Phil Hall’s Rally Italia Sardinia Diary

Written By Phil Hall

Rally Sardinia is probably one of the toughest rallies I’ve done, it’s right up there with Turkey and Mexico. Even the recce is extreme, getting around the stages in a recce car is a challenge in itself.

The event was very hot, very dusty, and in places extremely rough. It took grit and determination to succeed.

We didn’t make the right tyre choice for the first loop of stages on Friday, and that cost us some time, but we had a clean run which was positive and to the plan. The afternoon loop we made better tyre choices and saw the benefit – even though the temperatures in the car soared. Our fitness training was paying off.

Saturday was going well, but a puncture in the last stage of the loop on both passes (which had to be changed in the stage) saw us drop a fair bit of time. We’d practised tyre changing a lot though so we did our best to minimise the effect. Saturday was a very long day, an early 5am start and a late finish meant you really had to maintain focus. Preparation was key, maintaining hydration and energy levels, and working as a team to maximise efficiency.

Sunday was a tricky day, with only 4 relatively short stages. Unfortunately, we cracked the oil sump on the engine on the very last stage – even making it on to the final road section. We made temporary repairs by the side of the road and carried on, attempting to drag the car to the finish, but it wasn’t to be. Our repairs melted as the engine got hot, and we ran out of materials to keep fixing it, ultimately leading to us having to retire at the side of the road to the finish.

A disappointing end to the rally in some respects, but it did allow us to demonstrate our determination to succeed. As always, a huge thanks to our team at M-Sport Poland who were incredible all event.

Rally Italia Sardegna Review 2019 – Dani Sordo Wins!

The statistics will say that Dani Sordo won this event, but we know that it was Ott Tanak’s weekend. Here’s the story of how this all came to pass. The event started with a short stage on Thursday evening which was won by Seb. The real stages would follow on Friday.

Friday

It was a warm start to the day and there were eight stages facing the crews. Over a 140km in total as well, providing a big challenge, with a lunchtime service break in the middle. Starting positions looked like this- Ogier, Tänak, Neuville, Evans, Meeke, Suninen, Latvala, Mikkelsen, Sordo.

Starting first on the SS 2 – Tula 1 (22,25 km), a long technical stage, we saw straight away that being in the middle of the line up would allow a much faster pace, with more grip. Teemu starting sixth on the road gave him better grip and he set a very good time, winning the stage from Elfyn and Jari-Matti. Who were fourth and seventh in the lineup.

The following stage, SS 3 – Castelsardo 1 (14,72 km), saw Teemu again set the fastest time, the new co-driver partnership already paying off. Jari-Matti ensured it there were two Finns at the top, and with Elfyn only fifth fastest, the Welshman fell behind Jari-Matti to third. Championship leader Seb was now almost 30 seconds from the lead.

On then to SS 4 – Tergu – Osilo 1 (14,14 km) and Ott took a very good stage win from Latvala and Sordo, who set an identical stage time. Latvala now took the lead as Teemu lost 15 seconds in the stage and fell to second overall, whilst Ott’s pace now lifted him into third overall. But it was Lappi who had the worst stage, picking up a puncture and tumbling down to eleventh overall.

After the lunch service, there was both good and bad news for Citroen. Firstly, Seb hit a rock in the stage, SS 5 – Monte Baranta 1 (10,99 km), and they pulled over and stopped in the stage to attempt a fix, but unfortunately, they were unable to and retired for the day. There was some good news, as Esapekka Lappi won the stage from Ott, who edged a little closer to leader Latvala. Teemu fell back as he ended the stage ninth fastest, dropping to fifth overall.

The rerun of SS 6 – Tula 2 (22,25 km) saw lots of position changes! Teemu won the stage with Dani second fastest and Ott third. All of this meant that Ott and Dani held a joint lead, with Teemu just eight tenths off in third overall. Those falling from the top of the leaderboard included Latvala, who lost eight and a half minutes after a roll in the stage, whilst Thierry was passed by Kris Meeke, but still in the fight.

The following stage, SS 7 – Castelsardo 2 (14,72 km) saw three crews tackle the stage, before it was halted- The reason? Well, the first clue was that an ambulance had entered the stage, and it turned out that a spectator was taken ill.

Well, SS 8 – Tergu – Osilo 2 (14,14 km) saw Dani take another stage win, from Lappi and Latvala. With the previous stage having been cancelled, there was no official leaderboard, whilst the officials grappled with how best to deal with handing out notional times.

The final stage then, SS 9 – Monte Baranta 2 (10,99 km) and we were still waiting. The top three fastest were, Andreas, Esapekka and Dani.

When the leaderboard was finally updated, this is how it looked.

STANDINGS AFTER DAY 1

  1. Sordo / Del Barrio (Hyundai i20 WRC) 1:36:01.5
  2. Suninen / Lehtinen (Ford Fiesta WRC) +10.8
  3. Tänak / Järveoja (Toyota Yaris WRC) +11.2
  4. Mikkelsen / Jaeger (Hyundai i20 WRC) +20.2
  5. Evans / Martin (Ford Fiesta WRC) +20.3
  6. Meeke / Marshall (Toyota Yaris WRC) +29.5
  7. Neuville / Gilsoul (Hyundai i20 WRC) +57.7
  8. Lappi / Ferm (Citroën C3 WRC) +1:03.5
  9. Hänninen / Tuominen (Toyota Yaris WRC) +2:38.0

 

Let’s hear then from the drivers.

Hyundai Motorsport

Dani Sordo (1st)

“We have had a great start to this rally, but it is important to remember it is run over three days; we can’t win on Friday! Still, we have found some very competitive pace from the Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC, benefitting of course from our road position. We have had to make the most of this opportunity today in order to get the strongest road position for Saturday. It has required us to be very focused, especially in the afternoon loop, because we know the smallest mistake here can have big consequences. We sacrificed a bit of speed in the final stage to ensure we ended the day strongly. Leading the rally sounds good to me, but there’s a long way to go.”

2019 FIA World Rally Championship
Round 08, Rally Italia Sardegna
13-16 June 2019
Dani Sordo, Carlos Del Barrio, Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC
Photographer: Helena El Mokni
Worldwide copyright: Hyundai Motorsport GmbH

Andreas Mikkelsen (4th)

“Our day got off to a bad start when we made the wrong tyre choice on the morning loop – it was clear from the start that it was going to be tough. There was nothing we could do and the car was all over the place. By the final stage, the rear tyres were slicks. We had a much better afternoon. The driving was good, the tyre strategy was correct and we had a great feeling from the car. Road order is going to be really important tomorrow so it’s a shame we couldn’t be even higher up the order, as I am sure we could have been without our morning issues.”

Thierry Neuville (7th)

“We’ve not had the greatest of days, but the important thing is that we’ve survived. This morning although we didn’t opt for the best tyre choice, it was enough to keep us close to the lead. The extra weight was the biggest disadvantage; there are a lot of stones on the outside where the car is dancing, and we struggled to keep the car straight. The afternoon started badly when we had a miscommunication on the pace notes and ended up in a ditch. There’s no one to be blamed, it’s just one of those things but we lost a lot of time. We used a lot of tyre performance on the next stage, which was ultimately cancelled for the other crews, and that left us at a disadvantage. We are going to face an uphill battle for the rest of the weekend, but we don’t give up. A podium is still not out of the question.”

 

M-Sport WRT

Teemu Suninen (2nd)

“I have to say that I’m really happy with our performance today. I think we did a great job with the whole team, and it was just a shame that we did that one mistake in the morning – spinning and losing over 10 seconds.

“Jarmo has been teaching and coaching me all day and I have to say that I really enjoyed being the student again. I am still young and it’s great to be next to a really experienced co-driver like him.

“I think everyone will be really fast tomorrow, and we need to focus on our own performance. I would be happy with a podium, or even a top-four, but let’s try our best and see what happens.”

Elfyn Evans (5th)

“When the going was good, the speed was there, but we didn’t have the correct feeling with the car for some stages this morning – and that cost us quite dearly.

“Things were looking up in the afternoon but with the cancellation of the second stage [SS7] for the guys behind, we used a lot more tyres. I then made a little mistake in the next stage [SS8], and there was a massive cleaning effect in the last one [SS9].

“We dropped down the order a lot further than we would have liked, but it’s still incredibly close and we’ll fight our way forward tomorrow.”

Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT

Ott Tänak (3rd)

“It has been a challenging day but I believe we did everything we could. This afternoon we had an extra challenge running first on the road: Some sections were OK but in the narrow sections the ruts were full of loose gravel and it was really hard to find traction. In the last stages it was difficult for us to compete with the guys whose tyres had done one less stage. But we had a good rhythm and I could just try to push on every stage. Tomorrow it will be a big fight but we will have a better road position and hopefully this will make all the difference.”

Kris Meeke (6th)

“These stages today were mostly new for me, and I struggled a bit this morning just to find my way. We maybe could have had a different tyre choice as well, as the temperatures were very high already by mid-morning which was tough on the medium tyres. This afternoon was stronger and we had a decent rhythm. The car’s been near perfect and I’m generally quite happy. Tomorrow’s stages are more traditional from this rally and I have knowledge of them from the past, so hopefully the feeling should be better and we’ll try to take every position we can.”

Jari-Matti Latvala (TBC)

“We had a really good morning. It was very hot and I knew the tyre wear would be high in those conditions, so I took five hard tyres and I think it was a great choice. Then in the first stage of the afternoon, at a hairpin I pulled the handbrake too early, we cut the inside of the corner and rolled. It was a stupid mistake. It took a lot of effort for Miikka and I to get the car back on its wheels. The car was driving fine in the next stage and we could set a good time. But on the last stage, accelerating out of a hairpin the steering locked to the left and we went off the road and couldn’t continue. It’s difficult to take at the moment but hopefully we can come back and enjoy it tomorrow.”

Citroën Total WRT

Esapekka Lappi (8th)

“We had a bit of an up-and-down leg, what with my puncture this morning and the sensor issue that meant we had no engine boost, so we had trouble putting it all together. But we finished the day better than we started it. Unfortunately, on gravel, the opening leg is always fairly decisive and our day means that we won’t have a good position in the running order tomorrow. We’ll have to rely more on endurance to have a chance of moving up the standings.”

Sébastien Ogier (DNF/Rally2)

“The retirement was clearly my mistake. I just cut a little too much on a very tight left-hand corner, hit a big rock and broke the steering arm. I knew exactly where the rock was, as we had passed it three times on the shakedown. There’s a slight crest, a bit blind and perhaps I turned in slightly too early. We tried to do some makeshift repairs, but we couldn’t manage and so we had no other option but to retire. There’s not very much for us to hope for from this weekend now. As one of the early runners, I don’t think we have any chance of scoring five points in the Power Stage, given how loose and sandy the roads are, so we’ll watch what our rivals do.”

 

Saturday

This would be the longest day of action, with over 150km of stages, including two 28km stages back-to-back. The start list looked like this – Ogier, Latvala, Hänninen, Lappi, Neuville, Meeke, Evans, Mikkelsen, Tänak, Suninen, Sordo.

 

Straight away, there were changes to the leaderboard after SS 10 – Coiluna – Loelle 1 (14,97 km), with Ott winning the stage and moving ahead of Teemu into second overall. Elfyn started well, passing Andreas for fourth overall, but this battle was certainly not over.

There was more trouble for Seb, who’d damaged his rear suspension and stopped again to fix it in SS 11 – Monti di Ala’ (28,21 km). Ott won the stage, closing on Dani for the lead, the gap now just 2.6 seconds between them! Andreas repassed Elfyn in their fight over fourth place.

An inspired choice of medium tyres for Ott lead to another stage victory in SS 12 – Monte Lerno 1 (28,03 km) and with it the overall lead now by six seconds. Elfyn passed Andreas once more, whilst Thierry didn’t seem to be able to find any pace at all, firmly holding seventh overall, almost 50 seconds from Kris.

The afternoon stages started with SS 13 – Coiluna – Loelle 2 (14,97 km) and Ott continued to build a lead over Dani. Once more the fight between Elfyn and Andreas continued with them setting the exactly same time in the stage, with Elfyn holding fourth from the Norwegian.

SS 14 – Monti di Ala’ 2 (28,21 km) saw Ott open up an even bigger lead, winning the stage by almost seven seconds from Teemu, who was consolidating his podium challenging position of third. Dani remained in second overall.

The final stage of the day, SS 15 – Monte Lerno 2 (28,03 km) and the top three was Ott, Teemu and Thierry. Rally leader Ott had won every stage today, and increased his lead to almost half a minute over Dani Sordo. Thierry moved up as well, as Kris lost two and a half minutes after having to stop and change a tyre having got a puncture, so he fell to eighth.

STANDINGS AFTER DAY 2 

  1. Tänak / Järveoja (Toyota Yaris WRC) 3:04:10.3
  2. Sordo / Del Barrio (Hyundai i20 WRC) +25.9
  3. Suninen / Lehtinen (Ford Fiesta WRC) +42.9
  4. Evans / Martin (Ford Fiesta WRC) +1:25.4
  5. Mikkelsen / Jaeger (Hyundai i20 WRC) +1:33.3
  6. Neuville / Gilsoul (Hyundai i20 WRC) +2:32.4
  7. Lappi / Ferm (Citroën C3 WRC) +2:58.3
  8. Meeke / Marshall (Toyota Yaris WRC) +3:53.3
  9. Hänninen / Tuominen (Toyota Yaris WRC) +7:23.2
  1.     Ogier / Ingrassia (Citroën C3 WRC) +1:19:20.6

 

Let’s hear from the drivers.

Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT

Ott Tänak (1st)

“We’ve had a very strong day, but it was really demanding. We had to fight hard to get into the lead and make the gap that we have now. This morning we had a very good tyre call, and I believe that gave us some advantage. The car was working well and I had the confidence to push. This afternoon the conditions were rough and it was hot in the car. It was tough to push while also managing the tyres, and it would have been easy to get a puncture. But we had a very clean run with a good rhythm. We’re in a great position but we still have a big job to do tomorrow with four tricky stages waiting for us.”

Kris Meeke (8th)

“This morning I had a decent rhythm but I was still hesitating a bit in places, as it had been four years since I’d last driven these stages. Still, we managed to maintain the gap to the two drivers in front of us even though they had an advantage with the road cleaning. This afternoon I improved my rhythm and the first two stages went really well. Then in a fast section we had an impact with something in the middle of the road and it damaged a rim. I always knew this rally would be one of my toughest of the year, so to have been fighting for fourth tomorrow would have been really nice, so it’s really disappointing. Now we just need to bring home some points tomorrow.”

Jari-Matti Latvala (22nd)

“The goal for today was to enjoy the driving, but it’s never easy to be first on the road. This morning was very good, I was actually very happy with the stage times for the road position that we had. The afternoon we tried something different with the setup and to have the car a bit stiffer, but it didn’t work for my driving style: I couldn’t feel the grip in the same way, so the times were not that great. But when I didn’t have that confidence, I knew to stay calm and not make mistakes. Tomorrow we’ll go back to the setup we had this morning with some fine tuning, and hopefully we can get some points from the Power Stage.”

Hyundai Motorsport

Dani Sordo (2nd)

“We have had another good day but we just haven’t been able to match the pace of Tänak. We expected him to be fast based on his performance yesterday, and so it proved. I have been pleased with our own performance, though, as we’ve been able to hold onto second place quite comfortably. We have had to take it easy at times, in order to avoid picking up punctures, but the gap is still manageable to third place. We will try to push as much as we can tomorrow and secure our first podium finish of the season.”

Andreas Mikkelsen (5th)

“The fight for fourth is well and truly on; it gives us all the motivation we need to keep pushing. It wasn’t always possible to find the best times today. We struggled to find confidence on the first pass, as we did on Friday, when the stage conditions are particularly slippery. There’s a fine line in this event because it’s so easy to pick up a puncture on the second pass. My tyres were gone by the end of the loop, so I had to take it super carefully. We lost some time to Elfyn as a result, but we’ll do all we can to get that back tomorrow.”

Thierry Neuville (6th)

“It’s definitely not been the sort of day we were expecting to have. We wanted to show improvements compared to yesterday but we’ve struggled. The morning loop was challenging and I didn’t feel confident in the car. Our tyre choice was again not ideal but we just had to persevere. In the past four or five events, we have really felt confident in the car but that is missing in this rally. Our pre-event test (PET) was obviously not good enough. We have spent today making adjustments to the settings and the differentials, we have learned some things but we’re not where we need to be.”

M-Sport WRT

Teemu Suninen (2nd)

“I think we can be really happy with our performance today. The pace has been really solid all day and we were in the top-three on all of the stages.

