Written by Apostolos Papageorgiou, Edited by Vyas Ponnuri
After a two-week break, the World Rally Championship returns, once again in mainland Europe, specifically in Italy and the island of Sardinia. Having joined the WRC calendar back in 2004, Rally Sardegna was the replacement to San Remo, a classic tarmac, and sometimes gravel round of the sport since its early days. In contrast, Sardinia seems more straight forward and it could be seen as little more than yet another gravel rally. History suggests otherwise, however, with Sardinia having seen some of the most dramatic finishes in recent memory. Thierry Neuville snatched victory from Sebastien Ogier on the final stage, by seven tenths of a second in 2018, while Ott Tänak fell from first to fifth on the power stage a year later.
That is something championship leader Kalle Rovanperä would want to avoid, come Sunday. Despite a relatively healthy 17 point lead in the standings after winning in Portugal, the Finn cannot afford to get comfortable just yet.
It wasn’t the smoothest ride for Tänak last time in the scorching heat of Portugal, despite a fourth-place finish. A win here would be ideal, but given he starts second on the road on Friday, a podium wouldn’t be a bad outcome for the Estonian either.
Sebastien Ogier is back this weekend, and will be hoping for a better start to the rally from his last round in Croatia, when a puncture put him out of touch with the leaders. Elfyn Evans is tied with Ogier in the standings, and is in the same boat as his teammate, as he looks to put behind his rally-ending crash in Portugal.
Thierry Neuville was unfortunate to miss out on a podium at the previous round, thanks to a blown turbo on the final day. He does have a favourable road position over his rivals, but whether or not he takes advantage of it remains to be seen.
Neuville’s teammates Dani Sordo and Esapekka Lappi finished second and third respectively in Portugal, and it looks like both will be in contention for the win in Sardinia as well, especially Dani, given he’s won here twice before.
Takamoto Katsuta and Pierre-Louis Loubet hit all sorts of trouble at the last round, meaning their flashes of speed remained the same. Starting as the last two cars in the WRC field should help them finally get their seasons back on track.
The WRC2 field this weekend is arguably the strongest one we’ve ever seen, as series leader Yohan Rossel will be joined by former WRC full-timers Gus Greensmith, Oliver Solberg, and Adrien Fourmaux, as well as the last two champions in Andreas Mikkelsen and Emil Lindholm. Other big names like Nilolay Gryazin and Teemu Sunninen are also present for the rally, in what promises to be a thrilling battle for victory.