Route Preview: Rally Italia Sardegna 2021

The route of Rally Italia Sardegna hasn’t changed a lot in the past years. However, this year the base of the rally is moved from Alghero to Olbia – from West to East – with some new roads. The Friday and Saturday stages are driven in instantly-repeated pairs which is a unique solution. The character of Sardinian stages is similar to Portugal – mixing fast and technical with some tarmac here and there – but the roads are generally narrower as well as occasionally more technical or rough.

Cover image by Kyn Wai Chung / Flickr || route at rally-maps.com

Thursday

As the rally has a new base, there is a new shakedown near Olbia, called Loiri Porto San Paolo. The start is on tarmac but soon it turns into typical narrow Sardinian gravel road.

The stage is only 3 km long and there’s only one junction turn at the very end, where the stage turns again onto tarmac. Based on the Google Street View, the gravel road could be very rough at the end. The character seems like a mix of straightforward and technical.

Although the rally is based in Olbia, the ceremonial start is still in Alghero, alongside the first night break. There is no super specials in the rally, so nothing for Thursday night either.

Friday

SS1+3 Filigosu – Sa Conchedda is actually the longest stage of the rally at 22.29 km. it uses roads familiar from Monte Lerno in the opposite direction and without Micky’s jump. This direction of the route has been only used in 2004 on the Sas Molas stage, when the rally was a part of the WRC calendar for the first time!

SS1+3 Filigosu – Sa Conchedda 2021 (red) and Monte Lerno 2019 (blue)

The stage starts now from the infamous Filigosu water splash, now driven in opposite direction. The beginning of the stage is a bit narrower and technical – although fast – but it gets wider, smoother and more flowing around 5 km. There’s a 2 km stretch of old tarmac with gravel on top at 7 km. The last 6.2 km of the stage are partly narrower, but still mostly fast, except for a few tight junction turns, ending on the same roads where Monti di Ala typically has ended at, but from the other direction.

SS2+4 Terranova has featured regularly in the rally, although not after 2017, and always in slightly different configuration. The characteristic feature of the stage is that it’s driven mostly in forests, amid trees and bushes.

Terranova 2021 (red) and 2017 (green).

The roads are typically Sardinian, mixing fast and technical sections. The beginning is occasionally a bit wider, the ending a bit narrower. Midway through the stage there is a tricky crossing of a tarmac road through two gates.

SS5+7 Tempio Pausania is familiar from last year, a very slow, narrow and tricky stage. Last year the average speeds were as low as 72 km/h. Sebastien Ogier described the stage “difficult”, Elfyn Evans “challenging”, while Kalle Rovanperä said bluntly it’s “the trickiest stage” he has ever done. Meanwhile, Teemu Suninen was “sending it”, winning everyone else by 12.4 seconds!

SS6+8 Erula-Tula has featured on the route every year since its introduction in 2016. It has often been the slowest stage of the rally, but this year’s route is shortened by taking off loops of small roads and conversely adding longer bits of straightforward driving, making it likely faster than before. The beginning and the end are still very narrow and technical mountain roads. The wind farm area is also exited through a steep downhill not used since 2017. There’s also a nice bit of tarmac at 3 km with bends and crests, followed by a pair of tricky junctions onto a very small road.

Erula – Tula 2021 (red) and 2020 (turquoise)

The Tula stage has been treacherous in the past for drivers like Hayden Paddon, Elfyn Evans or Jari-Matti Latvala, but last year Takamoto Katsuta went off the road here to end his day early.

Saturday

SS9+11 Coiluna – Loelle is a very familiar stage and this year’s version is exactly the same as last year. The main road of the stage is medium wide and fast-flowing, but it takes two small road detours and finally enters a motocross track before finishing after a tight junction turn.

This stage is very familiar for having featured as the Saturday TV stage every year from 2017 onwards. Last year it ended the rally of Kalle Rovanperä with a hard crash into trees.

Back in 2017 it was Hayden Paddon showing some stunts on live TV, jumping with a burning wheel – but it ended his rally while leading.

