The TOYOTA GAZOO Racing World Rally Team heads to the Italian island of Sardinia for the sixth round of the 2020 season on October 8-11 with the goal of defending its leadership of the drivers’ and manufacturers’ championships. After his victory last time out in Turkey, Elfyn Evans leads the drivers’ standings by 18 points over team-mate Sébastien Ogier, with the team’s rookie driver Kalle Rovanperä another nine points behind.
Held in June over recent seasons, this year’s Rally Italia Sardegna was postponed due to the coronavirus pandemic and it will be staged as an autumn event for the first time since 2012. The rally features quick, narrow stages with a fine sandy surface that gets swept away by each passing car to leave a rockier, rutted road. The later date means that temperatures are unlikely to be as high as usual, with a greater possibility of rain.
After shakedown on Thursday afternoon, the rally begins on Friday morning with a pair of stages (Tempio Pausania and Erula–Tula) each run twice. Following an afternoon service in Alghero there will be another two stages, Sedini–Castelsardo and Tergu–Osilo: These will be repeated around 24 hours later to complete a similar format on Saturday after two loops of the Monte Lerno and Coiluna–Loelle tests. The Sunday is identical to 2019, based on Sardinia’s western coast close to Alghero, with the Cala Flumini and Sassari–Argentiera stages each run twice.
Tommi Mäkinen (Team Principal)
“We are in a strong position in both championships but everything is still open, so we need to concentrate on our own rally and push to score as many points as we can. Sardinia is usually not the best place to be first on the road for Friday, as Elfyn will be with Seb just behind him, and on this occasion they will have to do a full day of stages in those positions. But the later date for the rally this year could help us, as we may get some rain. Either way, we are pretty confident in the conditions that we face in Sardinia and we are ready to make the most of the potential that we have shown there in the past.”
Sébastien Ogier (Driver car 17)
“Sardinia is a rally that I like, but we’re going to be competing there at a different time of the year compared to usual, so the challenge might not be the same as what we are used to. For this reason, the test that we did there last week was important preparation. At this time of year, the weather can be more uncertain than normal, and on an island like Sardinia it can change very quickly anyway. In the test we had some heavy rain showers and the conditions on the stage changed completely in just a few minutes. Everything is still open in the championship, so we have to keep doing our best and target the maximum points in Sardinia.”
Elfyn Evans (Driver car 33)
“Whenever you finish one rally on a high like we did in Turkey then it’s always a good boost for the following round. Leading the championship is certainly a good position to be in, even though it does come with an added challenge in that we will need to sweep the road in Sardinia. It is how it is but it’s not going to make it an easy event for us – providing it stays dry, of course. Going to Sardinia in October could change the weather forecasts somewhat. It might make it a little bit less demanding for the tyres, but we will still have some difficult choices: We face some loops of stages where we have to choose the tyres for the first and second passes of stages without returning to service, so it’s still going be a big challenge.”
Kalle Rovanperä (Driver car 69)
“In my pre-event test for Sardinia I had a good feeling straight away in the car, and it got even better once we made some changes, so I’m happy going into the rally. In Sardinia there’s usually a lot of road cleaning on the first pass, so it will be important to have good grip there. It can also be quite rough in some places and on the second pass there will be big ruts, so you need to have a good setup to deal with that also. It seems we can expect to have some rain showers and that they can be quite local – so it will only be wet in some parts of the stages. The information from our weather crews is going to be really important to know if there will be rain or not and what tyres we need to take, especially as I’ve heard that the stages can be really slippery when it rains.”
What happened last year?
The team came agonisingly close to victory in Sardinia in 2019, dominating the event before a mechanical issue caused Ott Tänak to lose time in the final stage. He finished fifth overall, still ahead of his key championship rivals, claiming a standings lead he would never surrender over the rest of the season. Kris Meeke was eighth while Jari-Matti Latvala restarted following a retirement on leg one.
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