The 31-year-old Dolgellau driver arrives at the historic ‘Cathedral of Speed’ with a significant, but by no means unassailable 14-point lead over Sébastien Ogier, his Toyota Gazoo Racing teammate. Hyundai’s top performer, Thierry Neuville, is a further 10 points adrift in third.
Even if the Frenchman wins and takes a maximum five points from the rally-ending Wolf Power Stage, a second-place finish would hand Evans the coveted prize – a seminal result that would see him not only crowned as the first Welshman to win the WRC drivers’ title but also the third British driver to rule the world after Colin McRae 25 years ago in 1995 and Richard Burns in 2001.
Moreover, with Lewis Hamilton already confirmed as the 2020 FIA Formula One World Champion, it would be a red letter day for UK motorsport, as never before have two British drivers lifted the F1 and WRC titles in the same year.
Not only that, but a unique ‘Quintet’ beckons as Mike Conway recently secured the 2020 FIA World Endurance Championship while Callum Bradshaw and Freddie Slater sealed honours in the FIA World Karting Championships – further fuelling the current British success.
Although content to be entering the season finale with a healthy points advantage, Evans and his co-driver Scott Martin know there is little margin for error. A maximum of 30 points remain on offer and his closest rival Ogier knows exactly what it takes to win the championship, having already bagged the WRC title on no fewer than six previous occasions.
“I will have to be at my best to achieve the ultimate goal,” confirmed Evans. “Although a lot of people see the points gap as quite big, in reality it’s still very open. It just takes one thing to go wrong and, all of a sudden, you’re no longer at the front of the championship fight.”
Making life harder for all the crews competing in northern Italy, the ACI Rally Monza is a totally unknown new addition to this year’s WRC calendar. It was only added to the revised 2020 schedule in September as a late replacement for rounds such as Wales Rally GB that were cancelled by the global COVID-19 pandemic.
“We’ve been doing lots of research, but it’s difficult to know exactly what to expect,” Evans acknowledged. “We have just one day of pre-event testing on similar Tarmac roads for preparation and, having only joined the Toyota team at the start of this year, I don’t have much experience of driving the Yaris on asphalt. We did the Monte Carlo Rally back in January, but those wintry roads in the Alps are hardy representative of what we’ll find in Italy.”
Little has fazed the table-topping Welshman to-date in what has been a predictably truncated 2020 campaign. He is the only driver with multiple victories to his name with wins coming in Sweden and Turkey – and he is also the only man to have scored points in all six rounds staged thus far.
“We know what we have to do for Monza and the easiest way to achieve that is to prepare the best we can, give it our all and set out to win the rally,” he vowed.
The most important event of Evans’ career thus far features 16 special stages totalling 150 miles of spectacular against-the-clock action. On Friday, the speed tests are all set within the famous parkland Monza venue, home to Formula One’s annual Italian Grand Prix. Saturday’s timed sections switch to closed sections of public roads in the scenic hills around Lake Como to the north-east of Milan, with Sunday’s conclusion back at Monza… where the 2020 World Rally Champion will be crowned.
Fans can follow every moment of Evans’ title bid with three days of nail-biting live coverage available to WRC+ online subscribers. Further satellite and terrestrial programming will be provided on BT Sport, S4C and ITV4 platforms.