The bad news for rally fans in 2020 was the most disrupted (albeit fascinatingly unpredictable) season in recent history. However, the flip side of a year that finally dragged to a mid-December finale at Monza (who would have predicted that last January?) is the shortest off-season we’ve ever seen.
In just a matter of weeks, the 2021 championship will get under way with Rallye Monte-Carlo. While most of the key players stay the same, there are some fascinating new variables to get on top of.
One of them is Pirelli tyres, with the Italian firm exclusively supplying the WRC’s top class for the first time since 2010. How will the drivers adapt?
We won’t see Rally Sweden, which has decided to give 2021 a miss due to the real protagonist of last year: the coronavirus. But there are 11 more events planned, including the first in Croatia in April, based out of Zagreb.
The pre-season 2021 favourite? You might say seven-time champion Sébastien Ogier, but how about Elfyn Evans, the driver who was all set to win the 2020 title after heading into the final round with a 14-point lead? He lost that chance by slithering off the road in Monte-like conditions – caught out by a change in surface and grip that was hidden by snow.
But the reason why the Brit is our title favourite for 2021 lies in his response to that crushing disappointment. “No excuses,” he pointed out instantly. “As a rally driver you’ve got to be good everywhere, so you can’t go round blaming the conditions.”
Evans was already the best of the rest in 2019, despite missing three rallies with a back injury. Last year, he was beaten only by Ogier – who was first to agree that his team-mate deserved the title. Evans himself isn’t so sure: “There are lots of things I could have done better,” he said. But the page has already turned.
Evans was one of the quickest on the Monte last year – actually eclipsing Ogier in terms of fastest stage times – before winning in wintry Sweden. “That’s probably when I first realised that we had a real chance,” he says. And that chance is even bigger now he’s fully up to speed with his new Toyota Yaris.