“Dani [Sordo] is still some seconds away, but let’s see what we can do. We’ll try to catch him if we can, but I’ll still be happy with third position.

“Also, things with Jarmo are working really well – we have spent 14 hours together in the car today and we’re still smiling so that’s good!”

Teemu Suninen drove to a career best finish of second place with new co-driver, Jarmo Lehtinen alongside him. Photo credit, M-Sport

Elfyn Evans (4th)

“It’s been an okay day for us. I was a bit disappointed with the speed in some places, but overall, it’s been fairly positive and we’re back up to fourth place.

“It’s going to be a close fight with Andreas tomorrow so it was a shame to lose some time with the dust on the last stage. It was coming and going with light dust in some places and thick dust in others where we had to completely slow down.

“Everyone else had a clean run, so let’s see what happens with that. Whatever the outcome, it’s still going to be close, so we’ve got to keep pushing. It’s another tricky day tomorrow, but we’ll give it our best and hopefully come away with another strong result.”

Citroën Total WRT

Esapekka Lappi (7th)

“Apart from one stage where we lost a bit of ground, we more or less managed to keep pace with Neuville today, who was behind us in the running order, so that’s pretty pleasing. I was comfortable in the C3 WRC but we couldn’t hope to do much more with our road position.”

Esapekka Lappi had a good event, held back with punctures. Photo credit Citroen Racing

Sébastien Ogier (44th)

“Our mistake this morning was disappointing, because it then prevented us from really testing ourselves against our rivals on the second loop. We tried to do what we could, but without having driven the stages at full speed on the first run, it was clearly almost impossible to set fast times in the afternoon. SS13 is the only stage where I tried, because we had completed it in normal conditions on the first loop, and the time was okay. Obviously, you can count on me to try and grab some points in the Power Stage, even though it looks like it will be mission impossible. As the stage is rough, perhaps some crews won’t be flat out, but we’ll be pushing as hard as we can.”

 

Sunday

Well, we had just four stages left totalling 42km’s of action. This was the start list – Ogier, Latvala, Hänninen, Meeke, Lappi, Neuville, Mikkelsen, Evans, Suninen, Sordo, Tänak.

Andreas won SS 16 – Cala Flumini 1 (14,06 km), with Elfyn just two tenths of a second behind him and holding fourth place very nicely from the Norwegian by seven seconds. Ott increased his lead a little more over Dani, who was looking good for his first podium of the year.

FIA World Rally Championship 2019 / Round 08 / Rally d’Italia Sardegna / 13-16 June, 2019 // Worldwide Copyright: Toyota Gazoo Racing WRC

SS 17 – Sassari – Argentiera 1 (6,89 km) was also won by the Norwegian and with Elfyn five and a half seconds slower the gap in their battle for fourth was getting close! Ott was still holding the lead. Seb pushed in the stage, looking to get comfortable, ready for later, when the stage would be rerun.

A further stage win for Andreas in SS 18 – Cala Flumini 2 (14,06 km), took him closer to Elfyn, just six seconds separating them. Seb took it very easy through the stage, saving his tyres for a big push in the rerun of the stage, which would be the powerstage, his best hope for scoring points.

Finally, SS 19 – Sassari – Argentiera 2 Power Stage (6,89 km), and there were three surprises! Firstly, Seb set a great time, good enough for second fastest, behind Andreas who’s made it three out of three stage wins! Elfyn could only manage fifth fastest, losing the fight to Andreas, and then lastly with Dani Sordo having already finished, there was drama for Ott, who’d lost his powersteering in the first sector of the stage, the Estonian lost two minutes in the stage, falling to fifth place. All of this meant Dani had won, securing a popular win in the service park.

FIA World Rally Championship 2019 / Round 08 / Rally d’Italia Sardegna / 13-16 June, 2019 // Worldwide Copyright: Toyota Gazoo Racing WRC

FINAL RALLY STANDINGS

  1. Sordo / Del Barrio (Hyundai i20 WRC) 3:32:27.2
  2. Suninen / Lehtinen (Ford Fiesta WRC) +13.7
  3. Mikkelsen / Jaeger (Hyundai i20 WRC) +32.6
  4. Evans / Martin (Ford Fiesta WRC) +33.5
  5. Tänak / Järveoja (Toyota Yaris WRC) +1:30.1
  6. Neuville / Gilsoul (Hyundai i20 WRC) +2:06.7
  7. Lappi / Ferm (Citroën C3 WRC) + 2:59.6
  8. Meeke / Marshall (Toyota Yaris WRC) +4:40.1
  1.    Ogier / Ingrassia (Citroën C3 WRC) +1:22:58.5

Well, that was a big surprise, with Dani Sordo scoring his second victory at the top level of rallying!

Let’s hear from the drivers!

Hyundai Motorsport

Dani Sordo (1st)

“This is incredible. I have no words; it’s just an amazing feeling to take my first win for Hyundai and the second WRC win of my career. Of course, I am very sorry for Ott and Toyota to have experienced such bad luck on the Power Stage. At the same time, we knew we had to keep the pressure on in case this sort of situation occurred. I just can’t believe it happened. We have been quick and consistent all weekend. There was no chance to beat Ott on outright pace so we just did what we could and avoided mistakes. It wasn’t easy but we made it through to the end – and we now have this fantastic victory as a reward. Thanks to Carlos and to the team for the support and for sharing this result. I think it will take some time to fully sink in.”

Andreas Mikkelsen (3rd)

“We gave it a massive push on the final morning in an effort to cut the gap to Elfyn Evans. We had to dig deep but we were confident in our chances. The car felt really nice and we were properly in the zone. Taking all four stage wins was a fantastic feeling and we would have been content to take fourth. Unfortunately, Ott had his issues, which then handed us a podium finish, which was an unexpected but very welcome bonus. Although it has been achieved at one of our rival’s expense, we are grateful to score a 1-3 result this weekend.”

Thierry Neuville (6th)

“Absolutely not the weekend we were looking for. We have not been in the fight, so it’s been a case of damage limitation. A combination of incorrect tyre choice and other issues on Friday put us on the back foot from the start, and we’ve not been able to play a role since. We have to put it down to ‘one of those weekends’ and look to regroup and fight back in Finland. We pushed as hard as we could in the Power Stage but we could do no more. Congratulations to Dani; we have worked together at Hyundai for six years now and I am really pleased to see him and Carlos secure their first win for the team.”

M-Sport WRT

Teemu Suninen (2nd)

“I am really pleased with our performance this weekend. We had good speed with some fastest times on Friday, and then we were extremely consistent after that – especially on Saturday where we set the second or third fastest time on every stage.

“Today was a lot more difficult. The plan was to bring the car home, but this car really doesn’t like being driven slowly and we had to pick up the pace to make it nicer to drive. It was really hard to judge the rhythm, but we made it and it’s nice to get my first podium of the year.

“Also, the partnership with Jarmo was working really well. I thought it would be a lot more challenging having a new voice in my ear, but actually this is the voice I heard whilst watching the rally on the TV as a kid – and that gave me some good memories and big smiles all weekend.”

 

Elfyn Evans (4th)

“It’s really disappointing to have missed out by such a small margin. Looking back, the first stage of the loop was okay but we gave far too much away in both passes of the Power Stage. It’s so rough in there and so easy to make a mistake – but also so easy to make the time if you’re willing to put it all on the line. I wouldn’t say that we didn’t push, but I was definitely too cautious in the hairpins and that’s where we lost it. It’s difficult right now, but it’s still a good result and we’ve strengthened our position in the championship.”

Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT

Ott Tänak (5th)

“Very early in the final stage, something very strange happened with the steering and basically it was locked. We were stationary for some time, fighting to get the steering working. Somehow, we managed to get going again, but there was a lot of time lost and so was the victory. I’m frustrated, but I also feel very sad for the team. Everybody put so much effort in for this event and in the end to lose it in this way is really a shame. I’m sure that the team will work hard to solve the problem, and we will keep fighting. It’s been a tough season so far but the championship situation is much better than it was at the same time last year. Now it’s time to have some rest and be away from rallying for a bit, and then it’s back to business.”

Kris Meeke (8th)

“I was quite enjoying it yesterday afternoon: We were improving our rhythm and our speed. Then we had the issue in the final stage, and that meant that we didn’t have much to fight for today: We were just focusing on bringing it home to score some points for the team. I knew this would be a tougher event for me, but we can take some positives from yesterday. Now I’m looking forward to Rally Finland and the rest of the year: I know that the team was really strong over the second half of the season and I think everyone’s going to give everything from now until the end of the year.”

