Rally Italia Sardegna: Preview
TOYOTA GAZOO Racing sets sail in search of Sardinian success
After victory in Portugal, the TOYOTA GAZOO Racing World Rally Team moves quickly onto another gruelling gravel event in the shape of Rally Italia Sardegna (June 3-6) with the aim of continuing its strong recent form.
Toyota Yaris WRC duo Sébastien Ogier and Elfyn Evans lead the way in the drivers’ championship after the latter’s victory on the first gravel round of 2021 in Portugal – and are separated by just two points, with a further 20 points back to the competition. Fifth in the standings is Kalle Rovanperä and sixth is TGR WRC Challenge Program driver Takamoto Katsuta – fresh from taking his best ever result of fourth in Portugal.
Rally Italia Sardegna returns to its traditional June date this year after the 2020 edition was switched to the autumn. That should mean a return to some of the highest temperatures experienced all season, which combined with rough and abrasive roads can make the event particularly tough on cars on tyres. The stages are fast but narrow and lined with bushes, trees and rocks, making them tricky for the drivers too.
The service park moves back to Olbia in the northeast of the island after seven years in Alghero on the west coast – although Alghero will still host the start of the rally on Thursday evening. Friday and Saturday feature mostly familiar roads from recent years, with each day consisting of a pair of stages run twice in the morning and another pair of stages run twice in the afternoon. Saturday afternoon’s Bortigiadas – Aggius – Viddalba test was last driven in 2005, while Sunday has a completely different look, with two passes over the Arzachena – Braniatogghiu stage last run in 2009 plus the all-new Aglientu – Santa Teresa test on the northern coast, which will serve as the rally-ending Power Stage.
Jari-Matti Latvala (Team Principal)
“We had a fantastic result in Portugal and that gives us a good feeling moving onto another gravel rally in Sardinia. We also have to be realistic going into the event. Seb and Elfyn will be the first two drivers on the road during day one, and this is usually one of the most difficult rallies in terms of road cleaning, especially now we are going back there in the summer. But we fought back well from a difficult start in Portugal and again we will try to take as many points as we can in Sardinia. We know it will be a great challenge but that’s what rallying is all about.”
Sébastien Ogier (Driver car 1)
“I’m sure that Sardinia will be another demanding rally for us, opening the road again like in Portugal. But honestly I am happy to be leading the championship: I always try to take as many points as I can, and this will be the aim in Sardinia too. The result in Portugal was positive, even though I was not so satisfied with our pace. But it was the first time driving with the new tyres on gravel, and hopefully as we gain a bit more understanding with them we can see how to extract some more performance already in this next event.”
Elfyn Evans (Driver car 33)
Portugal was obviously a great result for us. We made good progress with the car setup and our understanding of the tyres throughout the weekend, but even though it’s quite a tight turnaround, I think we probably all have a few ideas as to how we can improve the package for Sardinia. It’s not going to be an easy weekend given our road position, and that might be more of a disadvantage than it was in October last year if we have warm and dry conditions like expected, but we’re going to give it our best shot as always.”
Kalle Rovanperä (Driver car 69)
“After Portugal I really hope that we can have a better rally in Sardinia. The stages there are quite demanding and I’m not sure whether suit my style so well, even though I did win there in WRC2 in 2019. Last year it was quite a tricky event for us, but I really want to improve there and show some better pace and I have already been studying the stages quite a lot in preparation. In Portugal I struggled a lot on the first pass when the grip was lower, but we used the Sunday to test some different setups ready for Sardinia and hopefully we can use what we learned there.”
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