While Friday’s first leg was completely run inside the boundaries of the Monza race track, on Saturday the cars headed for the nearby mountains. Although most of the snow, which the crews encountered three days ago during recce, had melted at least on the roads, the conditions were still treacherous. As a consequence, the crews had different opinions concerning tyre strategy.
While the opposition in WRC2 opted for rain tyres, overnight category leader Pontus Tidemand went out on a mixture of rain and snow rubber on his Toksport WRT Team run ŠKODA FABIA Rally2 evo. When the teams came back to Monza after three stages for the midday service, Tidemand was down in 4th. “Definitely the wrong tyre choice,” the Swede confessed. In WRC3, overnight leader Andreas Mikkelsen also lost time for the same reason. But the Norwegian in the Eurosol Racing Team Hungary ŠKODA FABIA Rally2 evo hung onto the lead. With his first WRC3 stage win of the rally, ŠKODA Motorsport supported Oliver Solberg bumped Finnish ŠKODA privateer Emil Lindholm from category second.
When the crews headed back to the mountains it turned out, that the difficult morning was just an appetizer for an even more challenging afternoon. First of all, stage 10 was cancelled for WRC2 and WRC3 crews due to two crashed cars blocking the road. The next test caught the competitors out with some fresh snow. This time, Pontus Tidemand had the correct rubber on his ŠKODA FABIA Rally2 evo. With a category stage win he climbed back to P2 in WRC2.
As the next stage was also cancelled, this time due to heavy snow fall, crews headed back to Monza for the day’s last test on the Autodromo grounds. With no further changes in the classifications, Andreas Mikkelsen goes into the last leg of the rally with a slim 14.3 seconds WRC3 lead over Oliver Solberg. “What an incredible difficult day of rallying – but it has been a good one for us,” said the 19 years old son of former World Champion Petter Solberg. Solberg and Mikkelsen didn’t hesitate to put their respective ŠKODA FABIA Rally2 evo into the top 10 overall, amidst the roughly 100 hp stronger World Rally Cars. Mikkelsen is in 6th overall, Solberg in 7th. Rounding up the top 10 on the overall leader board is ŠKODA privateer Emil Lindholm, 4th in WRC3. The Finn was lucky enough to escape a puncture on stage 11. However the rubber hung onto the rim and he reached the stage finish without changing the tyre.
While WRC3 was dominated by ŠKODA crews, Pontus Tidemand trails WRC2 leader Mads Østberg (Citroën) by 30.9 seconds. Czech crew Jan Kopecký/Jan Hloušek hold 3rd in the second Toksport WRT Team run ŠKODA FABIA Rally2 evo. Tidemand and Østberg fight for the 2020 WRC2 title. “It’s a pity, I needed that cancelled long stage. Not a lot is left now. All we can do is push as hard as we can,” Tidemand said, well aware, that he has to pass the Norwegian to win his second WRC2 title after 2017. He has three stages on Sunday to do so. All are run inside the Royal Park of Monza, covering the final 38.31 kms of the 2020 season.
Standings ACI Rally Monza after Leg 2 (WRC2)
1. Østberg/Eriksen (NOR/NOR), Citroën C3 Rally2, + 1:52:26.2 hrs.
2. Tidemand/Barth (SWE/SWE), ŠKODA FABIA Rally2 evo, + 30.9 sec.
3. Kopecký/Hloušek (CZE/CZE), ŠKODA FABIA Rally2 evo, + 1:11.4 min.
4. Fourmaux/Jamoul (FRA/BEL), Ford Fiesta Rally2, + 26:26.5 min.
Standings ACI Rally Monza after Leg 2 (WRC3)
1. Mikkelsen/Jæger (NOR/NOR), ŠKODA FABIA Rally2 evo, 1:51:07.8 hrs.
2. Solberg/Johnston (SWE/IRL), ŠKODA FABIA Rally2 evo, + 14.3 sec.
3. Huttunen/Lukka (FIN/FIN), Hyundai i20 Rally2, + 48.3 sec.
4. Lindholm/Korhonen (FIN/FIN), ŠKODA FABIA Rally2 evo, + 1:46.0 min.
5. Kajetan Kajetanowicz/Maciej Szczepaniak (POL/POL), ŠKODA FABIA Rally2 evo, + 3:06.9 min.
6. Bulacia Wilkinson/Der Ohannesian (BOL/ARG), Citroën C3 Rally2, + 4:16.8 min.
Number of the day: 29.8
When the clocks at the end of stage 11 stopped, Pontus Tidemand and co-driver Patrik Barth had completed the 10.9 kms test a whopping 29.8 seconds faster than anybody else in WRC2. The championship leaders were clever enough to put two snow plus two rain tyres on their ŠKODA FABIA Rally2 evo. The competition struggled on full rains.
The calendar of the 2020 FIA World Rally Championship
Italia Sardegna 08/10/–11/10/2020