Sardinia holds happy memories for Hyundai Motorsport as the scene of the team’s first three-car rally back in 2014, Hayden Paddon’s debut podium as part of a 2-3 result in 2015, and a popular victory for Thierry Neuville twelve months ago. The fourth gravel event of the season, Sardinia will serve as a real test to the competing crews, who must not only navigate the island’s rugged routes, but also the sweltering summer sun.
The Italian WRC counter has its origins in a mixed surface event based in Sanremo, known as the Rally of the Flowers, which was first held in 1928. It featured in the inaugural WRC schedule in 1973 and only moved to its current gravel format and location on the Mediterranean island in 2004. Crews must be able to adapt their style for the loose and slippery gravel of initial stage runs, as well as the rutted roads that they will face during second passes. Just like in Rally de Portugal, tyre choice management could well prove crucial.
The heat is on
Temperature will also be one of the main obstacles facing the teams as they take to the stages from Thursday evening. With the mercury soaring past the 30°C barrier, not only will it be uncomfortable in the cars for the drivers, but extra stress will also be put on both the engine and transmission of their vehicles.
The team’s driver line-up will remain unchanged from Portugal; Paddon and Seb Marshall in the #4 Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC, Neuville and Nicolas Gilsoul in the #5, Dani Sordo and Marc Martí in the #6. Paddon will contest all remaining rounds of the season with Marshall after a mutual decision with long-term co-driver John Kennard, who has stepped aside earlier than planned as a result of an ongoing hip condition. Although there has been no testing since Portugal, Hyundai Motorsport’s three crews carried out testing in Sardinia in early May to prepare for next weekend’s 19-stage rally.
“We head into Rally Italia Sardegna on the back of a very good run of results, including victories in Corsica and Argentina, as well as our most recent double podium in Portugal. We are hopeful that we can compete for a positive result, but at the same time we know our competitors are also pushing hard. We have shown that our Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC has the potential to fight for podiums and wins on gravel. We know the cars strengths and weaknesses, and will do all we can to maximise our performance to try and repeat some our past success in Sardinia.”
Hyundai Motorsport Team Principal
Rally at a glance
Rally Italia Sardegna comprises 312.66 competitive kilometres of action run across 19 stages. The rally base and service park will be situated in the west coast town of Alghero once again. It is near to this location that the rallying begins on Thursday evening, with the running of a Super Special Stage at the Ittiri Arena, before crews overnight in Olbia on the opposite coast.
Friday features four stages run twice across a total of 125.46km, including the return of two classic rough and rocky tests - Terranova and Monte Olia. Saturday is the longest and toughest leg with 143.16km divided over six stages in the Monte Acuto region, while Sunday’s finale is identical to that of 2016, with two repeated stages covering 42.04km.