The seventh round of the 2018 FIA World Rally Championship takes the contenders to the Mediterranean island of Sardinia for the third of four consecutive gravel rallies. Based out of Alghero, Rally Italia Sardegna (7-10 June) presents yet another fresh challenge and runs over rugged and sun-baked tracks in the north of the island.
Italy’s round has been part of the Championship since its beginnings in 1973 and was originally a mixed surface event based in the coastal town of Sanremo before moving to Sardinia in 2004, where it has been based ever since. As the FIA World Rally Championship reaches its mid-point of the season, European summer temperatures on the island are also likely to be a factor, high in-car temperatures a challenge for the crews, with greater than normal stress on engines and transmissions too.
Going into the rally the pendulum has swung back in favour of Hyundai’s Thierry Neuville. The Belgian takes a 19-point advantage over Sébastien Ogier into this event, all too aware that the accolade of leading the Championship also brings road sweeping duties. Ott Tänak currently leads Toyota’s challenge, third in the standings, and the Estonian will be looking to bounce back after leaving Rally de Portugal with zero points. Mads Østberg again joins the Citroën squad for a third outing in the C3 WRC. Twelve crews have registered in the highly competitive FIA WRC 2 Championship and the entry is boosted by the appearance of triple FIA European Rally Champion Kajetan Kajetanowicz who will be tackling at least four rounds this year. The FIA WRC 3 Championship for two-wheel drive cars has four registrations.
Five stages will be broadcast live on television; SSS1 on Thursday evening, both runs through Coiluna-Loelle on Saturday and the two passages of Sassari-Argentiera on the final day, the second counting as the all-important points-paying Power Stage. All 20 stages will also be broadcast live on WRC All Live on the WRC+ platform.
THE 2018 ROUTE
Nearly 60 kilometres of this year’s route is new with another 25 kilometres run in the opposite direction. A short two-kilometre blast around the former Ittiri motocross track kicks off the action on Thursday evening before the crews head northeast for two identical loops of four stages on Friday. The Castelsardo stage is also back on the itinerary this year. Saturday is the longest day with two loops of three repeated stages, including the Monte Lerno stage and its iconic ‘Micky’s Jump’. The loops are split by a revised Ittiri stage. Sunday is unchanged from last year and covers two repeated stages around the coast north of Alghero.
Total distance: 1,386.38 km
Stage distance: 313.46 (22.61%)
Number of stages: 20