SS13+15 Bortigidias – Aggius – Viddalba has featured in the rally only once in 2005 in slightly different form. The stage starts on a narrow and technical mountainous road

At 3 km there’s a turn onto a slightly wider road, but the character remains. At 8.5 km there’s two junctions on tarmac, followed by a straightforward gravel section. The ending is on narrow windmill park service roads with a tricky technical descent.

SS10+12 Monte Lerno – Monti di Ala is the same stage as last year’s Monte Lerno, although most of the route is on Monti di Ala’s side, if you think about the years when these two stages were driven separately.

The stage starts only 500 metres before the infamous Micky’s jump, on a quite narrow road where fast passages and tight corners take turns. At 4.6 km the stage turns onto wider roads – onto Monti di Ala territory – but the rhythm remains alternating restlessly between technical and fast-flowing. The only exceptions are a short bit of narrow tarmac at 13.6 km and a fast passage at 15.4 km.

SS14+16 Sedini – Castelsardo has been shortened for this year from its end. It’s the most Western stage of this year’s rally. It is a stage with many pace and surface changes.

The stage begins smooth, fast-flowing and relatively wide, at a wind farm. However, after the first kilometre is completed, the road turns abruptly into a coarsely rough and narrow track. 600 metres later there’s a junction turn onto a road which is better in surface but highly technical and twisty. The road turns again into a track at 3.5 km but around the 4 km mark there’s a bit of broken tarmac before the surface is back to normal gravel. Yet another surface change appears at 4.5 km in form of a wide tarmac road with some bends.

The stage turns away from the wide tarmac road at 5.8 km. The road is again narrow and has broken tarmac for 400 metres before returning onto gravel – although there’s yet another paved junction at 6.8 km. The road is now very narrow and quite soft, with a hectically technical character, constantly turning somewhere.

A highway is crossed through a tunnel at 9.5 km and then there’s yet another acceleration on broken tarmac. Once the stage is back on a narrow, soft and coarse gravel road, it’s again more straightforward apart from the quintet of climbing hairpins.

The turn at 12.4 km takes the crews onto the newest section of the stage, a very rough track with a series of jumps. This year the finish is reached already after the jumps (and the bend where Thierry Neuville stalled his Hyundai last year).

Sunday

The Sunday stages are driven on the North Coast of Sardinia, which the rally hasn’t visited often. Thus it’s a new challenge for everyone, so things will get interesting if we get another tight battle for the tenths of seconds.

SS17+19 Arzachena – Braniatogghiu has only featured partly in the rally three times between 2006 and 2009. It appears to be quite technical and twisty for the first 4.8 km, then more straightforward. The ending is more twisty as it descends next to a river, but again straightforward at the very end. The stage has possibly a bit wider roads than typically in the rally. The embedded map shows the view from the stage finish to the direction where the cars will come from.

SS18+20 Aglientu – Santa Teresa is a completely new stage. In fact, some of the roads are so new they weren’t visible on Google Street View in 2011. On this embedded map the cars should come from the left and go to the right. Likely there has been some road works done since then.

The stage is the shortest of the rally at 7.8 km length. Furthermore, 1.5 km of that is made up of three tarmac sections. This one is at 4.8 km into the stage.

The gravel roads could be very small and tricky. The very ending meanwhile looks like a fast passage into a series of square corners ending onto tarmac with a seaside podium.

Road conditions and starting order

Rally Italia Sardegna has a definite cleaning effect since the roads typically have a hard base but a layer of sand on top. It’s one of the worst rallies to start first on the road. This ungrateful job is done once again by Sebastien Ogier, trailed by the Portugal winner Elfyn Evans.

In the past we’ve seen young drivers like Esapekka Lappi, Eric Camilli and Kevin Abbring score their maiden WRC stage win in Sardegna through the help of a good start position. This year we could see Gus Greensmith or Pierre-Louis Loubet attempt the same. Also, we should not rule out Dani Sordo who won the last two editions of the rally, starting seventh, or the 2019 runner-up Teemu Suninen, starting ninth on the road.

All Screenshots from rally-maps.com, background map from OpenTopoMaps.

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