Jari-Matti Latvala (19th)

“Today the target for me was to score some points on the Power Stage. I wanted to get into a nice rhythm this morning and keep the speed up. Then, on the third stage, I was just saving the tyres. The Power Stage was always going to be hard with our road position, and I struggled a bit in the ruts, but we had a decent run and we were able to take some points away. Overall it has been a tough weekend for me after the positive start. It’s not been the rally that we were hoping for. But we need to look forward and keep fighting.”

Citroën Total WRT

Esapekka Lappi (7th)

“Obviously, it wasn’t quite the result that we were hoping for. The problems we had on the first leg went a long way to determining the rest of our weekend. We weren’t able to perform at our true level given our position in the running order. It was pretty much impossible to make up ground on these roads, where the grip increases so much with each passing car. We also weren’t helped by making the wrong call on tyres on Saturday morning. But at least we made it to the finish. We’ll now get back to work so that we’re in better form for our home round in Finland.”

 

Sébastien Ogier (42nd)

“Sometimes in motorsport, you have a weekend where things just don’t go your way and this weekend was clearly one of those. We’ll put it behind us and focus on the future. In running first on the road, the best we could have realistically hoped for would have been to finish around fifth, so my mistakes cost us a few points. But it is still incredibly close in the championship, even though I’m not the kind of person to take any pleasure from the misfortune of others, especially when it’s Ott. I’m now going to have a holiday and recharge my batteries. We’ll be back in Finland and try to do a lot better.”

DRIVERS’ WORLD CHAMPIONSHIP

  1. Ott Tänak – 150 points
  2. Sébastien Ogier – 146 points
  3. Thierry Neuville – 143 points
  4. Elfyn Evans – 78 points
  5. Teemu Suninen – 62 points
  6. Kris Meeke – 60 points
  7. Andreas Mikkelsen – 56 points
  8. Dani Sordo – 52 points
  9. Esapekka Lappi – 40 points
  10. Jari-Matti Latvala – 40 points

MANUFACTURERS’ WORLD CHAMPIONSHIP

  1. Hyundai WRT – 242 points
  2. Toyota Gazoo Racing – 198 points
  3. Citroën Total WRT – 170 points
  4. M-Sport Ford WRT – 152 points

Summary

Well, what a remarkable round! It had everything! First of all, Ott Tänak showed once again that he with his co-driver Martin Järveoja in that Yaris WRC are a force to be reckoned with. The combination is devastatingly effective, just so fast, even when second on the road. They are now in the championship lead. He’ll have to open the road at the next round in Finland, like Thierry did last year. That will be an interesting event.

Dani Sordo drove brilliantly to head into the final day holding second place, and it would have been a well-deserved podium. His first win since 2013, when he was driving for Citroën at that years Rally Deutschland is well deserved! Andreas also found some good pace, and it was a good result for the Norwegian, who is still under pressure I believe to deliver strong results.

Teemu’s performance was really impressive as well, with Jarmo Lehtinen making his return to the co-driver’s seat at the top level for the first time since 2014. Thinking about Elfyn, and his performance over the weekend, he drove pretty well, but it was a surprise to see him lose some much time to Andreas. He’ll want to analyse with Scott, where they went wrong, as it could have been a podium, and to some degree, he was over shadowed by Teemu.

At Citroën, they had an event to forget, apart from a brilliant drive from Sébastien Ogier to second fastest time in the powerstage, despite being the first car. A strange mistake from the Frenchman saw his challenge end, but he’s still well in the fight, and he is a bit lucky that Ott didn’t win as well. Esapekka is still getting used to his C3, but he had a good event, with a stage victory, but a puncture didn’t help him.

We now have a seven week break before the next event, Rally Finland on the weekend of the first to the fourth of August. We’ll then have six events in five months to decide who wins this year’s championship!

Rally Italia Sardegna 2018 Review – Thierry beats Seb in a straight fight!

Well, what an amazing rally we witnessed this weekend!

 

End of day one (Thursday): 
1 Sebastien Ogier/Julien Ingrassia (Ford Fiesta WRC) +2m02.7s
2 Andreas Mikkelsen/Anders Jaeger (Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC) +0.1s
3 Thierry Neuville/Nicolas Gilsoul (Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC) +0.7s

Friday morning saw rain arrive. Now this would see drama in each stage! This was the start list for the day – Neuville, Ogier, Tänak, Lappi, Mikkelsen, Evans, Latvala, Breen, Suninen, Ostberg, Paddon.

 

First stage of the morning, stage two, and Andreas would use his good road position to make a great start and take the lead from Seb and Mads slotted into second overall. Thierry remained in third, but Elfyn suffered a big problem and damaged his steering arm. He’d replace it in the stage very quickly and get back underway.

 

Stage three would see Andreas increase his lead to 15 and a half seconds after he won the stage, and with Mads dropping back with handling woes. Thierry, Ott and Teemu all moved ahead of the Norwegian.

 

Stage four would see Ott Tanak set the best time and he’d move into second overall, whilst Seb moved ahead of Mads after he put hard tyres on his car and with the heavy rain really struggled for grip! Andreas remained in the lead though, 14 seconds ahead of Ott.

 

Into stage five, the last of the morning before service and Thierry won it, moving ahead of Ott who fell to third. Seb set the second fastest time and closed to within one tenth of a second of his younger teammate. Further back, Jari-Matti and Miikka, making his 200th wrc top level start set the fourth fastest time, thus passing Mads into sixth overall.

 

The service break would allow M-Sport to fix Elfyn’s steering arm, but the timeloss with his problem would hamper his progress.

 

Stage six would have standing water and this would see Seb put an amazing time in, going from fifth place into the lead, with Andreas three and a half seconds now behind after he overshot at a tight left hander. Esapekka also moved ahead of Teemu into sixth place. Thierry suffered a spin and was now eight seconds behind our new leader.

 

Stage seven would see Andreas drop out of second place, 10km into the stage after he stopped with gearbox failure. Teemu won the stage from Seb and new second placed man, Thierry was third fastest. Just two stages remained and the top three was, Seb, Thierry and Ott, with just 15 seconds covering the top three!

 

Thierry won stage eight, reducing Seb’s lead to ten and a half seconds, whilst Ott remained in third place a further six seconds behind. Meantime, further back, Elfyn was climbing the leaderboard after setting the 7th fastest time bringing him into 23rd place.

 

The final stage of the day was won by Jari-Matti and with the demise of Ott Tanak after he broke his radiator on a jump and Teemu who’d gone off the road after losing control on a right-hander, he was now in third overall.

 

Classification after Day One

1 S. Ogier J. Ingrassia Ford Fiesta WRC 1:35:56.9
2 T. Neuville N. Gilsoul Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC +18.9
3 J.M. Latvala M. Anttila Toyota Yaris WRC +37.2
4 E. Lappi J. Ferm Toyota Yaris WRC +41.6
5 M. Østberg T. Eriksen Citroën C3 WRC +58.3
6 H. Paddon S. Marshall Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC +1:01.5
7 C. Breen S. Martin Citroën C3 WRC +1:26.0

 

 

Let’s hear from the drivers.

 

Sébastien Ogier

“It’s a perfect result at the end of the day and I’m really happy with our performance. Maybe I wasn’t in the mood to take all of the risks this morning, but I knew that I had to do a little bit more if I wanted a good position for tomorrow.

“The first stage of the afternoon was really demanding and in these conditions it’s so hard to estimate your rhythm. You never know if you are going to lose 20 seconds or gain 20 seconds, so to get to the end of the stage and see the time – let’s say that it was a happy surprise.

“If it stays dry tomorrow then we should have a good road position, but there is still a long way to go. It’s nice to be in the lead with a 19 second advantage, but for sure there is no time to relax.”

 

Thierry Neuville

“A challenging day, that’s for sure! Starting first on the road is never easy, irrespective of the conditions. The rain on the opening loop helped minimise the disadvantage, but we knew it would be a struggle. The car was working well, and I was pretty satisfied as we could fight for some stage wins and end the day second overall. We have had to be clever with our tyre strategy. It worked well in the morning, but by the final stage we had two new tyres left and opted to put them crossed on the car. Unfortunately, this created a big imbalance in the handling; the car was unstable and tentative with a lot of slipping. We tried to push hard but experienced some surprises. Tomorrow will continue to be hard but we’ll give it our best.”

Jari-Matti Latvala

“Today has been very positive. I was too cautious on the second stage this morning but then I started to find the rhythm and the speed. In the second run through Tula the conditions were more like Wales with the rain and the mud, and it was so slippery. I lost a lot of time at the end of that stage, but after that the conditions got better, I felt like I could push more and then in the final stage of the day I had the confidence to attack and we won the stage. It’s very close with Esapekka going into tomorrow. I like tomorrow’s stages and the most important thing will be to have a clean run. Then, if we can keep the speed up as well, we will be in a good position.”

2018 FIA World Rally Championship / Round 07, Rally d’Italia, Sardegna / June 7-10, 2018 // Worldwide Copyright: Toyota Gazoo Racing WRC

Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT

Ott Tänak (Rally2)

“On the final stage of the day we had a bad landing which caused some damage to the car and forced us to stop. The impact caught us by surprise quite a bit because we have driven this section of road four times now, including the shakedown yesterday and the first pass this morning, and I always had the same approach. Therefore, it’s difficult to explain why it happened. It’s a tough moment and a big setback. Even though I hadn’t had a perfect feeling with the car today, we were doing OK and we were still in the fight, so it’s a big shame to have to retire from the day with this kind of issue. It makes our title chase really hard now, but we will try to win every other rally from here.”

 

Esapekka Lappi (4th)

“This morning was quite difficult. That car felt OK but we had a slow puncture in the first stage and our one spare tyre was a hard compound, and because it was raining it was not really a good tyre to put on. The conditions were crazy in the first stage this afternoon with a lot of mud and rain but we managed to do a good run there and gain some time back to most of the others. Then the weather dried up, and we made some small changes to the car before the last stage and we were close to the top time. I think we can just work to find a little more grip for tomorrow and fight for the podium.”

 

 

Citroen Abu Dhabi Racing WRT

Craig Breen (7th)

“It hasn’t been a very good day for us, especially due to the problems we had with the handbrake. On twisty stages like those we had today, we tend to use the handbrake a lot. I stalled three times on one of the stages and lost quite a bit of time. I’m going to be running second on the road tomorrow, which will probably be difficult, but I’ll do everything I can to try and make up the time lost.”

 

Mads Østberg (5th)

“This rally has never been easy, but today’s crazy weather undoubtedly made it even more difficult. We were a bit unlucky, especially with two mistakes on tyre choice for the Tergu-Osilo stage, but I’d rather focus on the second fastest time on the final stage, which means that we will have a pretty good road position for tomorrow.”

Mads Ostberg, Torstein Erikson – Rally Italia 2018. Photo credit Citroen Racing

Hyundai Motorsport

Hayden Paddon (6th)

“We can’t be happy with our performance or results today. Whatever we have tried just hasn’t worked. Nothing has been clicking. We took a bit of a gamble this morning with the tyre choice, expecting it to dry out more than it eventually did. Tyres aside, we haven’t had the rhythm we need, nor the confidence to push. We have had little choice but to play the sensible game and get to the end of the day without having any issues. We are in the top-six but that is little consolation. We need to let the times come more naturally, and there are some things you can’t shake a magic wand at. We’ll sleep on it tonight and start again on Saturday morning.”

 

Andreas Mikkelsen (Rally2)

“The ultimate day of two halves for us today. We started really positively and confidently. It was a great morning loop and we could really build a good lead. It was nice to show the results of the changes we had made to the car, which we weren’t able to demonstrate at the last rally. We wanted to keep that momentum going into the afternoon but it wasn’t to be.  An overshoot about 2km into SS6 lost us a lot of time, and then in SS7 we had some transmission problems, which left the car in reverse gear. The car was returned to service. We start under Rally 2 on Saturday but we’ve missed a good opportunity to assert our authority on this rally.”

 

 

Saturday would see seven stages run over a distance of 146km. The running order looked like this – Evans, Breen, Paddon, Ostberg, Lappi, Latvala, Neuville, Ogier, Tänak, Suninen, Mikkelsen

 

Ott won the first stage of the day. Despite not completing all the stages on Friday, he’d got a pretty decent position in the running order. In fact, so did Teemu and Andreas too. Meantime Elfyn, who had finished all the stages was first on the road – a very interesting situation. In the battle for the lead, Thierry took some time out of Seb’s advantage whilst Latvala and Lappi were separated by just nine tenths of a second in their inter-team battle for the final step on the podium.

2018 FIA World Rally Championship / Round 07, Rally d’Italia, Sardegna / June 7-10, 2018 // Worldwide Copyright: Toyota Gazoo Racing WRC

In stage eleven, Seb was fastest resulting in the gap increasing again to Thierry. Further back, Citroen duo of Mads and Craig suffered with poor stages. Mads was hampered with speed sapping understeer, whilst Craig had a big impact on the front right. Latvala opened up a decent gap to his younger teammate after setting the fourth fastest time, opening up the gap by around five seconds.

 

The last stage of the morning loop, stage 12 saw a storming drive by our championship leader Thierry, who flew through it 14 seconds faster than Seb who suffered with understeer, bringing the lead down to just 4.9 seconds! Meantime, Hayden passed Mads gaining fifth place from the Norwegian.

 

The afternoon loop started with the short stage 13 and clearly any changes that had been made by M-Sport to Seb’s car hadn’t helped in this stage. The stage was won by Esapekka, but more significantly Thierry went third fastest and closed down Seb some more, the lead just 2.9 seconds.

 

Stage 14 saw Seb strike back, winning it and bringing the gap back up to nearly seven seconds. Hayden was now making fifth place his too, opening up the gap to Mads who was still the best placed Citroen.

 

Thierry wasn’t about to give up though in his pursuit of Seb, winning stage 15 and now the gap was just 4.3 seconds. In fact the battle between Latvala and Lappi continued to rage, with the younger Finn three seconds faster – now just two seconds separated them.

 

Well, the final stage of the day, and Thierry completed it just four tenths faster than Seb, but this meant there was just 3.9 seconds between the title protagonists. This was not over at all. Now, annoyingly for Jari-Matti and Miikka, they’d completed the stages and held a good lead of 6 seconds over Esapekka Lappi and Janne Ferm. Unfortunately, their car didn’t make it back to the service park after it stopped on the road section. Sadly, the alternator had packed up. Such is the way of motorsport.

 

Classification after Day Two

1 S. Ogier J. Ingrassia Ford Fiesta WRC 3:02:16.9
2 T. Neuville N. Gilsoul Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC +3.9
3 E. Lappi J. Ferm Toyota Yaris WRC +54.2
4 H. Paddon S. Marshall Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC +2:01.8
5 M. Østberg T. Eriksen Citroën C3 WRC +2:03.9
6 C. Breen S. Martin Citroën C3 WRC +3:13.6

 

Let’s hear then the thoughts of the drivers!

Sébastien Ogier

“Generally, I think it’s been a good day and it’s been really enjoyable driving these stages – there was just one that didn’t go to plan. I don’t know why, but on SS12 I didn’t have the rhythm and it’s actually in that one stage where we lost all the time.

“For sure it will be a big battle tomorrow and the pressure will be on; but to be honest it’s been like that all weekend with no time to relax at any point. Nobody likes to cruise to the finish on Sunday morning – we all like to fight – and it’s definitely not going to be a cruise tomorrow. If we want it, we will have to fight for it.”

Sébastien Ogier- Photo credit, M-Sport

Thierry Neuville

“We have had a good day and have really set up a great fight between Sébastien and me for the final morning. With just 3.9 seconds between us, it will be full attack for the win on Sunday. Generally, we’ve had a strong performance with three more stage wins and a good feeling inside the car. The mechanics did an amazing job to repair the small damage we picked up on Friday afternoon, and we could really feel immediately back ‘at home’ on the morning loop. We have taken fewer risks than we did yesterday but still been able to push and feel comfortable in the car. The afternoon wasn’t as smooth but we have kept out of trouble and can now look forward to an exciting end to the rally.”

2018 FIA World Rally Championship
Round 07, Rally Italia Sardegna
7-10 June 2018
Thierry Neuville, Nicolas Gilsoul, Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC
Photographer: Austral
Worldwide copyright: Hyundai Motorsport GmbH

Esapekka Lappi

“Today was quite fun. It was a really good fight with Jari-Matti. I was faster on one stage and then he would be quicker on the next. It was like that this morning and again in the afternoon. It is a shame how it ended with the problem for Jari-Matti. It means that we will start tomorrow with a big gap in front of us and a big gap behind, so we don’t need to push very hard. The car felt really good this afternoon, so I’m feeling pretty confident.”

