The Rally Italia-Sardegna 2020, sixth and penultimate round of the WCR 2020 championship, is coming up this weekend (8-11 October) with the title still up for grabs. The event will take place with no audience due to the omnipresent coronavirus pandemic.
After winning in Turkey, Toyota leads both the drivers’ and the teams’ standings. Welsh driver Elfyn Evans, winner of the Ottoman round, reigns over his rivals with a commanding 18-point lead over teammate and top adversary, Sébastien Ogier.
Thanks to that sizable point advantage, and with only two more races to go, the Brit could potentially be crowned this weekend. For that to happen, he would need to bag 12 more points than the French six-time champion. Ogier, however, winner of the Mediterranean race from 2013 to 2015, has made it clear that he is not giving up on his ambition to win a seventh World Title.
Behind the two Yaris, we find Hyundai’s star Ott Tänak. The Estonian driver is 27 points behind Evans and just 9 points down from Ogier. If he really wants to stand any chance of defending his World Title he can’t settle for less than a win.
As for the battle of the teams, we can hope for an intense and exciting weekend ahead, with both the Japanese and South Korean squads separated by a mere nine points. The team from Alzenau arrives in Sardinia in a winning spirit after grabbing a fantastic 1-2 in Estonia and a second and third position in Turkey.
With such level playing field at this crucial moment in the Championship, both teams are readying their top line-ups for the Italian race. Toyota will be sitting Evans, Ogier and Finnish rookie Kalle Rovanperä behind its wheels.
As for Hyundai, they will be calling on Ott Tänak (winner of the 2017 edition) and Thierry Neuville (winner of the 2016 and 2018 editions). Their teammate on this occasion will be last season’s winner Dani Sordo. This will be the second stint of the year for the Spaniard after Rally Mexico. Sordo will be getting on board the i20 Coupé WRC of Sébastien Loeb.
The third team at the top, M-Sport Ford, will desperately need to undergo a performance leap following their disappointing results since racing was resumed. Harmed by the lack of testing time against their rivals, the pace of the Fiesta WRC has proven to be significantly lower than that of the Toyota and Hyundai’s cars.
Before this added weakness, drivers Teemu Suninen, Esappekka Lappi and Gus Greensmith have to be able to trust the robustness of their car. The best asset of the Cumbrian team is Suninen himself, who has a special love affair with the insular event. The Finn took the WRC3 win in Sardinia in 2015 and repeated the feat a year later in the WRC2 category. Finally, he was third at the WRC 2019 edition.
New dates, same challenge
This will be the first time since 2012 that the 17th edition of the Rally Italia-Sardegna 2020 will be held in the autumn rather than in the summer months. The coronavirus pandemic has had a very disruptive effect on the WRC.
This was in fact one of the racing disciplines that took the longest to resume their schedules. In the process, the Italian dates were moved from June to October as a way to save the Mediterranean event.
At the very least, this change in the calendar will save the participants from the worst of the Mediterranean summer heat, although this could mean a higher risk of precipitation. In any case, the race, which takes place near the town of Alghero, will be as tough as it has always been, with its fast, dusty, and narrow sections putting both men and machines to the test. The hostile terrain will also play against title favourites Evans and Ogier, who will be opening and “sweeping” the track.
Images of Rally Italia-Sardegna 2020: