Rally Italia Sardegna is known for dusty and rough roads, beautiful scenery, tight bends and massive jumps. There’s some changes from last year, but also many stages are left unchanged.
Thursday and Friday
The Alghero-based rally starts again with the Ittiri Arena Show super special like last year. It is unique by being a twin-car rallycross super special with a single track, with the cars starting and finishing at two different points of the stage.
The long Thursday night liaison from the West Coast all the way across the island to the Eastern city of Olbia for a night break from last year is now left out from the route. Thus the two first Friday stages closest to to Olbia (Terranova and Monte Olia) are also omitted.
Instead, Friday begins with the Tula stage about halfway between Olbia and Alghero. Its begin and end are the same as last year, but the windmill park area has been reshuffled, and two new road loops are attached into latter parts the stage, adding the length up to 22 km, making it the longest stage of the day.
Last year it was the slowest non-super special stage of the rally with only 77 km/h of winning average speed on the second run. At least on the map the new sections don’t seem like they’re making the stage any faster!
Last year this stage took Elfyn Evans by surprise in a corner at the windmill area at 10.1 km from this year’s start.
The year before Hayden paddon went heavily off in the last corner of the stage
The next stage Castelsardo wasn’t driven last year but is familiar from 2016, although the last and first two kilometres are new for this year. The stage still contains a part going under a highway, as well as one kilometre on a wide tarmac road, making things interesting, but still not super fast, as it was one of the slowest stages in 2016. Back then it caused a spin for Hayden Paddon, probably resulting in loss of concentration, leading into the aforementioned heavy crash on Tula.
Tergu – Osilo, starting on tarmac, is identical from 2017. This was the stage where Esapekka Lappi made his first ever WRC stage win – on five gears only! Also, this stage ruined once again Kris Meeke’s rally, 4.4 km from the start.
Meanwhile, the fourth stage of the day, Monte Baranta is familiar from the latest years from being the shakedown. Actually, the shakedown is there this year as well, sharing almost all of its length with the Friday loop closer. Monte Baranta was also driven in the actual rally in 2015, but to the opposite direction.
All of the three Saturday main stages are almost the same as last year.
Coiluna – Loelle was the fastest stage of the rally last year with winning average speed of 114 km/h whereas most stages had under 100 km/h. And the stage includes a visit to a rallycross track, which for sure brings the average speed down, meaning that the rest of the roads are super quick.
This stage is well remembered from last year out of two things: the heavy dust hanging on the morning run, and on the afternoon run, Hayden Paddon’s wild ride with a burning rear wheel, a stunt that ended his rally from a good lead.
The following two stages are the longest of the rally with both exceeding slightly 28 km in length. Monti di Ala remains in 2017 spec, whereas Monte Lerno has only a slightly revised beginning. Monte Lerno is obviously known for its iconic Micky’s jump, named after Massimo Biasion. Last year former VW teammates Sebastien Ogier and Andreas Mikkelsen both suffered punctures here, whereas Craig Breen and Juho Hänninen spun.
In addition, a new run super special Citta’di Ittiri – Coros is added to the afternoon leg’s start, sharing its route with the rally opening super special. This time it’s a single car-run with an exit road included. The same stage was driven in 2015 under the name Ittiri Arena.
The Sunday stages are the exact same for a third year in a row, in the North West of the island. Cala Flumina‘s narrow roads provided a scary crash for Hayden Paddon last year. The podium celebrations will occur again in the beautiful seaside scenery after the power stage Sassari – Argentiera, but those tight bends in the downhill can be tricky as they get soft, proven by Jari-Matti Latvala.
Last year we saw Sebastien Ogier struggle on the opening day driving first on the road. Instead, we saw guys starting from the back thriving with Hayden Paddon, Juho Hänninen, Esapekka Lappi and Mads Østberg clocking in great stage times. However, anyone starting after the opening car was doing already better than Ogier with Thierry Neuville, Ott Tänak and Jari-Matti Latvala occupying positions 2-4.
In this light, we could expect the current championship leader Neuville suffer majorly on the opening day with a great opportunity for the three-time Sardegna winner Ogier or last year’s winner Tänak to take a good position on the opening day.
In addition to that, we could again see surprise performances from the guys starting at the back like Hayden Paddon, Teemu Suninen, Mads Østberg or Craig Breen. Or Maybe Jari-Matti Latvala’s luck will finally turn? There will be again plenty of stones to break your car over.
Check out this 31 minute onboard of Hayden Paddon on the Monte Lerno stage in 2014. Compared to this year’s route, it shares the beginning of Monti di Ala and the finish of Monte Lerno with lots of detours in between. Micky’s jump appears at 20:30 into the stage.