June 6, 2017
Warren Nel, WRC editor
Incredibly, it’s the halfway point of this year’s championship! Twelve months ago, Thierry won this event, on his way to finishing the 2016 championship in second place. He had a very strong second half to last season, so what can we expect from this year?
Now, both Kris and Hayden will want to get a solid result from this rally, to kick start their seasons. Kris hasn’t scored any points since his win in Mexico. Hayden certainly can point to a lot of problems, not always of his doing.
This year’s event will feature 19 stages, totalling 312.66 km’s. Here are the details of the stages.
RALLY ITALIA SARDEGNA SCHEDULE (GMT+1)
THURSDAY 8 JUNE
8.00am: Shakedown (Olmedo – Monte Baranta)
5.00pm: Start (Alghero)
6.00pm: SS1 – Ittiri Arena Show (2.00km)
8.31pm: Parc ferme (Olbia)
FRIDAY 9 JUNE
6.30am: Tyre fitting zone (Olbia – 10 mins)
7.18am: SS2 – Terranova (14.54km)
7.41am: SS3 – Monte Olia 1 (19.05km)
9.12am: SS4 – Tula 1 (15.00km)
10.17am: SS5 – Tergu-Osilo 1 (14.14km)
11.56am: Service A (Alghero – 30 mins)
3.25pm: SS6 – Terranova (14.54km)
3.48pm: SS7 – Monte Olia 2 (19.05km)
5.25pm: SS8 – Tula 2 (15.00km)
6.30pm: SS9 – Tergu-Osilo 2 (14.14km)
8.10pm: Flexi Service B (Alghero – 48 mins)
SATURDAY 10 JUNE
5.00am: Service C (Alghero – 18 mins)
7.45am: SS10 – Coiluna – Loelle 1 (14.95km)
8.41am: SS11 – Monti da Ala’ 1 (28.52km)
9.20am: SS12 – Monte Lerno 1 (28.11km)
12.11pm: Service D (Alghero – 30 mins)
3.08pm: SS13 – Coiluna – Loelle 2 (14.95km)
4.04pm: SS14 – Monti da Ala’ 2 (28.52km)
4.43pm: SS15 – Monte Lerno 2 (28.11km)
7.24pm: Flexi Service E (Alghero – 48 mins)
SUNDAY 11 JUNE
7.30am: Service F (Alghero – 18 mins)
8.33am: SS16 – Cala Flumini 1 (14.06km)
9.08am: SS17 – Sassari – Argentiera 1 (6.96km)
9.28am: Regroup (Palmadula – 60 mins)
10.54am: SS18 – Cala Flumini 2 (14.06km)
11.20am: Regroup (La Pedraia – 45 mins)
12.18pm: SS19 – Sassari – Argentiera 2 – Power Stage (6.96km)
1.15pm: Service G (Alghero – 10 mins)
Now, there are a couple of changes to announce in terms of co-driver changes and also Citroen changing their crew for in the number nine C3 WRC.
Sadly, Hayden’s co-driver has decided to bring forward his retirement. If you recall, he sat out Portugal because of an existing hip problem. Well, with no improvement, he’s decided to call it a day.
In the Citroen camp, we have Andreas Mikkelsen and Anders Jæger stepping into the C3 normally driven by Stephane Lefebvre and Gabin Moreau. It’s not a permanent move, as they will be back in the car for the following round in Poland.
Let’s hear from the drivers then!
Sébastien Ogier said:
“We found a good feeling with the Fiesta in Portugal and we’ll be hoping to continue that in Sardinia. We’re approaching the mid-point in the season, and that’s where the championship will really start to heat up… quite literally!
“The temperatures that we’ll experience next week are probably the highest of the year and we’ll need to be prepared for that. We had a good test last week where we confirmed our cooling options as well as set-up configurations for the event – so there’s no reason why we shouldn’t be confident of challenging for another strong result.
“We’ll face an element of cleaning on the opening day, but we’ve got a good track record in Sardinia and I’ve learned to enjoy these demanding stages. It’s not the easiest of events. You need to keep a margin and be focused from start to finish. Tyre preservation can also prove really important and that could be particularly significant on Saturday with two 70 kilometre loops.
“The aim is always to increase our lead at the head of the championship, and we hope to do that with another strong performance.”
