This week’s Rally Monza is almost a repeat of last year’s event except, this time around, the balance of power is with Sebastien Ogier.

A minimum of 13 points is all he needs to retain No.1 status, although few would bet against the former Volkswagen, M-Sport Ford and Citroen man taking his place on the top step of the podium for a fifty fourth time.

The only driver who can deny the Frenchman a perfect swansong in this, his last campaign as a full-time World Rally points-scorer, is Elfyn Evans. Not only does he happen to be Ogier’s team-mate at Toyota, he also finished second overall last season.

Anything is possible, of course. If you need reminding, cast your mind back to Rally Monza 2020. Evans led the standings and needed a runner-up finish thanks to his 14-point buffer over Ogier.

It all seemed pretty straightforward and it all appeared to be going to plan until Evans crashed down a bank on the second leg after being caught out by the treacherous mountain roads.

Evans is many things – blindingly fast, a perfectionist, and a proven-winner – but he’s also a realist. Tarmac is a surface Ogier excels on, it’s in his DNA, and even if the roads in northern Italy turn white with snow, winning Rallye Monte Carlo a record eight-times should come in pretty handy.

“It’s good to be going into the final round still with a chance of taking the drivers’ title,” said Evans, whose victories in 2021 both came on gravel at Rally de Portugal and Rally Finland respectively.

“It’s an outside chance but Scott [Martin, co-driver] and I will give it our best shot. The approach will be just to aim for the best result possible and see what happens,” who would dearly love to end Ogier’s stranglehold on the WRC and end the 20-year wait since a British driver last won it.

“After a difficult mid-season, the last couple of rounds have been better for us, but Monza will be a completely different challenge again. The stages in the mountains have a really nice character, but the stages at the circuit are very mixed and not so flowing.

“It’s impossible to capture all of that in a pre-event test – but after last year, we have a pretty good idea now of what to expect,” he added.

As for Ogier, he is taking nothing for granted. He possesses the same realist quality as Evans. He is too long in the tooth to know that he is home and hosed.

If he wants an eighth title, one less than the nine amassed by his countryman Sebastien Loeb, he knows Evans is not going to serve it up to him on a plate.

"Of course, the situation going to Monza is much more favourable than one year ago, as this time I have some points in hand in the drivers’ standings,” said Ogier. “But it is not done yet and we need to stay focused.

“We had a good test in Italy last week, and I hope we can start the rally with the right rhythm, perform well and fight for a top result as well as keeping the championship in mind.”

The head says Ogier, the heart Evans. Whoever emerges victorious, Rally Monza promises to make for unmissable, prime time viewing.