WRC legend Sebastien Ogier wrapped up his full-time driving career with victory on Rally Monza and his eighth FIA World Rally Championship title.
The 37-year-old Frenchman, who’ll switch to a part-time program in 2022, once again proved that he’s still the WRC benchmark with a final-leg performance that pulled him clear of Toyota Gazoo Racing teammate and title rival Elfyn Evans.
Ogier only needed a podium in the Italian season-closer to guarantee his eighth title in nine seasons, but was on a charge from the start and ended Saturday’s second leg with the overall rally lead, a scant 0.5s ahead of second-placed Evans.
Sunday’s three special stages within the confines of the Monza racetrack saw Ogier backing off a little, yet he was still able to extend his final margin over Evans to 7.3s. A brush with a concrete chicane barrier on the “Cathedral of Speed’s” historic banking was the only minor scare as he racked up his 54th WRC career win and fourth of 2021.
“Did I win the rally or not?” shouted Ogier to waiting TV crews as he leapt out of his Yaris WRC at the finish of the closing Power Stage. “I didn’t even know. I was only thinking about the championship. Anyway, it’s amazing. I don’t even know what to say right now.”
As well as bringing Ogier’s full-time WRC career to a close in winning style, Rally Monza was the final event for his eight-time champion co-driver Julien Ingrassia. The 41-year old’s retirement sees Ogier seeking a new co-driver for his limited 2022 campaign, which begins with January’s Monte Carlo.
“Julien’s the legend, not me,” said Ogier. “How do you replace somebody like that? It’s been an incredible journey together.”
Evans final-leg chase of Ogier started positively when the Welshman matched his teammate’s time on the opening stage, but a stall and an overshoot at a corner on the day’s second test ended any realistic victory chances.
“I can’t help but feel disappointed now,” said Evans, who finishes runner-up in the WRC points after a final-round duel with Ogier for a second successive year. “Of course, you can always look back on what might have worked out differently, but this is such a great team, a great atmosphere, that I’m already looking forward to next year.”
Dani Sordo completed the podium, 21.3s behind Ogier, but it was his Hyundai teammate, Thierry Neuville, who set the final-day pace. After losing time on Saturday clipping an Armco barrier and damaging his front-end aero, the Belgian swept Sunday’s tests, including the bonus points-paying Power Stage — the final one for the current breed of World Rally Car as the WRC prepares to switch to hybrid-powered Rally1 machinery in 2002.
“I just wanted to enjoy that last run,” said Neuville. “I’ve had five incredible seasons with this car, but I’m looking forward to new adventures with the new car next year.”
Completing its dominant weekend in Italy, Toyota clinched the WRC manufacturers’ title, beating Hyundai by a sizable 59 points after enjoying a nine-win 2021 campaign.
In WRC2, the second tier of international rallying, Jari Huttunen finished top of the registered runners, with Andreas Mikkelsen 47s back in second. The newly-crowned champ had been in fightback mode after a day-one puncture in his Skoda, but never looked likely to get within shouting distance of “Flying Finn” Huttunen’s M-Sport Ford Fiesta.
WRC Rally Monza, final positions after Day Three, SS16
1 Sebastien Ogier/Julien Ingrassia (Toyota Yaris WRC) 2h39m08.6s
2 Elfyn Evans/Scott Martin (Toyota Yaris WRC) +7.3s
3 Dani Sordo/Candido Carrera (Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC) +21.3s
4 Thierry Neuville/Martijn Wydaeghe (Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC) +32.0s
5 Oliver Solberg/Elliott Edmondson (Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC) +1m32.0s
6 Teemu Suninen/Mikko Markkula (Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC) +2m22.6s
7 Takamoto Katsuta/Aaron Johnston (Toyota Yaris WRC) +2m34.5s
8 Gus Greensmith/Jonas Andersson (M-Sport Ford Fiesta WRC) +2m50.2s
9 Kalle Rovanpera/Jonne Haltunnen (Toyota Yaris WRC) +4m49.6s
10 Andrea Crugnola/Pietro Elia Ometto (Hyundai i20 N Rally 2) +9m06.9s
2021 WRC final points
1 Sebastien Ogier 230pts
2 Elfyn Evans 207
3 Thierry Neuville 176
4 Kalle Rovanpera 142
5 Ott Tanak 128
6 Dani Sordo 81
Check out WRC.com, the official home of the FIA World Rally Championship. And for the ultimate WRC experience, sign up for a WRC+ subscription to watch all stages of every rally live and on demand, whenever and wherever.