Route Preview: Monza Rally 2020

Monza rally was added to be the closing round of the WRC at the last minute, making it two Italian rounds to end the COVID-19-stricken 2020 season. The event was upgraded from Monza Rally Show with the addition of mountain stages in Lombardy. The main character of the Monza stages have remained with a fresh touch.

Cover image by ghigu 74 / Flickr

THE MONZA CIRCUIT STAGES

All stages of the rally except for the three forest stages on Saturday, are driven on the Monza circuit area. The same roads are used in various directions and configurations to make up several stages. In addition to the Thursday shakedown and opening super special there’s four longer stages on the circuit.

All the stages use bits of the Monza circuit, both the new F1 track and also the old steeply cambered and rough-surfaced oval track. Chicanes are placed on the fastest places of the circuits and sometimes the paved safety areas are also used to create more extensive chicane-like routes. However, there’s no donuts, no multiple laps or same sections used multiple times during the same stage. In addition, there’s no penalties for touching the cones or racing feeling with cars overtaking each other like on Monza Rally Show.

The service roads outside and inside the circuit are what makes these stages interesting. They are usually narrow, and the surfaces cover everything from smooth tarmac to broken tarmac, cobblestones, gravel and even plain grass. The roads are also sometimes very bumpy. At best there’s an RAC Sunday park stage feel. However, most of the roads are still very straight and the fastest places have chicanes.

The Monza Circuit shakedown starts on a parking lot with artificial turns before joining the F1 track in counter-clockwise in the middle of Curva Parabolica. After Variante Ascanti unpaved park roads are used to take a shortcut to Curva Grande, and then more service roads with varying surfaces end the stage. The oval track is not used at all.

Thursday’s super special SSS1 Monza Legacy starts just like the shakedown, but turns clockwise onto the F1 circuit. Then it has some artificial chicanes and hairpins on the pit straight before exiting the track at Variante del Rettifilo to go onto a service road outside the oval. The next bit, including Curva Grande, are shared from the shakedown in reverse direction, ending in the same place.

The Friday stages are driven both twice with a service between each run. The first stage SS2+3 Scorpion starts on service roads and proceeds onto the oval track, with numerous chicanes and an interesting detour through a very grassy route. A short pass on the F1 track’s Curva Parabolica – in counter-clockwise direction – leads inside the track and onto artificial turns on three parking lots – two paved and third on gravel, the first of which was already used on the shakedown and super special, in the opposite direction.

Then the F1 track is run for three longer bits alternated by bumpy gravel park roads inside the track – mostly straight except for the junction turns, and partly same as on the shakedown and super special. Finally there’s some artificial hairpins on the pit straight, ending on service roads, partly unpaved.

SS4+5 Cinturato starts where Scorpion ended, in the opposite direction, for the first 3.8 km, including the pit straight chicanes.

After Variante del Rettifilo the stage turns onto an old worn paved service road inside the track, with a corner on cobblestones. Though small gravel paths it reaches finally the oval for a half circle – similarly clockwise as on Scorpion, but not for as long. Instead, we go onto service roads, first gravel, then asphalt, and then under the F1 track.

Now it joins again the Scorpion route in the opposite direction for the three parking lots, a bit of Curva Parabolica, the very grassy route and then one corner of the oval – now counter-clockwise. Before going head-on with its own route, the stage turns left onto park and service roads, first concrete, then asphalt, with a short detour onto a gravel service road. Through grass and gravel of the circuit safety area we enter the F1 track again in reverse direction, partly the same as on Scorpion, but this time a longer stretch. More service roads lead to go under the oval and reach the pit lane, sharing again a short bit with Scorpion in the same direction.

The only Monza stage with an unique character is the SS6+13+14 Grand Prix stage, which is all paved. It’s driven three times in the event, concluding Friday and Saturday as well as opening Sunday. The stage has first a bit of paved service road, then almost full rounds of the oval track and the F1 track clockwise – obviously with numerous chicanes – ending to the pit lane.

Here’s the Grand Prix stage in Monza Rally Show, slightly different configuration, but some of the chicanes will be similar in the WRC event.

SS15+16 Serraglio which acts as the power stage on Sunday, starts like Cinturato with slight modifications. Once it is about to join the F1 track it turns back but rejoins the Cinturato route to the grassy way to the oval track in counter-clockwise, with this time a bit of the straight driven on an unpaved service lane outside the oval. The three parking lots are reached similarly to Cinturato but again with slight modifications.

The F1 track is joined in the middle of Curva Parabolica, counter-clockwise. Before Variante Ascari a shortcut is taken to the pit straight hairpins using the service road which opens the Grand Prix stage. Again the Cinturato route is used to go towards the oval from Variante del Rettifilo but the stage keeps now outside the oval it and returns onto the F1 track at Variante della Roggia, using now the Scorpion route in reverse direction for the next service road detour. In the middle of Variante Ascari the stage turns away to park roads not used before – again very grassy for the latter half – to join the oval counter-clockwise in the middle of a curve. Finally there’s a turn onto the same service roads which started Scorpion to finish the rally where it started.

THE SATURDAY STAGES

On Saturday the rally leaves the Monza area and goes for traditional tarmac stages in the Lombardy region. The main character of these stages is high speed, although there’s numerous hairpins on the way.

SS8+11 Selvino is the longest stage of the rally at 25 km. Here from 1:19 onwards we can see the beginning of the stage driven at a local event in 2019. It starts on a wide road with a moderately good but occasionally bumpy surface. There’s a good number of upwards hairpins and square bends, but they are linked via quite long flat out sections.

At 7.1 km, in the town of Selvino, there is a turn onto a narrower road. The nature is similar, flatout passages with some tighter turns inbetween. Many corners are blind, and the lines must be perfect with no margin for error.

At 12 km the stage turns onto a wider road with a series of descending hairpins. A fast passage through a town around 15 km leads onto another narrower road with more hairpins, again ascending. Buildings and stone walls are close to the road, with an especially tricky town passing at 18.7 km.

A faster and wider section appears at 20.7 km. There’s only a few mid-speed corners in this flat-out blast. Finally 500 m before the finish there’s a turn onto a twisty descend.

SS9+12 Gerosa is the shortest of the Lombardy stages at 11 km of length. It’s very very fast with only a handful of slower corners. The road is mostly wide and smooth, but the trickiness comes from the sudden narrower and/or more worn sections. These guesses are always difficult, but I’m predicting we’ll see average speeds go over 120 km/h if the weather is good!

SS10-13 Costa Valle Imagna was described as “the one that will be feared the most by the drivers” by the route planner Tiziano Siviero.

The beginning is again wide and partly fast, but has also a bit of Corsican flow to it with constant turning. There’s also numerous hairpins as the stage ascends a total of 900 metres during its first half. At 3.1 km the nature of the stage changes into similar of the previous stages, with very fast passages interrupted only occasionally by tight corners or hairpins.

At 13 km the stage starts descending. The road narrows a bit and becomes again a bit more twisty, but still fast-flowing between the numerous hairpins.

Road conditions and starting order

In tarmac rallies it’s generally best to be first on the road. However, when the Monza area uses the same roads for all stages, there won’t be any clean road to run after the first stage.

The Saturday stages are run near the Alps with altitudes of 400-1300 m and it’s December, so it could be possible to get some surprising snow. Michelin has even prepared to bring unstudded snow tyres to the event.

The championship leader Elfyn Evans is first on the road, with Sebastien Ogier and Thierry Neuville behind him, but as mentioned, this benefit will last only for the first Monza stage.

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