Rally Italia Sardegna: PreviewTOYOTA GAZOO Racing trio take on Sardinian gravel challenge

Another gruelling gravel event lies in store for the TOYOTA GAZOO Racing World Rally Team on round seven of the 2017 FIA World Rally Championship: Rally Italia Sardegna. The team continues to develop its Yaris WRC challenger during its debut season and for the second event in a row there will be three cars entered, driven by Jari-Matti Latvala, Juho Hänninen and Esapekka Lappi, who scored points on his top-level WRC debut in Portugal. Lappi’s car will be a test and development car, designed to help accelerate the evolution of the Yaris WRC during this learning season.

Car 11(Juho Hänninen, Kaj Lindström)

Car 11(Juho Hänninen, Kaj Lindström)

Rally Italia Sardegna features fast and narrow stages coated with fine and sandy gravel, which is swept away by each passing car to leave rockier and rutted roads. Exposed rocks, as well as trees at the side of the road, can catch out the unwary. Temperatures can often be high, increasing the stress on the cars and the tyres.

The rally is based in Alghero on the west coast of Sardinia, but after a super special stage on Thursday evening, crews will stay in Olbia on the east side overnight to contest the classic Terranova and Monte Olia tests as part of four stages run twice on Friday. Saturday is the longest day at 143.16 kilometres across two loops of three stages. There are four stages on Sunday, with Sassari-Argentiera acting as the rally-ending Power Stage.

Latvala, who currently sits third in the drivers’ standings, is a former winner in Sardinia, taking victory in 2009 along with four other podium finishes over the year. Hänninen has also contested the event four times in the past but not recently, while Lappi has previous experience from his WRC2 campaign.

Tommi Mäkinen (Team Principal)

“After Portugal, we now have another very tough rally, in Sardinia. Although our cars will not be so different to how they were in Portugal, we learned a few things there that I hope will be useful in Italy. Sardinia will be hot and rough with a big risk of punctures, but the drivers are very professional and they know what to do. I would like to see three cars at the finish and if we can score some points as well, then even better. We’ve got a good development plan for Sardinia, with Esapekka as well, but the most important thing is to do the mileage so that we can learn as much as possible.”

Miikka Anttila and Jari-Matti Latvala

Miikka Anttila and Jari-Matti Latvala

Jari-Matti Latvala (Driver car 10)

“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.”

Kaj Lindström and Juho Hänninen

Kaj Lindström and Juho Hänninen

Juho Hänninen (Driver car 11)

“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.”

Janne Ferm and Esapekka Lappi

Janne Ferm and Esapekka Lappi

Esapekka Lappi (Driver car 12)

“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.”

The statistics (Rally Italia Sardegna):

Year Jari-Matti Latvala Juho Hänninen Esapekka Lappi
2016 2 - 21
2015 6 - 17
2014 3 DNF -
2013 3 - -
2012 12 - -
2011 18 8 -

2017 FIA World Rally Championship for drivers after round six:

1 Sebastien Ogier 128
2 Thierry Neuville 106
3 Jari-Matti Latvala 88
4 Ott Tanak 83
5 Dani Sordo 66
6 Elfyn Evans 53
7 Craig Breen 43
8 Hayden Paddon 33
9 Kris Meeke 27
10 Juho Hänninen 21
17 Esapekka Lappi 3

2017 FIA World Rally Championship for manufacturers after round six:

1 M-Sport World Rally Team 199
2 Hyundai Motorsport 173
4 Citroen Total Abu Dhabi World Rally Team 85

Team Media Hour – Rally Italia Sardegna

Wednesday 7 June at the TOYOTA GAZOO Racing World Rally Team hospitality in the Alghero service park, with drivers and management present, from 17:30-18:15. All media are welcome.

Pictures will be uploaded here during the event

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