Elfyn Evans has his fingertips on the trophy after a brutally shortened and disjointed season in the World Rally Championship.
His rivals will need a massive mistake in the final event, the Monza Rally in the first week of December, to snatch the prize from the strongest and most consistent driver of 2020.
The Welsh wiz and his co-driver Scott Martin had never previously looked like title contenders against the big three in the WRC – Sebastian Ogier, Ott Tanak and Thierry Neuville – but their promotion to the Gazoo Toyota team changed everything.
They are the only pair to have won twice through 2020 in their Yaris WRC and are now enjoying their front-running pace and their 14-point lead in the series over their team mate Seb Ogier.
Their chances for the championship jumped with the cancellation of the Ypres Rally in Belgium, the latest motorsport casualty of second-wave Covid 19 shutdowns in Europe, and they could yet claim an early victory if Monza is also binned.
Despite his advantage, Evans is planning an all-out attack in Italy.
We will go to Monza trying to win the rally – that’s ultimately where I’m at,” he said after the cancellation of Ypres.
“I will need to be at my best. From my side, with the points situation as it is, the championship is still very much an open game.
“In one way, of course, the title is closer. But, in reality, things are still open and anything can still happen in the one remaining round.”
With the championship almost a foregone conclusion, the focus will soon shift on plans for the WRC in 2021 – and beyond.
Ogier is now almost certain to stay in the WRC for another year despite his previous plan to retire at the end of this year. He has hinted that he wants a ‘proper’ season and a genuine crack at another championship with Toyota before he looks for a new challenge.
There is also talk about a change of tyre supplier for next year, as Pirelli takes over from Michelin, and the technical rules for 2022 – including hybrid power – come into clearer focus.
The idea is to go battery-electric on public roads between competition stages, but there is also the potential for a 100-kiloWatt power boost during competition.
“We see right now with current road car manufacturers, hybrid is the trend and the future for the range,” said FIA rally director Yves Matton.
“This is the future for the WRC. It’s exciting to be working towards this next generation.”