The World Rally Championship pitches up on the Italian island of Sardinia this weekend for the sixth round of the season, Rally Italy – Rally Italia Sardegna, to give its full name.
Jari-Matti Latvala secured his first win of the season last time out in Portugal. He led from the afternoon of day one, while teammate and erstwhile championship leader Sebastien Ogier struggled with road sweeping duties, running first on the road.
But by the final day, the Volkswagen pair were on equal terms and Latvala proved to be the faster man. It was a welcome boost for the Finn, who had endured a disastrous start to his campaign. Latvala’s speed isn’t in doubt, but his ability to capitalise on the momentum will depend on whether or not he feels everything is right with the world – he needs nurturing and encouraging to perform at his best.
Everyone will be on a level playing field in Sardinia: 75 per cent of the stages are new to the rally. The roads are narrow, twisty, dusty and rough. It’s a nightmare scenario for Ogier; as championship leader he runs first on the road on day one, so will again have to clear a path for everyone following behind. By contrast, Latvala, starting fifth, will be ideally placed to set the pace.
The rough-and-tough stages could turn out be car breakers, as well, with big rocks just off line waiting to punish the slightest mistake.
Hyundai’s Dani Sordo was fastest in Shakedown but wasn’t overly optimistic, telling WRC.com: “The roads weren’t so representative of the rally. The first 2km was OK, but the end was completely different. But this rally has a lot of different characteristics so it’s difficult to say what is normal.”
The rally gets underway on Thursday evening (11 June) with a run the island’s capital, Cagliari, before heading up the west coast on Friday. Saturday is a marathon run, with 212.83km of stages in a 17-hour day. The final day is a relatively short mix of familiar and new stages.
Drivers’ Championship top 10 after five events
- Sebastien Ogier — Volkswagen Motorsport/VW Polo R WRC — 105 points
- Andreas Mikkelsen — Volkswagen Motorsport II/VW Polo R WRC — 63
- Mads Ostberg — Citroen Total Abu Dhabi WRT/DS 3 WRC — 57
- Kris Meeke — Citroen Total Abu Dhabi WRT/DS 3 WRC — 47
- Jari-Matti Latvala — Volkswagen Motorsport/VW Polo R WRC — 46
- Elfyn Evans — M-Sport WRT/Ford Fiesta RS WRC — 41
- Dani Sordo — Hyundai Motorsport/Hyundai i20 WRC — 36
- Thierry Neuville — Hyundai Motorsport/Hyundai i20 WRC — 35
- Martin Prokop — Jipocar Czech National Team/Ford Fiesta RS WRC — 27
- Ott Tanak — M-Sport WRT/Ford Fiesta RS WRC — 22
Manufacturers’ Championship standings after five events
- Volkswagen Motorsport — 146 points
- Citroen Total Abu Dhabi World Rally Team — 103
- Hyundai Motorsport — 93
- M-Sport World Rally Team — 81
- Jipocar Czech National Team — 33
- Volkswagen Motorsport II — 30
- Hyundai Motorsport N — 13
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By Only Motors