy. When early leader Adrien Fourmaux collected a puncture in stage 5, Tidemand and co-driver Patrik Barth in the Toksport WRT Team entered ŠKODA FABIA Rally2 evo took the category lead. 2018 WRC2 champion Jan Kopecký and co-driver Jan Hloušek enjoy their first world championship outing this season. The Czech ŠKODA FABIA Rally2 evo crew lies fourth in WRC2 after leg 1, trailing team mate Tidemand by less than 20 seconds.
Polish privateer Kajetan Kajetanowicz and co-driver Maciej Szczepaniak, who are fighting for WRC3 title, brought their ŠKODA FABIA Rally2 evo to the day’s finish in fifth place of the category. German racing driver Maro Engel, third overall in ADAC GT Masters 2020, on his WRC debut survived one of the season’s most challenging days. Sharing a Toksport WRT Team entered ŠKODA FABIA Rally2 evo with Austrian co-driver Ilka Minor he ended the first leg on 18th in WRC3.
On Saturday, ACI Rally Monza leaves the Autodromo and heads to the mountains. There’s a good chance of some snow on the six stages, before one more test in Monza rounds up leg 2. Total stage distance on Saturday is 126.95 kms.
Standings ACI Rally Monza after Leg 1 (WRC2)
1. Tidemand/Barth (SWE/SWE), ŠKODA FABIA Rally2 evo, 55:43.1 min.
2. Fourmaux/Jamoul (FRA/BEL), Ford Fiesta Rally2, + 6.8 sec.
3. Østberg/Eriksen (NOR/NOR), Citroën C3 Rally2, + 12.4 sec.
4. Kopecký/Hloušek (CZE/CZE), ŠKODA FABIA Rally2 evo, + 19.9 sec.
Standings ACI Rally Monza after Leg 1 (WRC3)
1. Mikkelsen/Jæger (NOR/NOR), ŠKODA FABIA Rally2 evo, 54:33.5 min.
2. Lindholm/Korhonen (FIN/FIN), ŠKODA FABIA Rally2 evo, + 52.5 sec.
3. Solberg/Johnston (SWE/IRL), ŠKODA FABIA Rally2 evo, + 53.7 sec.
4. Huttunen/Lukka (FIN/FIN), Hyundai i20 Rally2, + 1:06.8 min.
5. Kajetan Kajetanowicz/Maciej Szczepaniak (POL/POL), ŠKODA FABIA Rally2 evo, + 1:29.7 min.
6. Bulacia Wilkinson/Der Ohannesian (BOL/ARG), Citroën C3 Rally2, + 208.1 Min.
Number of the day: 3
After the first leg of ACI Rally Monza, three ŠKODA FABIA Rally2 evo crews are inside the top 10 overall: Andreas Mikkelsen/Anders Jæger in 7th, Emil Lindholm/Mikael Korhonen in 9th and Oliver Solberg/Aaron Johnston in 10th.
The calendar of the 2020 FIA World Rally Championship
Italia Sardegna 08/10/–11/10/2020