After Sweden we had to wait two months for the next round of the World Rally Championship, but the events are now coming thick and fast!
Less than a fortnight after Kalle Rovanperä and Jonne Halttunen were spraying the champagne in Portugal, they and the rest of their world-class mates will be powering their Rally1 cars down the gravel roads of Sardinia on Rally Italy.
Here’s everything you need to know ahead of round five of this year’s WRC.
Total 60 crews
11 Priority 1 crews
36 Priority 2 crews (WRC2)
4 Priority 3 crews (WRC3)
9 Non-priority crews
Eleven Rally1 cars – four from Toyota and M-Sport Ford and three from Hyundai – will participate in this weekend’s 19th running of Rally Italy.
Only Hyundai’s lineup of Thierry Neuville, Ott Tänak and Dani Sordo remains unchanged as Toyota will rely on Esapekka Lappi instead of Sébastien Ogier and M-Sport’s entry has been reduced with Sébastien Loeb not competing here either.
That means Gus Greensmith returns to score manufacturer points alongside Craig Breen and Adrien Fourmaux, with Pierre-Louis Loubet in a fourth Puma Rally1.
Toyota will field GR Yarises for championship leader Kalle Rovanperä and Elfyn Evans as well as Lappi, with Takamoto Katsuta driving another car for the Next Generation team.
A lot was made of the WRC2 entry in Portugal a fortnight ago – and rightfully so – but there’s arguably even more spice in the battle this weekend.
Andreas Mikkelsen has a championship lead to regain having been forced to retire from the lead of Portugal when the engine in his Toksport Škoda Fabia Rally2 evo failed.
Yohan Rossel swooped in to claim an unexpected second victory of the season in succession when Teemu Suninen crashed out of the powerstage.
All three headline the Sardinian entry and each have their own point to prove. Mikkelsen wants to show he’s still the boss, Rossel can prove that he didn’t simply inherit the win two weeks ago and that he can fight on an even keel, and Suninen needs to demonstrate that he can’t successfully balance good pace with a good result.
Chris Ingram leads the way in WRC2 Junior but will face stiff opposition from within his own Toksport service tent from Nikolay Gryazin and Marco Bulacia.
Reigning Junior WRC champion Sami Pajari, who is making his first world championship start in a Rally2 car, the return of Freddy Loix and Australian Luke Anear – who makes his first WRC start on his first event outside of Australia – are others to keep an eye on.
After an intense start to the season, Junior WRC takes a bit of a break but there are still four Rally3 cars on the entry list this week in WRC3.
Pajari currently leads WRC3 but has stepped up to WRC2 for Sardinia and Lauri Joona won’t participate either, meaning the battle is expected to be between Jan Černý and Enrico Brazzoli.
Zoltán László won in Croatia and is back for Italy while Diego Domingues jr starts the first WRC event of his career
Rally Italy’s legs consist of four individual stages repeated once, but in contrast to several other rounds of the world championship, two of those tests are run and then repeated before the next two, rather than each stage being tackled once before any repeat runs.
Friday offers some classics such as Monti di Alà – the longest stage of the rally – and Terranova while Monte Lerno and its famous Micky’s Jump feature on Saturday.
Cala Flumini runs twice on Sunday either side of the Sassari – Argentiera test which, as always, will run as the event-closing powerstage along the beachfront.