 

Hyundai Motorsport

Hayden Paddon (4th)

“We have definitely enjoyed the conditions today more than we did on Friday. There has been a little bit of sweeping required, but nothing too detrimental. The grip was good on the morning loop and we recovered some of the positive feeling we had in shakedown. Rally Italia Sardegna certainly throws up a fair few surprises, as we’ve seen again today, so we played it smart and concentrated on clean runs. We tried to keep the pressure on Mads throughout the day, and it’s going to be a close-run final morning. There are important manufacturer points up for grabs, so we won’t be doing anything foolish but fourth is there for the taking, so we’ll do our best to defend it.”

 

Andreas Mikkelsen (20th)

“We knew that there wasn’t going to be much to challenge for today, as we restarted under Rally 2. Of course, it is a shame we weren’t able to push for a good result, especially after taking an early lead. Instead, we just wanted to find a good feeling from inside the car on today’s stages and carry out some learning for next year. There’s not much more we could have done in the circumstances. We still wanted to show our pace, which I felt we did in many of the stages. We had a spin in the first run through Monte Lerno and a puncture in the repeat stage, but otherwise it was a decent day for us. Let’s see if we can push for some Power Stage points tomorrow.”

 

Citroen Abu Dhabi Racing WRT

Mads Østberg (5th)

“Although we played it safe this afternoon by taking two spares, we managed to stay right in the mix for a good final position, and I really enjoyed today when the conditions were closer to those you expect at this round. Tomorrow looks set to be another exciting and close fight, and I can’t wait to get started!”

 

Craig Breen (6th)

“Despite our poor road position, some of our times were fairly encouraging, but we then broke the anti-roll bar mounting and that slowed us down a bit in the ruts on the afternoon’s two long stages.”

 

Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT 

Jari-Matti Latvala (8th)

“Overall, I would say that it was a good day, even though it ended this way. Looking just at the special stages, I’m really pleased with how they went. I took care when there were rough sections and I pushed harder when the conditions were better. Esapekka was doing really good times and getting closer and closer and I wanted to really attack on the last stage. I got to the end of the stage, but we had an alternator warning and eventually we ran out of battery on the road section. It’s very frustrating because I really wanted to get a podium from this event. Tomorrow we will carry on fighting and try to score as many points as possible.”

 

Ott Tänak (9th)

“After the frustration of yesterday it was important to get back behind the wheel today. We made a couple of changes to the car at lunchtime and this afternoon it was really enjoyable. The car was feeling almost perfect and I had a nice rhythm. Unfortunately, we picked up a puncture somehow on the last stage, which gives us a little bit more to do tomorrow because we are trying to gain one more position and now the gap is a bit bigger. But we are not giving up and we will start tomorrow with a big attack to try and get this one position.”

 

M-Sport Ford WRT

Teemu Suninen (13th)

“It’s not been an easy day and it was difficult to find the rhythm. I think I was a bit too careful after yesterday, and that cost us a lot of time. But we were still able to take a lot of experience that will help in the future – and next year I believe I can be faster.”

Elfyn Evans (14th)

“It’s never an easy situation to be in when you’re opening the road and not in a fight. There were some tricky sections today, so we just had to focus on getting through without any mistakes.”

 

Sunday arrived and it was a sunny day! We had the amazing situation with a real battle for the win between Seb and Thierry. The Belgian had a great opportunity to beat Seb and increase his lead in the championship and just four stages covering 42km to do it in. This was the start list – Evans, Breen, Ostberg, Paddon, Lappi, Latvala, Neuville, Ogier, Tänak, Suninen, Mikkelsen.

 

Well, stage 17 saw the lead that Seb held over Thierry close by 8 tenths of a second. Now just 3.1 seconds separated the top two. The Belgian was delivering on what he said. He said at the end of the stage “I don’t know if it’s enough. It will be tight. Two small mistakes at a junction and I ended up in a bit of loose, so I lost a bit of time.” Seb said “It is okay, it is very narrow, so it is hard to push harder”. Ott completed the top three in this stage

 

Thierry continued his push in stage 18, taking 1.8 seconds out of Seb. The gap was just 1.3 seconds… wow. Thierry was asked how he felt after a dominant display. “I don’t know! I just try to keep it on the road and push as much as I can without making mistakes. At this level everyone is pushing hard and fighting with Ogier is the most difficult!”

 

Seb said “It is tight! We will have to push to the end. This stage is all about fighting with the car, and for sure you can be a lot more aggressive. I will have to push on the next one.” Andreas was third fastest and saving his tyres for the powerstage.

 

A short regroup before the final two stages, and which way was this going to go?

 

Well, we had the answer. Thierry went through and it may not sound much, taking half a second from Seb’s lead. That however meant just eight tenths of a second remained between these two…. One stage left.

 

Thierry said, “I made two mistakes. I overshot the ruts and I was once was a bit close to the wall so I lost a bit of speed. We are going to go for it to the end”. Seb didn’t say anything at all and left his timecard with a marshal at the end of the stage. Clearly the pressure was telling. Ott collected the timecard and returned it to Seb.

 

The last stage then, after a pretty epic event! Who would prevail? Thierry set the fastest time in the stage, beating Tanak’s benchmark. He said “I had to try. I gave it everything. I want to say thank you to the team for all their hard work this weekend.” Now, at first Seb was seven tenths up at the first split, but the middle split showed he’d lost that time and more, now two tenths down. Coming through the final split he was 2.2 down, therefore technically not in the lead and finally coming over the flying finish 1.4 down. Thierry had done it. He’d beaten Seb by just seven tenths. The Belgian said, “We gave it everything and it was a great fight. Such a small difference at the end.”

 

Seb had this to say, “I tried everything I could today. I was always losing a few tenths here and there. The last stage was very rough and I made two mistakes which cost me a few tenths. It is still good points for the championship. We lost the battle, but we haven’t lost the war. There are still six rounds to go, it isn’t time to panic. Thierry was lucky with the rain but there will be another rally where he loses time as the road opener.”

 

Summing up the event.

Thierry did benefit from the rain on Friday to a degree, but this will go down in history as I believe as his best drive to date. Just amazing. It was a shame for Jari-Matti and Miikka retiring on Saturday from a great third place on Miikka’s 200th WRC event.

 

Hayden Paddon and Seb Marshall drove well, getting a great fourth place. Elfyn can feel a bit annoyed with his position of first on the road, despite completing all the stages. Those to benefit from the rally2 regs had a far better positions, and I believe it’s something that needs to be looked at.

 

The Citroen pairing of Mads and Craig had solid events, but it’s fair to say the team have some work to do to make their car faster.

Let’s hear from the drivers’ then!

Thierry Neuville (1st)

“I can’t believe it! We knew we had to give it everything we had this morning, and it was a truly fantastic fight with Sébastien. The gap at the end was so small and we left absolutely nothing behind. We kept pushing as hard as we could without doing anything stupid. Battling against Séb is one of the most difficult things to do, so this is a precious victory. Nicolas and I send massive thanks to the whole Hyundai Motorsport team for giving us a great car this weekend. Without them we couldn’t have done this today. Starting first on the road on Friday put us at a disadvantage. The rain helped a bit but we never gave up and we can share in one of the finest wins of our career. Leading both championships heading into the break gives us all the motivation we need for the second half of the season.”

2018 FIA World Rally Championship
Round 07 Rally Italia Sardegna
07-10 June 2018
Photographer: Fabien Dufour
Worldwide copyright: Hyundai Motorsport GmbH

Sébastien Ogier (2nd)

“I don’t think I can be unhappy with this weekend. I did everything I could, but I have to say that I was not prepared to take as many risks as Thierry. We still have some work to do because we were losing some tenths here and there – especially in the slower, more technical sections – but it’s still a good result for the championship.

“We’re only at the halfway point with six more events to come, but for sure we will have to be consistently strong. It will be a nice challenge and we will enjoy that, but now it’s time to have a break and enjoy the holidays!”

 

Esapekka Lappi (3rd)

“Today was just about bringing the car to the finish and to the podium. This is a really important result, both for my confidence but also for the team as well. I think we deserved a podium. We had opportunities to do it earlier in the season but I made some mistakes. Both Portugal and Sardinia have been quite clean rallies for me with a consistent performance, so I hope I can take this forward to Finland.”

