What we learned from Rally Italy Sardinia 2024

Toyota was unlucky to lose victory on the final stage in Sardinia – but there are reasons for concern too


Rally Italy Sardinia delivered the closest finish to a World Rally Championship round since Rally Jordan in 2011. The total mileage across the 16 stages may have numbered just 166 but Sardinia was an absolute thriller.

Ott Tänak’s 0.2-second victory margin, after Sébastien Ogier suffered a puncture on the powerstage, delivered a shock ending to a rally full of talking points.

But how have the events of Sardinia impacted the 2024 World Rally Championship season?

Evans urgently needs to find answers

The last two rallies have been somewhat disastrous for Elfyn Evans. Yes, the Toyota driver managed to narrow the gap to Thierry Neuville from 24 to 18 points last weekend, but Tänak has joined him on 104 points.

The two-way title fight has become a three-way one and, based on his most recent performances, Evans runs the risk of dropping out of it entirely.


Evans needs to dig himself out of a tough spell to keep alive Toyota's hopes of a fifth consecutive drivers' title

All four Toyota drivers struggled with getting the Yaris Rally1 to their liking in Portugal but, at times, Evans looked lost. He talked about not feeling comfortable, about not having the feeling, and not being able to get the car to rotate as he wanted. Sixth place meant it was a weekend to forget.

If it hadn’t been for retirements promoting him to fourth place, Sardinia would have been another rally to cast out of the memory banks.

Starting second on the road of both events has not aided his cause, but you only have to look at the contrast between Evans and Thierry Neuville – who was running third in Sardinia before his off – to see that these issues go far deeper than just running order.

Evans is clearly not at one with this generation of Yaris like he was with the 2017-2021 car, but there are two reasons for some optimism as we look ahead to the next few rounds of the championship.

The first is that Evans did finally seem to find something in the car during Saturday afternoon in Sardinia. It wasn’t enough to make a significant difference to his result, but it did at least allow him to set fastest time on the penultimate stage, and go on to take five points for Super Sunday and a further three on the powerstage. It was progress, and that’s important.

Second is that the rough gravel events are over for now. Evans knows how to win on fast gravel, so Poland, Latvia and Finland should be much more to his liking. He needs to take these next three rallies as an opportunity to find a way to get more comfortable.

A good run of form through the summer of speed is needed to get his title challenge back on track.

Toyota may need to rethink its strategy

The difference in approach between Toyota and Hyundai is stark. It’s well known that those behind the wheel of a GR Yaris Rally1 won’t be on the receiving and of any directives from management, while Hyundai during the Cyril Abiteboul era has been open about making whatever strategic call is required to maximize its opportunity.

It happened again in Sardinia, to an extent. Ott Tänak was going to have to put in big risks to fight Sébastien Ogier tooth and nail for first place on Saturday while not feeling totally at ease with the i20 N Rally1. That risk in light of Thierry Neuville’s retirement was deemed too high and he was told not to throw the kitchen sink at chasing Ogier; Hyundai needed the points.

But come Sunday, there was a reset. Thierry Neuville was back and had nothing to lose so pushed, picking up 12 points for Sunday and the powerstage. Tänak was close behind on both counts, making it another Hyundai 1-2 on Sunday – its third of the season so far.

Ogier has, in terms of kilometers driven versus points scored, been Toyota’s most productive driver this year. And he is a model professional, so will do what the team needs of him. But he wants to enjoy his rallying – and enjoyment comes from standing on the top step of the podium. Yes, there was a puncture on the powerstage – but he was 10.5s slower than Tänak on Sunday’s first two stages and 15.9s off Neuville’s pace.

Toyota and Hyundai scored the same number of points for Saturday: 28 apiece. Hyundai being able to extend its manufacturers’ title lead from four to 13 was entirely down to Sunday.

As the Finland-based team had declared before the season even began, the manufacturers’ title was its primary goal this season. But if Toyota doesn’t start attacking Sundays in the same manner as Hyundai, it will fall further behind.

Rossel has title-winning pace

Citroën went to great lengths to improve the performance of the C3 Rally2 on gravel, working to increase grip levels, particularly on slippery surfaces, as well as trying to reduce overall weight. New intakes and engine environment tweaks also meant a boost in engine power and responsiveness.


Once considered asphalt specialists, Rossel and Citroën are now shining on gravel too

Portugal had shown signs that Citroën had taken a step forward on gravel. Italy demonstrated that Rossel as a driver had taken a step forward on the slippery stuff. He finished a distant second to Sami Pajari but his pace on Saturday was sublime, scoring a full house of fastest stage times after vowing to approach every single test like a powerstage.

There are three reasons for Rossel to be smiling from ear to ear after Sardinia. The first was the raw pace he accessed: he’ll need it later in the year when he has to battle Pajari, Oliver Solberg and Gus Greensmith again. The second is that when he had to wring the neck of his C3 on rough, bumpy stages that knocked other WRC2 machines out, his car managed to take the punishment. And lastly, he rescued a strong finish out of it. Winning helps – but turning the bad days into good ones is the bedrock of a strong title tilt.

Rossel and Citroën used to be thought of as the asphalt specialists of WRC2. Not anymore.