Rally Italy plays host to the World Rally Championship this weekend, a rally that Hyundai has dominated in recent seasons.
Being the second gravel rally of the year, the teams have already had their first taste of the dust, and Dani Sordo will be looking to go one better than Portugal and win his third straight rally in Sardinia.
Sébastien Ogier goes into the event with a two-point championship lead over Toyota team-mate Elfyn Evans and the pair will be looking to claim the Japanese manufacturer’s fourth win in five rounds.
So, who can we expect to perform well and which drivers might find it a struggle? Here is DirtFish’s form guide to Rally Italy.
#1 Sébastien Ogier/Julien Ingrassia (Toyota Yaris WRC)
Last 3 WRC results: 3rd, 1st, 20th
Last 3 Italy results: 2nd-10th-3rd
As mentioned above, Ogier goes into this weekend with a slender lead over Evans in the championship, having finished third in Portugal, while Evans claimed victory. Ogier will however need a strong result to ensure he remains at the top of the standings by the end of the weekend.
Having previously won Rally Italy on three occasions (between 2013 and 2015) whilst driving for Volkswagen, it is clear that he has the knowledge and experience to claim his fourth win.
But like Portugal, Ogier could find Friday morning hard going running first on the road and he will need to ensure he doesn’t lose too much time to his rivals and miss out on the chance to win.
#3 Teemu Suninen/Mikko Markkula (Ford Fiesta WRC)
Last 3 WRC results:2nd(WRC2), 2nd(WRC2), 8th
Last 3 Italy results: 5th, 2nd, 10th
Teemu Suninen is back in the WRC car for Italy, having taken the runner-up spot in the WRC2 class on the last two rallies, and he will be looking to repeat his previously strong form in Italy this weekend.
The M-Sport driver got off to a great start here last year, finishing the Friday morning leading the rally, although he was aided significantly by the running order. But this time he will be aiming to stick with the leaders throughout the entire event.
And having retired from the Monte Carlo Rally and finishing eighth in Finland, he will need to be at his best if Italy is going to be the place to give him his first top five WRC result of the season.
#6 Dani Sordo/Borja Rozada (Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC)
Last 3 WRC results: 2nd, 5th, 3rd
Last 3 Italy results: 1st, 1st, 12th
Italy is Sordo’s happy hunting ground as the winner of the last two rallies in Sardinia. And having fought for the win beofre ultimately scoring second last time out on the gravel in Portugal, he will definitely be one to watch this weekend too.
There were concerns in Portugal that Sordo might not have been as match sharp as his rivals, having missed Croatia and Finland, but his performance there proved that was not the case at all.
Heading to a rally that he has won more times than any other, with a great spot in the running order of seventh on Friday, he ticks all the boxes as one of the favorites for the win.
#7 Pierre-Louis Loubet/Florian Haut-Labourdette (Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC)
Last 3 WRC Results: DNF, 29th, 39th
Last 3 Italy Results: 7th, 1st(WRC2), DNF(WRC2)
Loubet comes into this rally desperately in need of a strong result. Pressure was already heavily mounting on his shoulders, having finished 39th and 29th in Finland and Croatia respectively, but a crash in Portugal only made things even harder for the 24-year-old.
But, Italy could be the place to get his season back on track. He was a credible seventh last year, his best World Rally Car finish to date, and he won the previous year’s WRC2 event so he knows how to handle himself around the gravel tracks of the Italian island.
Regardless of his form though, this is an event where he must finish without any errors. Any more mistakes and his reputation could take an unrecvoerable dive.
#8 Ott Tänak/Martin Järveoja (Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC)
Last 3 WRC results: 21st, 4th, 1st
Last 3 Italy results: 6th, 5th, 9th
Everything was looking so good for Ott Tänak in Portugal before he agonizingly retired due to damage sustained to his right rear suspension. He was long clear of the rest of the field, and had he finished, there is little doubt that he would have won the rally.
So coming into another gravel rally, he must be confident of his chances of claiming a first win in Italy and putting an end to team-mate Sordo’s winning streak.
