RALLY star and co-driver Keaton Williams finished his season on a high battling against the world's best at the ACI Rally Monza.

Herefordshire-based Williams with Irish driver Josh McErlean finished an excellent 17th overall and 7th in the WRC3 category at the final round of this year's World Rally Championship, writes Paul Willetts.

After some very impressive showings on this year's European Rally Championship, the duo were given a boost when they were offered a drive at Monza with the Redgrey Team owned by the Estonians former world champion Ott Tanak and former WRC star Markko Martin.

The duo have continued support from Motorsport Ireland Rally Academy and Hyundai Customer Racing.

This years World Rally Championship finale took place within the roads of the Milan circuit and the Italian Alps. The famous old F1 track made up over 50 per cent of the 240 kilometres of action, and if anyone thought this would a walk in the park they were very much mistaken.

A very high quality entry of 97 cars lined up on Thursday afternoon for the opening test in rain and fog, which made the roads extremely slippery.

The pairing clipped a wall on the opening stage and stopped the clocks 29th fastest.

The following day five tests took place using the roads within the circuit, yet again the rain made the roads incredibly treacherous.

The duo soon set into a good rhythm, although they lost a bit of time on stage three with a puncture, and viability to finish day two 22nd overall.

Day three offered 127kms of roads in the foothills of the Italian Alps near Lake Como, with 40 centimetres of snow forecast.

And with no studded tyres available the pair only had a snow tyre during the first loop of the three stages which included the 25km Silvino test.

McErlean was pleased to arrive back in service.

"There was patchy ice on all of the stages this morning with wet slush, we had a stall in stage nine, but other than that no problems, the car is fine," he said.

But the snow finally arrived with a vengeance on the second loop of three, with stage 10 cancelled due to two big accidents at the front of the field on the ice.

Heavy snow on stage 11 changed the complexion of the World Championship with Welshman Elfyn Evans going off in the snow and virtually handed team-mate Sebastian Ogier his 7th World title.

Stage 12 was also cancelled on safety grounds due to the amount of snow.

So the final stage of the day was back at the circuit in darkness.

The final 10km stage saw the duo set the 11th fastest time and third quickest in the WRC3 category.

To end day three the pair finished 18th and 8th in WRC 3.

"What a way to end a very demanding day, it was all about survival today, and those conditions were horrific every corner had different grip levels so it hard to read the road,were looking forward to tomorrow now," added McErlean.

The final leg offered just three tests totalling some 39kms within the roads of the circuit which were still extremely treacherous with mud covering the circuit.

Everything went well until the final 15km stage when they encountered Belgian Gregoire Munster blocking the road after rolling.

After finally getting past the stricken Hyundai, with the time loss this initially dropped the duo down to 31st, but they were finally given a rightful notional time to bring them back to 17th overall.

"This has been a tremendous weekend, we've coped with everything that came our way, and when you look at the quality of the entry, we've shown we can mix it at the top level with those far more experienced than us," added McErlean

"Finally I would like to say a huge thank you to Motorsport Ireland Rally Academy, Hyundai Customer Racing, Michelin, PCRS and Redgrey Team for everything this year finally to Keaton who has been superb."

The ACI Rally Monza 2020 provided a fitting and exciting end to the year with Sebastian Ogier claiming outright rally victory and with it another world title in the Toyota Gazoo Racing Toyota Yaris WRC.

With Hyundai taking a second consecutive manufacturer title.

For McErlean and Williams this has been all about learning and experience getting quicker throughout the year.

The pair will now work towards 2021, when Monte Carlo starts in six weeks time.