With little time to relax after an eventful round in Portugal, the FIA World Rally Championship contenders are preparing for another hot, dry and dusty gravel encounter on round eight of the 2019 season, Rally Italia Sardegna (13-16 June).
The sunny Mediterranean island of Sardinia has hosted the Italian stop of the series since 2004, and the historic harbour in the town of Alghero will once again provide a picturesque setting for the WRC service park. Beside the scorching heat, the crews will face the challenge of fast but narrow stages that are lined with rocks and bushes.
With the season now at the halfway point, the championship battle remains extremely close, with the top three drivers – each representing a different manufacturer – separated by only 10 points. As the championship leader, Sébastien Ogier is tasked with opening the sand-covered roads on Friday in his C3 WRC. The Frenchman only has a fragile two-point advantage over Toyota’s Ott Tänak, who could make it a hat-trick on his 100th FIA WRC career start after back-to-back wins in Chile and Portugal. Thierry Neuville is third for Hyundai, just eight points behind Tänak.
Alongside the four factory teams, the World Rally car line-up will be swelled by a fourth Toyota Yaris, with Juho Hänninen making his competitive return in an additional Tommi Mäkinen Racing entry.
Four cars are entered for FIA WRC 2 Pro: Kalle Rovanperä and Jan Kopecký for ŠKODA, Mads Østberg for Citroën and M-Sport’s Gus Greensmith, who will return back behind the wheel of his Ford Fiesta R5 after his maiden test in a World Rally car in Portugal last week. A large 94-car entry for the event also features a high-level FIA WRC 2 field and the return of the FIA Junior WRC crews for the third round of 2019 in two-wheel drive cars.
THE 2019 ROUTE
While the itinerary is almost identical to 2018, a number of small modifications to familiar stages have been added to create just over 20 kilometres of new roads. A super special stage around the Ittiri motocross circuit near Alghero kicks off the action on Thursday night before two loops of four stages will be held to the north-east of the island on Friday. Saturday’s three stages (each run twice) to the east will include Monte Lerno and its iconic Micky’s Jump. Sunday consists of two repeated stages near the coast north of Algher
MANUFACTURER WRC ENTRIES, 2019 WRC RALLY ITALIA SARDEGNA
Citroën Total WRT
Sébastien Ogier / Julien Ingrassia (#1)
Esapekka Lappi / Janne Ferm (#4)
Hyundai Shell Mobis WRT
Thierry Neuville / Nicolas Gilsoul (#11)
Andreas Mikkelsen / Anders Jaeger-Amland (#89)
Dani Sordo / Carlos Del Barrio (#6)
M-Sport Ford WRT
Elfyn Evans / Scott Martin (#33)
Teemu Suninen / Marko Salminen (#3)
Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT
Ott Tänak / Martin Järveoja (#8)
Kris Meeke / Sebastian Marshall (#5)
Jari-Matti Latvala / Miikka Anttila (#10)