Ott Tänak said:
“I feel as though we’re getting better all the time and learning more about the car every time we get behind the wheel. We had a great set-up in Portugal – the best we’ve had all year – and another test last week means that we go to Sardinia in a positive mood.
“The island holds a lot of special memories for me as it’s where I secured my first podium back in 2012 and we’ll be aiming to at least equal that next week.
“We’ll need to be fully focussed from the start as there are so many things to consider on an event as tricky as this one. The stages are very narrow, but also quite fast in places. There is always something to catch you out, so you need to keep that margin.
“If that weren’t enough, we’ll also be experiencing the highest temperatures of the year which could mean more tyre wear and a need to manage the situation. We got an idea of what to expect at the test, and we hope to be in a position to challenge for another strong result.
“The plan will be to go out there and enjoy it – which isn’t difficult with these new cars!”
Thierry Neuville commented:
“Rally Italia Sardegna is a special event for me, particularly after our win last year. I still have very fond memories of our entire team jumping into the harbour in celebration. We already have a couple of wins this season, but this is a technical event that we cannot take for granted. The roads are very hard and dry which can be tough on the cars, especially the tyres. Therefore, tyre choice can be crucial depending on road position and will be something we watch closely. Overall, we are happy, we are confident, and we are hopeful that we can achieve a positive result.”
Dani Sordo commented:
“I was pleased to get back onto the podium in Portugal, and to show we can fight on gravel. Sardinia is not one of my preferred events, but the second passes of the stages are nice as they are a bit cleaner and smoother. The stages themselves are very narrow so it is always difficult to build up confidence. Getting a podium in Portugal shows what we are capable of and the consistency that we have had since the beginning of the season has been encouraging. I just hope we can use this positive momentum to tackle this next challenge to the best of our ability.”
Hayden Paddon said:
“The decision for John to step down early was not an easy one, but we all felt it was best in the difficult circumstances. He will continue to play an important role in our WRC programme. Seb did a great job in Portugal, so we are looking forward to continuing the partnership in Sardinia, with John’s support and backing. I think Sardinia is one of the toughest European rallies that we do. It’s rough, it’s hot and you have to pay really special attention to the car as well. But those challenges aside, we have some good memories from there and, of course, we would like to try and repeat some of those. Most of all, we are hoping to just have a nice clean rally. We saw some signs of genuine encouragement on the final day in Portugal, so I’d like to pick up from there!”
Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT
Jari-Matti Latvala said:
“I’m looking forward to the rally, but it’s going to be much hotter and more slippery than Portugal, with a bigger cleaning effect. Punctures are going to be the big thing: because the surface is quite hard, the roads don’t get so rough or degrade on the second passage but any loose rocks don’t get pushed back into the surface either. Instead they just stay on the road and this is what can puncture your tyre or even damage the damper. There are some things that you can do to change your driving style to try and avoid this: you have to be very careful of the rocks on the insides of corners.”
Juho Hänninen said:
“We did a two-day test in Sardinia before we went to Argentina. That was quite a long time ago and of course conditions were much cooler but it still gave us a good idea of what the roads were like. The advantage of the heat is that it actually makes the tyre choice a little more straightforward, so that is one less thing to worry about. Portugal was a good event for us and we learned plenty of things there, so if we can have another clean run then we have a great chance of scoring more points. I think our road position on the first day could help and then we have to make the most of the conditions to the end.”
Esapekka Lappi said:
“Sardinia has always been one of those rallies that is more about survival than raw speed: I just want to have a problem-free rally and get to the finish. I think I’m going to be trying some new parts on the car, so my job is to collect data for the team and gain more experience. We had a good result in Portugal, but that only alters the expectations from other people: it doesn’t make any difference to me personally. Before Sardinia I had a one-day test in Finland to get more of a feel about how I can set up the car. Obviously, Finland isn’t the same as Sardinia, but I did around 150 kilometres, which was useful just to try some different suspension settings.”
Citroen Abu Dhabi Racing WRT
Kris Meeke said:
“Obviously, we’ve had a couple of disappointing rounds in Argentina and Portugal. We are fully focused on getting back onto the positive trend that helped us to win in Mexico, and lead the Tour de Corse before having a technical problem. As we didn’t compete in Sardinia last year, we’re going to have to refamiliarise ourselves with the rally. The stages are technically difficult and slippery, so your driving needs to be incredibly precise, especially when the road is narrow. From a pure racing point of view, it isn’t necessarily that enjoyable to drive on this type of surface, but we’ll try hard to have a solid race. I think it’s a good thing to have Andreas in the team. He brings valuable experience and he has the potential to win rallies. We’ll work together to ensure Citroën wins.”
