Only ten days have passed since the Portuguese Rally and the WRC is back into action. The Rally Italy-Sardegna, and fifth round of the season, is due to commence in a few hours time. The Mediterranean island will stage another episode of the thrilling battle for the lead of the standings this weekend (3-6 June).
The intense heat will put both drivers and machines to the test along the 303,10 km and 20 stages of fast and narrow tracks that make up the Sardinian route. Toyota teammates Sébastien Ogier (Montecarlo & Croatia winner) and Elfyn Evans arrive at this diabolical event at the head of the standings.
The seven-time champion and Rally Italy-Sardegna winner in 2013, 2014 and 2015, holds the lead with 79 points against the 77 of his Welsh teammate. The latter, however, arrives in Italy in great spirits after winning in Portugal.
The only drawback for the pair will be having to open the track for their rivals. The Toyota´s lineup will completed by the Finn Kalle Rovanperä & the Japanese Takamoto Katsuta, fourth in Portugal at the wheel of Yaris WRC.
Hyundai needs to win
Their rivals at Hyundai Motorsport, arrive at Rally Italy-Sardegna desperate to break their unlucky strike and get a victory under their belt. They have only won one of the four races so far this season (Ott Tänak in Finland) and need to shorten their distance with the Japanese squad if they want to remain in the title race.
Despite their weaker position, historic Rally Italy-Sardegna data weighs hugely in favour of Hyundai. They have claimed four victories over the last five editions. That fact alone makes them the biggest favourites to take the glory this weekend.
On top of that, all the three members of its 2021 line-up have already conquered the gold in previous editions of the Mediterranean rally. Thierry Neuville won in 2016 and 2018, Ott Tänak (Volkswagen) in 2017 and Dani Sordo in 2019 and 2020.
Hyundai’s Belgian and Estonian drivers will be eager to make up for their Portuguese fiasco. Neuville put an end to a streak of three consecutive podiums and fell 22 points behind the head at the Iberian peninsula.
But Tänak’s situation is even worse ahead of Rally Italy-Sardegna. He is currently fourth in the standings with 45 points, 34 less than Ogier. He truly cannot lose any more ground if he wants to remain in the fight for the crown.
The Italy-Sardinia Rally, however, is amiable to the Spaniard. He got second win there in the last edition and so he should be facing this weekend with great optimism.
As for the Manufacturers’ Championship, the picture is very similar. Hyundai needs to get closer to Toyota. Currently, it adds 146 points against the 183 of the Japanese.
M-Sport: Greensmith & Suninen, very optimistic
Behind the two dominant teams is M-Sport. The Britons will attempt to strike a blow at the tough and unpredictable Rally Italy-Sardegna. As for their line-up, the Finn Teemu Suninen will take over from the French Adrien Fourmaux, with whom he alternates at the wheel of the second Ford Fiesta WRC.
Meanwhile, the Briton Gus Greensmith will continue in his role as the spearhead of his country’s team, this time around with his usual navigator by his side, who had been absent for personal reasons.
Images of Rally Italy-Sardegna: Hyundai Motorsport.