 

Hyundai Motorsport

Hayden Paddon (4th)

“A difficult weekend for us, but a positive end to the rally for the team. We wanted more from this rally, but to take fourth place gives us important confidence for the coming events. Things didn’t really click from the first stages, and we weren’t able to replicate the positive feeling we had from shakedown. Still, it’s nice to finish this event for the first time in three years, and to score important points for the team in the manufacturers’ championship. We will look to build from here, and to try and take a few more risks. Congratulations to Thierry, Nicolas and the whole team for a fantastic victory.”

 

Andreas Mikkelsen (19th)

“We gave it all we could in the Power Stage to try and salvage something from what has been a frustrating weekend. Since the last rally, we have found a much better feeling from inside the car but we haven’t had the results to match. On Friday morning, we could show the potential we have with some strong times and leading the rally. Unfortunately, the transmission problem ended our rally and we’ve spent the remaining stages just refining things and picking up useful information about the car on these tough gravel stages. It is all valuable learning but we leave Sardinia with a feeling of missed opportunity. We will regroup over the summer break and be ready for Finland. Finally, congratulations to Thierry and Nicolas on an outstanding win this weekend.”

 

Citroen Abu Dhabi Racing WRT

Mads Østberg (5th)

“Although we set competitive times on a number of occasions, we quickly found ourselves having to defend our position. We therefore didn’t take any unnecessary risks. That was true both on my side, in terms of driving, and also from a technical point of view, in carrying two spares for yesterday afternoon’s loop, for example. But I’m pleased to secure this fifth place for the team.”

 

Craig Breen

“The weekend didn’t go especially smoothly for us. Having started quite far down the running order on Friday in the rain, we struggled with the tricky road conditions. We then ended up opening the road for the next two days as the ground dried out. The roads, when dry, are renowned for cleaning a lot, meaning the early runners are at a real disadvantage. I nonetheless managed to improve my knowledge of this specific rally. My focus has already shifted to Finland.”

 

Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT

Jari-Matti Latvala (7th)

“It was good to be able to get back out on the stages today after the frustration of yesterday. The feeling in the car was good and the times were pretty good, even though we were saving the tyres. Unfortunately, on the Power Stage I stalled the engine in one corner: I went too quick into a left-hander and the ruts were quite deep. I really wanted a podium here but I will try to have a positive break and be ready to fight in Finland.”

 

Ott Tänak (8th)

“It was a tough weekend with many lessons learned. We still need to understand what happened and why, and we need to avoid the same things happening in the future. Generally, the feeling is good, we are really fast, now we just need a bit of consistency. I know we can do it. As a team we are still young but we are learning quickly. I have good faith in the team and I’m sure we can put these moments behind us and be stronger in the future.”

 

M-Sport Ford WRT 

Teemu Suninen (10th)

“On Friday I was really happy with my speed. The feeling was good and the rhythm was coming quite easily – we were in the fight for the podium and weren’t taking any big risks. Then in the last stage I just pushed a little too hard on the old tyres and we went off.

“After that it was a difficult weekend. We were focused on getting through all of the kilometres and when you’re driving carefully you lose the rhythm and the times don’t come as easily. But we got to the end and I am sure that we will be faster here next year.”

 

Elfyn Evans (14th)

It’s been a frustrating weekend – especially as the feeling in the car was really good on Friday morning. A relevantly small error proved pretty costly, and when you drop 13 minutes there is very little to fight for. We managed to salvage a point from the Power Stage which was some consolation, and now we’ll have a few weeks off before getting fully focused ahead of the next one in Finland.”

 

We now have the summer holiday break and the WRC will return in the last weekend of July, a full six weeks from now for Rally Finland!

 

Final Overall Classification – Rally Italia Sardegna

1 T. Neuville N. Gilsoul Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC 3:29:18.7
2 S. Ogier J. Ingrassia Ford Fiesta WRC +0.7
3 E. Lappi J. Ferm Toyota Yaris WRC +1:56.3
4 H. Paddon S. Marshall Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC +2:55.2
5 M. Østberg T. Eriksen Citroën C3 WRC +3:10.9
6 C. Breen S. Martin Citroën C3 WRC +4:31.7
7 J.M. Latvala M. Anttila Toyota Yaris WRC +11:22.1
8 O. Tänak M. Järveoja Toyota Yaris WRC +12:38.2
9 J. Kopecky P. Dresler Škoda Fabia R5 +13:14.6
10 T. Suninen M. Markkula Ford Fiesta WRC +15:30.4

2018 FIA World Rally Championship for Drivers’ Standings 
After round 7

1 T. Neuville 149
2 S. Ogier 122
3 O. Tanak 79
4 E. Lappi 70
5 D. Sordo 60
6 A. Mikkelsen 56
7 E. Evans 46
8 K. Meeke 43
9 J.M Latvala 37
10 C. Breen 34
11 M. Østberg 26
12 T. Suninen 24
13 H. Paddon 22

2018 FIA World Rally Championship for Manufacturers’ Standings
After round 7

1 Hyundai Shell Mobis World Rally Team 212
2 M-Sport Ford World Rally Team 184
3 Toyota Gazoo Racing World Rally Team 161
4 Citroën Total Abu Dhabi World Rally Team 129

Rally Italia Sardegna 2018 Preview – Jumping in the dust!

It’s time for the really dusty rally! Last year, M-Sport won the rally, thanks to a superb drive from Ott Tanak. Thierry Neuville is the championship leader, currently 19 points ahead of the reigning champion Seb. Opening the road on Friday will make the event very tricky for him. Last year we saw Seb open the road and he finished in fifth place and kept the lead in the championship.

Rally Italia Sardegna – Photo credit – M-Sport World Rally Team

Here’s last year’s result.

Final  Overall Classification  -Rally Italia Sardegna

1 O. Tanak M. Jarveoja Ford Fiesta WRC 3:25:15.1
2 J.M Latvala M. Anttila Toyota Yaris WRC +12.3
3 T. Neuville N. Gilsoul Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC +1:07.7
4 E. Lappi J. Ferm Toyota Yaris WRC +2:12.9
5 S. Ogier J. Ingrassia Ford Fiesta WRC +3:25.3
6 J. Hänninen K. Lindstrom Toyota Yaris WRC +3:38.5
7 M. Østberg O. Floene Ford Fiesta WRC +6:31.8
8 A. Mikkelsen A. Jaeger Citroën C3 WRC +8:07.8
9 E. Camilli B. Veillas Ford Fiesta R5 +11:15.8
10 J. Kopecky P. Dresler Škoda Fabia R5 +11:21.4

 

Here’s the full schedule for this tricky event!

RALLY ITALIA SARDINIA SCHEDULE (GMT+2)

THURSDAY 7 JUNE

8.00am: Shakedown Olmedo (3,34 km)

5.00pm: Start (Alghero)

6.00pm: SS 1 – Ittiri Arena Show (2,00 km)

7.00pm: Parc fermé (Alghero)

 

FRIDAY 8 JUNE

6.30am: Service A (Alghero – 15 min)

8.33am: SS 2 – Tula 1 (21,99 km)

9.48am: SS 3 – Castelsardo 1 (14,52 km)

10.37am: SS 4 – Tergu – Osilo 1 (14,14 km)

11.48am: SS 5 – Monte Baranta 1 (10,78 km)

12.44pm: Service B (Alghero – 30 min)

3.02pm: SS 6 – Tula 2 (21,99 km)

4.17pm: SS 7 – Castelsardo 2 (14,52 km)

5.06pm: SS 8 – Tergu – Osilo 2 (14,14 km)

6.24pm: SS 9 – Monte Baranta 2 (10,78 km)

7.00pm: Flexi service C (Alghero – 45 min)

 

SATURDAY 9 JUNE

5.55am: Service D (Alghero – 15 min)

8.38am: SS 10 – Coiluna – Loelle 1 (14,95 km)

9.33am: SS 11 – Monti Di Ala’ 1 (28,52 km)

10.11am: SS 12 – Monte Lerno 1 (29,11 km)

1.03pm: Service E (Alghero – 30 min)

2.11pm: SS 13 – Citta’ Di Ittiri – Coros (1,40 km)

4.08pm: SS 14 – Coiluna – Loelle 2 (14,95 km)

5.03pm: SS 15 – Monti Di Ala’ 2 (28,52 km)

5.41pm: SS 16 – Monte Lerno 2 (29,11 km)

8.15pm: Flexi service F (Alghero – 45 min)

 

SUNDAY 10 JUNE

7.45am: Service G (Alghero – 15 min)

8.45am: SS 17 – Cala Flumini 1 (14,06 km)

9.38am: SS 18 – Sassari – Argentiera 1 (6,96 km)

11.12am: SS 19 – Cala Flumini 2 (14,06 km)

12.18pm: SS 20 – Sassari – Argentiera 2 Power Stage (6,96 km)

1.15pm: Service H (Alghero – 10 min)

2.15pm: Podium (Alghero)

 

Let’s hear from the driver’s!

