As the 2019 World Rally Championship enters the second half of the season, Citroën Total World Rally Team crews Sébastien Ogier / Julien Ingrassia and Esapekka Lappi / Janne Ferm prepare to tackle one of the year’s most technically demanding events. The notoriously challenging Rally Sardegna is set against the magnificient backdrop of the clear blue Mediterranean sea.
Having claimed six podium-finishes in the first seven races and secured stage wins at every round contested so far on gravel in the C3 WRC, Sébastien Ogier and Julien Ingrassia truly are the kings of consistency. The French duo will try to make use of their exceptional skill again at this rally, where they have previously won three times (2013, 2014 and 2015).
Despite Citroën’s previous experience in Sardinia, where the team has won five times, it will be difficult to repeat their success this year, given that the crew will be first in the running order on Friday where the grip on the gravel roads improves significantly as more cars complete the stages. However, satisfied by the valuable and effective work done in testing with the team in first-run conditions, the championship leaders will undoubtedly once again strive to make the very best of their situation as they chase a seventh consecutive world title.
Esapekka Lappi and Janne Ferm have performed brilliantly during each of their previous appearances in Sardinia. In only their second rally in a WRC in 2017, the pair finished as best performers with six stage wins, including the Power Stage, and in 2018, the Finnish duo secured third place overall. It is an event they are getting to know well and Citroën’s Finns will have a good position in the running order, starting ninth, on Friday’s leg. This should therefore allow them to get their bearings from the start, build on the clear breakthrough they made handling the C3 WRC on gravel in Portugal and hopefully secure a strong result here.
The Citroën Total World Rally Team prepared for Portugal and this round, which is one of the most technical of the season, during the two days of testing in Sardinia back in mid-May. Encouraged by the progress seen in the C3 WRC in Portugal, the French team has redoubled its efforts behind the scenes to keep improving on the Italian island.
Pierre Budar, Citroën Racing Team Principal: “This rally is a real challenge for crews and cars alike. It will be especially tough for Sébastien and Julien, given that they will once again be cleaning the roads for their rivals on day one, an even bigger challenge than in Portugal. Having said that, we know how talented and competitive these guys are. They will certainly be doing their very best to deal with what is a clear disadvantage, especially as the tests we held before Portugal have enabled us to make further improvements to C3 WRC.
Meanwhile, Esapekka has a great chance here given his position in the running order. He’ll need to show consistency throughout the race and manage to keep it together from start to finish. He certainly has the ability and we’re going to do what we can to support him as effectively as possible to achieve something great.”
Sébastien Ogier, Citroën Total WRT driver: “Running first on the road in Sardinia means we can more or less write off our chances of winning from the word go. It looks like we won't be getting any help from the weather either, as there is currently no rain forecast. I'm expecting a tough weekend but as ever, I’ll give it my absolute maximum, regardless of the circumstances, and we'll see how many points we can secure for the team. The C3 WRC has clearly progressed recently and we had a good run in Portugal. Our performance on day one will once again largely determine our overall result.”
Number of appearances at the event: 11
Number of wins: 3 (2013, 2014 and 2015)
Esapekka Lappi, Citroën Total WRT driver: “We have certainly learnt a few lessons from Portugal. Sardinia is a rally where you can't push flat out all the time, especially on the second runs, because you have to think about taking care of the car and looking out for loose rocks. Given that we are starting in ninth position in the running order on day one, we should have an advantage. It’s up to us to make the most of that. If we keep the same speed we had in Portugal and we don't make any mistakes during the three days, we should secure a good result. I'm determined to produce a solid, consistent performance in all three legs. That is my number one priority this weekend.”
Number of appearances at the event: 4
Best result: 3rd (2018)
RALLY ITALIA SARDEGNA KEY FIGURES
19 timed stages covering a total of 310.52km
5 overall wins secured by Citroën at Rally Italia Sardegna: 2 with Xsara WRC (2005 and 2006), 1 with C4 WRC (2008) and 2 with DS3 WRC (2011 and 2012)
35°C in the air, 50°C on the ground and around 60°C in the cockpit at the end of the stages: these are the maximum temperatures generally seen during the event
1,028m – the peak altitude of the rally, recorded on the Monte Lerno stage
RALLY ITALIA SARDEGNA SCHEDULE (GMT+2)
With just 22 kilometres of the route differing from last year’s rally, the course has undergone only minor changes. It nonetheless features the full range of local obstacles. This consists of narrow, low-grip roads covered with a fine layer of sandy gravel, lined by bushes and trees that leave no room for error, both in pace notes and driving.
After a fairly full first day on Friday (124.20km of timed stages), Saturday’s leg is the longest of the weekend, with a competitive distance of 142.42km and featuring two runs on the long Monti di Ala’ (28.21km) and Monte Lerno (28.03km) stages. Sunday’s leg (41.90km) will be more of a sprint finish.
This round is particularly hard on the tyres with hard base roads, covered by a sandy surface that is swept clear as more cars compete through the stages. There are also invariably high temperatures, especially in the afternoon. Hard compound Michelin tyres are therefore almost mandatory on the second loop. In the morning, however, depending on position in the running order, the smart move may just be to combine them with mediums to try to get more grip if the road has still not been cleared.