Chesterfield World Rally Championship star Rhys Yates will complete his season with an entry at this week’s spectacular Monza Rally Show in Italy.
The 27-year-old will face some of the fastest drivers in the world at an event which traditionally brings the season to a close in the unusual confines of a racetrack. But Monza’s not just any racetrack.
Officially, it’s Autodromo Nazionale Monza.
Locally, it’s the cathedral of speed.
“I love this event,” said Rhys. “I’ve done it twice before and always gone well there. The fastest drivers qualify for what they call the Masters Show, which is the Sunday afternoon finale. We’ve been in that both times and that’s the target again this weekend.
“Basically, we’ve had a great season, finishing fourth on our WRC 2 debut at the Monte Carlo Rally was really special and my pace and confidence has grown and grown since January. We’ve got a big year coming up in 2020 in the World Rally Championship, but Monza’s about going there and having some fun.
“The circuit’s one of the most historic in the whole of motorsport, so the chance to compete there’s really special.”
Monza Rally Show, which starts on Friday afternoon, is the only event in the year still permitted to use the world-famous banked sections of track – stretches of road last driven in anger in Formula 1 when Stirling Moss was winning the Italian Grand Prix in the late Fifties.
“That sort of thing really means something,” said Rhys, who will drive a Hyundai i20 R5 this weekend. “And what’s even better is the nature of this event, with cars joining the stages at different times, means you really feel like you’re racing at times.
“You can be six abreast going into some of the corners and chicanes. It’s crazy, but a huge amount of fun! Trying to outbrake other cars, dive down the inside of people, it’s fantastic and doing it at this amazing place is so cool.”
The Monza Rally Show also qualifies for the Hyundai i20 R5 Trophy, an award which, in association with Pirelli, offers a prize fund in excess of €20,000. The top prize of €10,000 will be taken by the driver of the highest-placed Hyundai Motorsport Customer Racing-built car, displaying Pirelli decals and having purchased Pirelli tyres from an authorised dealer in Monza.
Rhys has his eyes on the prize.
“Be a nice way to end the year, wouldn’t it…” he said. “If we can grab some of that prize money, that would be a real bonus. For me, I’m really pleased to be getting out in a rally car again. It’s been a while since Rally GB at the start of October and I can’t wait to get going again. We have a test on Wednesday, then we’re ready for the start on Friday afternoon.”
Rhys will have a guest co-driver for the event, with Red Bull-backed rally driver Catie Munnings switching seats for a one-off outing.
“Having Catie co-driving is something a bit different,” said Rhys. “It’ll be interesting to get her perspective – I just hope she’s not a nervous passenger like me!”
More than 50,000 fans are expected to pack the cathedral of speed from Friday afternoon until Sunday, with the stages using the famous track as well as sections of the pitlane and infield.