Two weeks after the Portuguese round, the WRC resumes its European leg this weekend (June 2-5) with the challenging Rally Italia Sardegna 2022, the fifth stop of a season dominated by Kalle Rovanperä.
The Finn will chase his fourth consecutive win (Croatia, Sweden & Portugal) on the fast, narrow & dasty tracks of the Mediterranean island. Fully aware of his sensational state of form, he will try to distance himself even further at the lead of the standings. At the moment, he rules the table with 106 points, 46 more than Hyundai´s Thierry Neuville (60), second. His superiority is now unquestionable.
The young from Jyväskylä will, however, be competing in not so friendly territory. In his last two visits to Sardinia, he didn’t even manage to finish the race. On top of this, he will be opening the track on Friday, always an added challenge on gravel.
Elfyn Evans, who he recently defeated in a vibrant showdown in Portugal, will be the second Toyota racer. The Welshman was second on the Iberian Peninsula, his first podium of the season. Another podium this weekend would give Evans a much-needed push following his two ‘zeros’ in Montecarlo and Sweden. Currently, he is fifth in the standings with 36 points, 70 less than Rovanperä.
Considering the enormous distance with his teammate, the Welshman will channel his efforts into adapting to the new Japanese missile once and for all, a must if he wants to start winning races. Esapekka Lappi will complete Toyota’s lineup in replacement of Sébastien Ogier, who will not defend his 2021 Sardinian victory.
Onboard a fourth private GR Yaris, albeit with official support, Takamoto Katsuta will want to make up for his disappointment in Portugal a fortnight ago, where he let third place slip away in the final stage. The Japanese racer will be defending the remarkable third place he currently occupies in the individual standings with 38 points.
Hyundai: Three Sardinia winners in its lineup
Dani Sordo (Hyundai) the ‘thief’ who stole third place from Katsuta in Portugal, will come head-to-head with the Japanese driver again at the Rally Italia Sardegna 2022. The Spaniard, who alternates at the wheel of the third i20 N Rally1 with Oliver Solberg this campaign, is believed to be one of the favourites to win the Mediterranean battle. Not in vain, he took the gold here in 2019 and 2020, although he has yet to fully adapt to his new car this year.
Meanwhile, Thierry Neuville, also a double Sardinia winner with Hyundai (2016 and 2018), is Hyundais’ other great asset. Second in the standings, he would love to claim the first hybrid-era victory for his team. Another wonderful driver, Ott Tanak will complete the lineup of the South Korean squad.
The 2019 Champ is hanging on to fourth place with 37 points. Weighed down by a disappointing start to the season, with two zeroes in Monte Carlo and Sweden, he went on to take second place in Croatia. After that short-lived morale boost, he fell down to eight again in Portugal.
Like his teammates, the Estonian has also won in Sardinia (in 2017 with Ford). Having three previous winners amongst its ranks gives the South Korean team some confidence in their chances of success this weekend, despite the technical inferiority of their vehicle.
M-Sport dreams with its first podium of the season
The third team of the Rally Italia Sardegna 2022 grid, M-Sport, will compete with four drivers led by the Irish Craig Breen, who is currently sixth in the standings with 36 points. The young trio made up of Gus Greensmith, Adrien Fourmaux and Pierre-Louis Loubet will join the Irish driver to try and score their first WRC podium at the wheel of the Ford Puma Rally 1.
The Rally Italia Sardegna 2022 route
The Rally Italia Sardegna 2022 returns to the Alghero region after having moved its headquarters (service park) to Olbia in 2021. The route, which is made up of 21 dusty stages and 307.91 km, has been designed to be extremely challenging. The tree-lined fast super specials coupled with the forecasted high temperatures will make this one of the toughest rounds in the calendar, putting men and machines to the test.
Rally Italia Sardegna 2022: Toyota Gazoo Racing.