Title fight heats up as new format debuts on Rally Italia Sardegna

Title fight heats up as new format debuts on Rally Italia Sardegna

All eyes are on the Mediterranean island of Sardinia this week as the 2024 FIA World Rally Championship season approaches its midpoint at Rally Italia Sardegna, round six of 13.

 

This unique gravel event offers the first look at the WRC's all-action sprint format, enhancing the appeal and spectacle of the WRC, featuring a Friday afternoon start and a more compact schedule.

 

The shortened route in no way lessens the challenge the Mediterranean stop throws at drivers and cars with it remaining one of the sternest tests on the calendar. Away from the rally’s idyllic seaside base in Alghero, crews will face scorching temperatures, rough roads lined with trees and rocks, and a soft sandy surface that becomes extremely slippery when wet.

 

Hyundai Motorsport star Thierry Neuville is well aware of the challenges ahead as he bids to extend his championship lead, which currently stands at 24 points ahead of Toyota rival Elfyn Evans.

 

Neuville, a three-time winner of Rally Italia Sardegna, hopes to repeat last year’s success. However, his chances rest on a strong Friday performance, when he will be tasked with opening the road and sweeping a cleaner, faster line for those running behind. His i20 N Rally1 team-mates this week – Ott Tänak and Dani Sordo – have also each won twice in Italy.

 

“Our approach to the weekend is the same as usual,” Neuville confirmed. “We will be pushing for the best possible result considering the conditions, car, and other important factors that can influence a rally.

 

“The heat, tyre wear, and length of the days are some of the biggest challenges we face throughout the event,” he added.

 

Evans needs a return to form after a troublesome run last time out in Portugal, where the Welshman struggled to gel with his GR Yaris Rally1 and failed to post a single top-three stage time. He is joined by Takamoto Katsuta and Sébastien Ogier, the latter chasing his third win in three starts and a record fifth Italian triumph.

 

“Every rally is important, and we need to make the most of the opportunity in Sardinia,” said Evans. “It’s quite similar to Portugal in some ways and maybe trickier in others, but I’m sure we can turn things around and make it a better weekend.”

 

Despite falling to fourth in the standings after Portugal, Adrien Fourmaux starts this week’s fixture in the finest form of his career. The M-Sport Ford driver has graced the podium twice already this season and finished inside the top five on all but one occasion so far. He teams up with Grégoire Munster in a two-pronged Puma Rally1 attack.

 

The rally starts from Alghero on Friday afternoon and includes 16 stages totalling 266.12km before finishing on Sunday, where the winning team will take a customary dip in the sea.
 


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