The WRC has detailed the itinerary for the ACI Rally Monza and its 16 stages, set to begin December 3. This is the final round — it will decide the 2020 championship — and while we already knew it was sure to be a strange one, seeing some of the routes that organizers have planned put things into proper perspective.
Of particular note is Friday’s schedule, which includes three routes run multiple times for a total of five special stages, all set at the Monza circuit. The first route, Scorpion, looks to be a doozy: It stretches 13.4 kilometers (roughly 8.3 miles), quite short for a WRC stage, but in that distance competitors will touch almost every paved and unpaved pathway in and around the tifosi stomping grounds.
Scorpion begins just before the F1 track’s first corner, where the old oval splits off from the modern track. The drivers will run through almost the entire banked ring, with what look to be some chicanes thrown in for good measure, before noodling about in the area behind the main straight and then rejoining the grand prix circuit right before Ascari, now going against the traditional direction of the track.
It should come as no surprise that purists are already moaning about the legitimacy of such an event in a discipline that typically has drivers carving through treacherous, narrow trails on stages several times longer than this one. However, it is 2020, and 2020 is the year of sports getting weird out of necessity. The pandemic has posed an especially tricky challenge for a series like the WRC, which thrives on travel to remote parts of the world rather than closed, controlled environments. Besides, this’ll probably never happen again, so let’s enjoy it while we can, huh?
It also must be said that Day 3 of the rally will feature a handful of more traditional stages that are up to twice as long as the circuit-centered ones, so the cars will get to experience some twisty mountain action over the course of the weekend.
Scorpion, though, reminds me of the kind of tracks I used to draw when I was a teen, when I’d take a Google Maps printout of a circuit or my local surroundings and trace a better route in and around it. I’d scan and upload these creations to internet forums like TenTenths Motorsport, where fellow members would inevitably waste no time tearing each others’ proposals apart for their complete lack of feasibility, safety considerations or compliance with FIA Grade 1 specifications. It was a simpler time, when those interactions were routinely the most dramatic you’d have on the internet. I miss them.
The ACI Rally Monza begins at about 2 p.m. local time in Italy on Thursday. Four drivers — Elfyn Evans, Sebastien Ogier, Thierry Neuville and Ott Tänak — are mathematically eligible for the title, though Evans and Ogier make it likely that in any case it’ll be someone in Toyota overalls taking the crown.