He hasn’t had the best of times in Italy in recent years, having failed to finish any higher than fifth after that famous steering failure in 2019, but his pace in Portugal up until his retirement cannot be ignored and he will be boosted by his growing Toyota-like confidence in the Hyundai.
#11 Thierry Neuville/Martijn Wydaeghe (Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC)
Last 3 WRC results: 36th, 3rd, 3rd
Last 3 Italy results: 2nd, 6th, 1st
Neuville’s Rally Portugal did not go to plan at all after crashing on the Friday afternoon, ruining any chances he had of winning and closing in on the championship lead. And arriving in Italy with the same chassis, he will be hoping that there are no lingering reliability issues this weekend.
Up until Portugal, Neuville had been WRC’s ‘Mr Consistent’ this year, finishing third in the three rallies prior. But his previous results in Italy suggest he could get back to winning ways if he gets everything right.
With the pace of the Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC looking strong on gravel, Neuville should be right in the mix to fight the usual protagonists for the win.
#18 Takamoto Katsuta/Daniel Barritt (Toyota Yaris WRC)
Last 3 WRC results: 4th, 6th, 6th
Last 3 Italy results: DNF, DNF(WRC2), DNF(WRC2)
There’s no doubting the form that Katsuta is in right now. His Portugal result backed up the impression that he has taken a step forward this year and he is starting to look like a world-class talent.
Like Neuville, Katsuta has been incredibly consistent this year with three sixth places, bettered when he claimed fourth in Portugal, so expectations will be higher for him in Italy; especially as he has answered his critics about his pace on gravel.
Katsuta is yet to finish a rally in Italy though, meaning there is some trepidation about his chances this weekend. But if he can finish in the top six once again, then that full-blown works driver deal for next year could be inching ever closer.
#33 Elfyn Evans/Scott Martin (Toyota Yaris WRC)
Last 3 WRC results: 1st. 2nd, 5th
Last 3 Italy results: 4th, 4th, 14th
Having painfully missed out on victory in Croatia, Evans corrected it with a great win in Portugal to earn himself his fourth WRC win which put him right back into the thick of the championship battle with Ogier.
Evans’s performance in Portugal and the fact that there has only been two weeks in between the two gravel rallies means the momentum should be with him this weekend although, like Ogier, the Friday running order is less than ideal.
If he can make it through Friday morning unscathed and within touching distance of the top three then it could make for another exciting rally at a place where Evans has performed well at in the past.
#44 Gus Greensmith/Stuart Loudon (Ford Fiesta WRC)
Last 3 WRC results: 5th, 7th, 9th
Last 3 Italy results: 25th, 4th (WRC2), N/A
Greensmith had his best performance of the year in Portugal and will take comfort in that heading into Italy, a place where he has struggled to perform at his best on the two occasions he has contested it.
He said in Portugal that he expected his Fiesta to be more competitive on gravel and that showed, as he ended up fifth in what is his favorite rally of the season. But his lack of consistency and pace is still lingering.
A lot of Greensmith’s breakthroughs have been credited to co-driver Chris Patterson though, and with Patterson sidelined for personal reasons this could be a real litmus test for him. Stuart Loudon is the man tasked with calling Greensmith’s notes.
#69 Kalle Rovanperä/Jonne Halttunen (Toyota Yaris WRC)
Last 3 WRC results: 22nd, DNF, 2nd
Last 3 Italy results: DNF, 9th(WRC2), N/A
Two rallies ago Rovanperä was leading the championship and now – after one big crash and a retirement – he sits fifth, 38 points off the lead. He must be wondering how things have changed so quickly.
There is no doubt Rovanperä has the pace, having been fastest at times throughout Portugal, but he needs to get his season back on track with a strong result in Italy. And while it will be no surprise to see him at the sharp end of the timesheets at various points this weekend, the question will be whether he can remain consistent enough to get this second top three finish of the year.
It will be Rovanperä’s second time in Italy competing in a WRC car, so that should help, although he will want to forget the first when he crashed on SS8 after clipping a tree with the rear of his car.