 

 Hyundai Motorsport

Thierry Neuville

“Portugal was the near-perfect weekend for us, as we took 29 out of a maximum 30 points. We now move onto Sardinia, which is one of the most technical events on the calendar, leading the championship. The roads are very narrow and become extremely rough on the second pass. The grip level is quite high on the repeat loop, but we often lack traction on the first run through. They are tricky conditions but the stages tend to suit my driving style and pace notes system. I am able to be very precise and I have been successful there many times in the past.”

2017 FIA World Rally Championship
Round 07, Rally d’Italia Sardegna
8-11 June 2017
Thierry Neuville – Nicolas Gilsoul, Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC
Photographer: RaceEMotion
Worldwide copyright: Hyundai Motorsport GmbH

Hayden Paddon

“First of all, I am feeling fighting fit after the incident in Portugal and I’m ready to get back down to business. Up to that point, we were able to show a competitive level of performance, taking a stage win and battling for the lead. Rally Italia Sardegna is certainly one of the highlights of the year, located in the Mediterranean with sunny conditions and hot temperatures. The stages are very twisty and challenging. It is a rally I enjoy, and from where I have good memories. I scored my first WRC podium there in 2015 and led the rally in 2017. I would like to finish off what we started last year.”

 

Andreas Mikkelsen

“Rally Italia Sardegna is a very warm event and it’s important to have high concentration; there are many rocks sticking out that can cause punctures or damage. You also need a stable car because the stages are quite narrow and rough with a lot of bumps. We have made improvements to the car on gravel, which has given me an improved feeling, and I felt really comfortable during Rally de Portugal. This is a positive sign for Sardinia where our aim is to catch up some points and improve our position in the drivers’ championship, while also helping the team to increase the manufacturers’ lead. It will be tough on mind and body, as well as the car and tyres, but we’re ready for it.”

 

Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT 

Jari-Matti Latvala

“I always enjoy competing in Sardinia. I actually drove there for the first time in 2003 on the Rally Costa Smeralda, the year before the WRC started going there. The roads have a very hard base with a layer of sand on the top which can make it very slippery for the first cars on the road. The roads are narrow but you can go very fast if you can keep to the right line. I feel positive heading to Sardinia. I had two clean days of driving in Portugal without any mistakes and this helped my confidence a lot, and I am really enjoying driving this car.”

Jari-Matti and Miikka scored a podium last year on this event – Photo credit Toyota World Rally Team

Ott Tanak

“Sardinia is a special rally for me as it’s where I got my first win one year ago. Hopefully we can get another top result this time around. I think this will be a key rally for the championship. Portugal obviously didn’t go as well as we planned or hoped, so it will be really important to score some strong points. We are trying to be well prepared as possible, and I know that the team is working really hard. I am really happy with how the car has been performing: In Argentina it was fantastic and it felt good in Portugal as well. Now we just need to translate that speed into a good result before the summer holidays.”

 

Esapekka Lappi

“I am really looking forward to competing in Sardinia again. We had a pretty good result there already last year and my speed was good, as we won six stages. I think I have learnt a lot since then, and there has also been a lot of progress with the car. I have felt very comfortable over the last couple of rallies and I have had the confidence to push hard. Now that we are fifth in the championship, we will have to run quite early on the road on Friday. The road cleaning effect can be quite big there, but I got some good experience of this on the final two days in Portugal, so I am not worrying about this too much.”

 

M-Sport Ford WRT

Sébastien Ogier

“Portugal was a shame as we had the speed to challenge for the win. It was a small mistake with big consequences, but we put it behind us and are now fully focused on giving it everything we’ve got in Sardinia.

“Having competed here many times before, I’ve learned to really enjoy these demanding stages. It’s a beautiful island, but not the easiest of rallies with some very rough and abrasive terrain. You need to keep a margin and stay focused from start to finish – which is exactly what we intend to do next week.

“We won’t be opening the road this year, but we’ll still have something of an uphill battle with many fast drivers benefitting from a cleaner road behind. Even so, I’m confident that we can challenge for a good result. If we can keep the lead in sight on Friday night then we’ll be in with a chance – and will push for the best possible result.”

FIA WORLD RALLY CHAMPIONSHIP 2017 -WRC Italy Sardegna (ITA) – WRC 08/06/2017 to 11/06/2017 – PHOTO : @World

Elfyn Evans

“Sardinia will always be a special place for me. It’s where I first got behind the wheel of a world rally car and I’ve come to really enjoy the challenging nature of the stages. It’s not an easy rally by all means, but I think that’s one of the reasons why I enjoy it so much.

“It’s such a demanding event and there are so many things that you need to keep in mind. The stages themselves are very rough and abrasive. You need to keep a margin within your driving otherwise your rally can be over before it’s even begun.

“Then there’s the heat. At this time of year, we can be looking at temperatures as high as 30C. That takes its toll on the cars, and the 50C plus temperatures inside the cockpit take their toll on the crew too!

“After our good result in Portugal we’re keen to keep that momentum going in Sardinia. We’ve completed two days of testing and we’ll have a fairly good road position on Friday that we’ll need to make the most of. If everything goes our way, I see no reason why we can’t be challenging for another strong result.”

 

Teemu Suninen

“I didn’t compete in Sardinia last year, but I did win the WRC 2 category in 2016 so hopefully that will help us this year. Every rally is difficult at this level and every minor detail has an effect on the end result – I’m sure Sardinia will be no different.

“We completed a one-day test last week which proved really useful. The road was quite slow, but that was good for me as it’s on these slower roads where I need to focus on improvements – where it’s slow and narrow and you need to take an advantage over every inch of the road.

“Even on the test I noticed how hot it will be next week. Normally I drink three litres a day but in Sardinia I expect to be drinking more than five litres a day! The stages are also quite rough and that means that we will have to get every stone marked in our notes.

“By focusing on my rivals my speed won´t improve. I’ll focus purely on my own driving and on improving stage by stage – then we’ll see where we are at the end of the rally.”

 

Citroen Abu Dhabi WRT 

Craig Breen

“This is one of the WRC rallies where I have the least experience, but fortunately it hasn’t changed much since last year and so I have most of the pace notes already. It’s not necessarily my favourite event, because it’s never easy to adopt a fluid driving style on these really narrow, technical stages. But I have a good road position in eighth in the running order, because it’s one of the events where cleaning is most significant, so I’m going to try and make the most of it on the opening day.”

Mads Østberg

“It’s one of my favourite rallies. I’ve always been quick here. First of all, you need very good pace notes and then you need to find the right balance between pushing where you can and defending when there is a real risk of smashing the car. I learned a lot about the C3 WRC in Portugal and ended up by showing some pretty decent speed. The two days of pre-event testing held this week will help me to find the right pace, especially as I fully intend to take advantage of my good position in the running order.”

Mads Ostberg – Photo credit, Citroen Racing.

Just one team will be running two cars, with the removal of Kris Meeke and Paul Nagle from the Citroen team a few days ago. This will make it hard for them to make some good ground up in the manufacturers championship, but with Mads making his third start this year for this team and Craig in the other car looking to learn more about this tricky event for the future, they’ve got two drivers that can get to the end of the rally in the points.

Now, this is a special event for Miikka Antilla. He is making his 200th WRC start. A very special moment for Jari-Matti’s co-driver. The Toyota crew will want to get a great result, to mark this weekend.

Well, who do I think could win? Hayden Paddon and Seb Marshall will make their third start this year, and with his great road position, I would expect them to be in the mix for the podium at the very least, along with Andreas, Jari-Matti and Esapekka.

 

Don’t forget, all the action starts on Thursday morning with shakedown at 8am, that’s 6am BST here in the UK. The latest weather reports for the area on Friday are suggesting there will be thunderstorms. If there are stages that have rain, then Thierry will be a happy man.

 

Enjoy!