Rally Italia Sardegna: Day 1 TOYOTA GAZOO Racing starts Sardinian challenge

2023.6.1 (Thu)

TOYOTA GAZOO Racing World Rally Team has kick-started what promises to be a very challenging Rally Italia Sardegna with a short super special stage in Olbia on Thursday evening.

Car 69 (Kalle Rovanperä, Jonne Halttunen)
Car 69 (Kalle Rovanperä, Jonne Halttunen)

Celebrating its 20th edition this year, the island-based gravel rally is usually known for hot and dry conditions but the build-up to the event has been marked by scattered rain showers and thunderstorms which could continue through the weekend. This may lead to variable conditions in the stages, which are expected to be rough and demanding whatever the weather.

After two days of reconnaissance for the crews, action began on Thursday with the usual pre-event shakedown which gave the teams a chance to make final checks ahead of the rally. Sébastien Ogier was the quickest of the TGR-WRT drivers there, third-fastest after three runs over the short mixed-surface stage.

The first competitive test came in the evening’s super special stage which blended streets in the city of Olbia – which also hosts the service park this year – with a fast and spectacular gravel arena section.

Takamoto Katsuta was the quickest GR YARIS Rally1 HYBRID driver through the stage in fourth, just 0.9 seconds from the best time in his TGR WRC Challenge Program-supported entry. Kalle Rovanperä and Ogier were next with Elfyn Evans completing a top eight that is separated by a mere two seconds.

Jari-Matti Latvala (Team Principal)

“It’s good to get the rally underway with this very nice super special stage for the fans here in Olbia, with some high speeds and sharp jumps. It was a good solid start for us with no mistakes from our drivers and the times are all still very close, so now we’re ready for what will be a very important Friday. The weather has been a bit unpredictable here so far with quite a bit of rain, which is not so common on this event, and some more tomorrow could help our drivers at the front of the road order. We will also have the 50-kilometre Monte Lerno stage tomorrow and how well you can manage this will be one of the keys to a good weekend.”

Kalle Rovanperä (Driver car 69)
“This first stage in Olbia was quite a nice one actually, with some gravel as well as roads through the city, and it’s always good to put on a show for the fans. Shakedown was slippery as we expected for the opening pass as the first car on the road, but at least the rain this week has been making our life a little bit easier. Tomorrow is still going to be a big challenge for us, opening the road for the longest day and the longest stages of the rally. We just need to make it through without any issues and see if we can be up there in the standings at the end.”

Elfyn Evans (Driver car 33)
“Tonight’s stage makes for a pretty nice start to the rally. Like always on these super specials with donuts in them, you need to be careful not to take too much out of the tyres, but we tried to enjoy it and make a show for the spectators. Making the correct tyre choices and managing our allocation of soft tyres across the weekend is going to be quite key with the mixed weather that we’re expecting. There are some pretty rough and demanding conditions ahead of us, but I’m looking forward to tackling it. The shakedown was not the most representative but it was a chance to make sure everything was working and I’m feeling happy with everything so far.”

Sébastien Ogier (Driver car 17)
“This was my first time doing this stage in Olbia and it’s quite a spectacular one to start the rally in the city with a mixed surface and some big jumps, so we had to be quite focused straight away to not do something silly. Of course the real action will start tomorrow. The weather conditions could be challenging, also for the tyre choice, and the stages too are very demanding with a lot of rough sections and tricky places. Shakedown was good to confirm everything is ready and I’m feeling good: the first target is to stay out of trouble and of course we will try to fight for the top positions.”

End of day one (Thursday):
1 Esapekka Lappi/Janne Ferm (Hyundai i20 N Rally1 HYBRID) 2m24.9s
2 Ott Tänak/Martin Järveoja (Ford Puma Rally1 HYBRID) +0.2s
3 Thierry Neuville/Martijn Wydaeghe (Hyundai i20 N Rally1 HYBRID) +0.5s
4 Takamoto Katsuta/Aaron Johnston (Toyota GR YARIS Rally1 HYBRID) +0.9s
5 Kalle Rovanperä/Jonne Halttunen (Toyota GR YARIS Rally1 HYBRID) +1.2s
6 Sébastien Ogier/Vincent Landais (Toyota GR YARIS Rally1 HYBRID) +1.3s
7 Dani Sordo/Cándido Carrera (Hyundai i20 N Rally1 HYBRID) +1.8s
8 Elfyn Evans/Scott Martin (Toyota GR YARIS Rally1 HYBRID) +2.0s
9 Pierre-Louis Loubet/Nicolas Gilsoul (Ford Puma Rally1 HYBRID) +2.1s
10 Oliver Solberg/Elliott Edmondson (Škoda Fabia RS Rally2) +4.6s
(Results as of 19:00 on Friday, for the latest results please visit www.wrc.com)

What's next?
The first full day of the rally is headlined by the famous Monte Lerno stage which has more than doubled in length for this year to 49.9 kilometres. This is preceded by two shorter stages – Tantariles (which was last run in 2004) and Terranova – to form a loop of three tests to be repeated after midday service in Olbia.

Kalle Rovanperä
Kalle Rovanperä
Car 33 (Elfyn Evans, Scott Martin)
Car 33 (Elfyn Evans, Scott Martin)
Car 17 (Sébastien Ogier, Vincent Landais)
Car 17 (Sébastien Ogier, Vincent Landais)