Craig Breen said:
“Like Argentina and Portugal, pretty much all of this rally is going to be new to us. I did recce in 2016 and we did some testing in Sardinia a few weeks ago, but that’s still not very much compared with the guys who have been competing at this event for several years. To try and compensate, I have prepared meticulously for this rally. For example, viewing on-board footage has helped us to spot the largest pitfalls and trickiest sections. After a series of fifth places, I’d be delighted to get the same result in Sardinia, before tackling more familiar events such as Poland or Finland. I’d like to say welcome to Andreas; we don’t know each other very well at the moment, but I’m looking forward to working with him!”
Andreas Mikkelsen said:
“The last few days have been exciting, seeing the Citroën Racing factory for the first time, meeting the members of the team and, of course, getting to grips with the car in the south of France. The roads used during the test were very different to those we’ll see in Sardinia, but it gave me a good idea of the potential of the Citroën C3 WRC. With the downforce and the power of the engine, the feeling in the car was good – it’s an impressive piece of machinery. We started to work on the set-up in order to adapt it to my driving style. Next weekend, I have no idea where we’ll be in relation to the other crews. We’ll have a favourable starting position for the opening leg, but the standard is so high in the WRC at the moment that we won’t be taking anything for granted. We’ll do our best on this tough event.”
Elfyn Evans said:
“I’ve got a lot of good memories from Sardinia. It’s where I first got behind the wheel of a world rally car and I didn’t want to give it back! It’s not the easiest of rallies by a long shot, but I think it’s the challenge that I enjoy.
“There are so many factors that you need to keep in mind at an event like this. The stages are very rough and abrasive, and then there are the high temperatures. Air temperatures can be as high as 30C and those in the cockpit can get up to 50C plus!
“This will be the first time that we’re experiencing this sort of environment with our 2017 package so we’ll have to wait and see how it plays out. We’ll certainly be giving it our all though, and as history has shown, anything can happen at an event like Rally Italia Sardegna.”
Onebet Jipocar WRT
Mads has become something of a jump king this year! After leaping 44 metres at Colin’s Crest in Sweden and then during Rally de Portugal he jumped 36 metres in the Fafe stage! Coming to Rally Italia Sardegna there is Micky’s Jump in the Monte Lerno stage and this will present another opportunity to get a big jump in!
Mads Østberg said:
“Really, I`m not driving rallies to jump the farthest! It`s not intentional that we have been flying so far this season, but it has been fun and has resulted in a lot of positive publicity. My co-driver Ola has been into it just as much, he is just laughing when we are touching the ground again. We have fun in the car and that is actually very positive.”
“We are aiming to put together a whole event without punctures or other technical problems. We won two stages in Portugal and generally the speed was satisfying, but several minutes time loss with a wheel change on one stage just destroyed our chances.”
Talking about his team, Mads explains the great spirit that has brought them together.
“We are developing together and that gives me strong motivation. It may be a small team, but there are some very creative and smart minds among us. The idea with the shiny and reflective gold roof on the car, that we ran in Portugal, is just an example of this. It really lowered the temperature inside the car, and will certainly be essential also in Sardinia with very high temperatures and lots of sun expected during the event.”
“Argentine, Portugal and Sardinia comes one after the other and has lots of similarities. They are all technical demanding gravel rallies, and that’s a type of rally I like a lot. All three rallies have rough and narrow gravel roads, but there are some differences. In Sardinia starting positions are more important as there normally is a fine layer of sand and loose gravel on top when we drive the stages first time through. There are also more loose stones and rocks. Our starting position when the rally proper begins on Friday should be an advantage, but we are not alone in having that advantage.”
With the recce starting today for all the teams, drivers and co-drivers, creating those pace notes, making sure that the cars are fully prepared for the event, we are set for another very exciting rally.
Can Thierry win a third rally, or will we see Kris get to the top step again? What about Andreas in his first drive for Citroen? Could Ott Tanak finally get his first victory?