Held on dry and damp tarmac in and around the famous Monza circuit, the young Finn’s best time after three attempts of the short 2.54-mile ‘PZero’ test was 2m 55.1sec.

Rovanpera broke the timing beam three tenths of a second faster than the Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC driven by Thierry Neuville, who said the priority this weekend is to “try and enjoy it” as he is not involved in the end-of-season title fight.

M-Sport Ford’s Adrien Fourmaux – widely known to be an asphalt specialist – was third quickest on this his eighth start in a World Rally Car.

The Frenchman punched in a time of 2m 56.1sec alongside Alexandre Coria despite patches of low lying fog proving an issue in some sections.

Second in the standings arriving in Italy, a fourth fastest time will no doubt do Elfyn Evans’ confidence – and nerves – the world of good. The Welshman was 2.4sec up the road from reigning champion and title rival Sebastien Ogier, who was eighth.

"I will do what I can to win the rally this weekend and that will come from driving well," said Evans. "I'm looking forward to it, so let's see how it goes."

Rally Monza begins proper tomorrow, with crews facing an early start (7.31am local time).

The opening loop of stages takes crews through ‘Gerosa’ (10.96km) and ‘Costa Valle Imagna’ (22.11km) mountain tests near Lake Como twice before they return to service.

All of the afternoon action is based at Monza, with two blasts through ‘Cinturato’ (14.49km) followed by the end-of-leg ‘Grand Prix’ (10.29km) test.

On the eve of the Monza Rally Gus Greensmith put pen to paper on a new contract that will keep him with M-Sport Ford for the 2022 season.

The 24-year-old is the second driver to be confirmed by the Cockermouth-based squad following the signing of Craig Breen last month.

"I’m really excited to be a part of the 2022 M-Sport Ford World Rally Team as we head into the biggest rule change in WRC history; the hybridised era," said Greensmith.
 
“I have been very happy with my improvements throughout the year and it means a lot to be representing the team going into 2022 where it seems that the guys and girls have done a fantastic job at creating a very competitive package.”

Team Principal Richard Millener said he was "impressed with the leaps" the young Brit has made this year that has seen him finish in the top five while narrowing the deficit to the leading drivers in front of him.

"We're extremely excited to get the 2022 season underway and I can't wait to see what results we can achieve with the Puma. I have no doubt that Gus, Craig, and the rest of our 2022 line-up will do our fans proud,” said Millener.

2021 Rally Monza Itinerary

Friday, November 19
SS1 Gerosa 1 (6.81 miles) 7.31am
SS2 Costa Valle Imagna 1 (13.74 miles) 8.16am
SS3 Gerosa 2 (6.81 miles) 10.20am
SS4 Costa Valle Imagna 2 (13.74 miles) 11.08am
SS5 Cinturato 1 (9.00 miles) 1.45pm
SS6 Cinturato 2 (9.00 miles) 3.55pm
SS7 Grand Prix 1 (6.39 miles) 6.27pm

Saturday November 20
SS8 San Fermo 1 (9.2 miles) 07.38am
SS9 Selvino 1 (15.49 miles) 08.33am
SS10 San Fermo 2 (9.2 miles) 11.08am
SS11 Selvino 2 (15.49 miles) 12.03pm
SS12 Sottozero 1 (8.94 miles) 3.09pm
SS13 Sottozero 2 (8.94 miles) 5.19pm

Sunday November 21
SS14 Grand Prix 2 (6.39 miles) 7.48am
SS15 Serragilo 1 (9.08 miles) 10.08am
SS16 Serragilo 2 (9.08 miles) 12.18pm