Rally Italia Sardegna is underway for the TOYOTA GAZOO Racing World Rally Team following a super special stage this evening, ahead of what is likely to be a demanding weekend in very high temperatures.
This morning, the crews took part in the pre-event shakedown on a 3.92-kilometre stage close to the host city Alghero. Ott Tänak recorded the second quickest time, with Kris Meeke fifth and Jari-Matti Latvala seventh.
The competitive action began with a two-kilometre, side-by-side test around the Ittiri motocross track. Tänak was third quickest, 0.3 seconds from the fastest time, with Meeke just a tenth of a second further back in fourth. Latvala was also inside the top 10. Juho Hänninen – driving a fourth Toyota Yaris WRC entered privately by Tommi Mäkinen Racing – also safely completed his first competitive stage since 2017.
Tom Fowler (Technical Director)
“Shakedown this morning went well for the whole team. It was a pretty regular shakedown: A bit of a systems check and making sure that we’re happy with the setup, and that all went to plan. We took it a bit easier on the third run just with the tyres in mind and making sure we have the package we want for the rally ahead. Tonight it was important just to get through the stage ready for tomorrow. Although the character of the stages in Sardinia is a little bit different to Portugal, in many ways the focus is the same: It’s a hard rally in terms of the roughness of the roads and the temperatures, and we’re just looking for consistency and to get to the end of the rally reliably. By doing that, the performance should be there as well.”
Ott Tänak (Driver car 8)
“Shakedown was good. The car is more or less how it was in Portugal, and I’m hoping that we can perform just as well here. The first stage was fine for us, and now I’m expecting a tough and hot weekend. But I enjoy coming here to Sardinia, and even though the stages are really demanding, they can be nice and fun to drive if you’re in a good rhythm. Tomorrow will be particularly challenging with all the loose gravel: Again, our priority will be to fight for a good road position for the rest of the rally, and then hopefully on Saturday and Sunday we can fight for the podium places.”
Jari-Matti Latvala (Driver car 10)
“I was really happy with everything on the first run on shakedown this morning. By the time we did our second run, the conditions were quite clean and very hot, so with the medium tyres on I didn’t have the best feeling. But that helps us to know what we need to do tomorrow, when I think the tyre wear is going to be critical, even more than it was in Portugal. It’s always nice to start the rally here by the harbour in Alghero. I didn’t have a good feeling on the first stage, and I had some trouble with the brakes after the watersplash, but it’s a long rally ahead of us.”
Kris Meeke (Driver car 5)
“Everything felt good in shakedown. The road was quite slippery at the start but it was OK for us. We had a good run in the super special. It’s going to be a tough rally in these high temperatures. I think the tricky tyre choices are going to be for the morning loop rather than the afternoon like usual, especially for us in the middle of the road order. I don’t have much recent experience here, and with the stages being so narrow and so technical, it’s important to have a clean rally from start to finish.”
End of day one (Thursday):
1 Sebastien Ogier/Julien Ingrassia (Citroën C3 WRC) 2m00.7s
2 Esapekka Lappi/Janne Ferm (Citroën C3 WRC) +0.1s
3 Ott Tänak/Martin Järveoja (Toyota Yaris WRC) +0.3s
4 Kris Meeke/Seb Marshall (Toyota Yaris WRC) +0.4s
5 Teemu Suninen/Jarmo Lehtinen (Ford Fiesta WRC) +1.6s
6 Thierry Neuville/Nicolas Gilsoul (Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC) +1.8s
7 Elfyn Evans/Scott Martin (Ford Fiesta WRC) +1.8s
8 Dani Sordo/Carlos del Barrio (Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC) +2.0s
9 Andreas Mikkelsen/Anders Jaeger-Amland (Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC) +2.1s
10 Jari-Matti Latvala/Miikka Anttila (Toyota Yaris WRC) +4.0s
(Results as of 20:00 on Thursday, for the latest results please visit www.wrc.com)
The first full day of the event features four stages – each run twice – to the north-east of Alghero. In total, they make up 124.2 competitive kilometres. The same four stages were run on the Friday of the 2018 event, with only very minor differences in the route.
Key stage: Tula (SS2 & SS6, 22.25 kilometres)
Martin Järveoja (Co-driver car 8): “The first proper stage of the rally is the longest stage of Friday. The average speed is pretty low, and the last 10 kilometres are very slow with lots of hairpins. I would say it’s the trickest stage of the rally because there could be many difficult places.”
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