No sooner have we stopped digesting Rally Portugal, we start talking about what’s coming up on the next round of the World Rally Championship!
Events are coming thick and fast right now, as this week the WRC heads to Sardinia for Rally Italy.
The contest at the head of the field will of course be heated, but as ever the support classes are looking fierce too with an impressive array of Rally2 machinery set to tackle the island rally.
Junior WRC will sit out this round, but there’s still plenty as stake within the WRC2 and WRC3 ranks.
WRC2 entry list:
|20||Andreas Mikkelsen||Ola Fløene||Škoda Fabia Rally2 evo|
|21||Marco Bulacia||Marcelo Der Ohannesian||Škoda Fabia Rally2 evo|
|22||Mads Østberg||Torstein Eriksen||Citroën C3 Rally2|
|23||Adrien Fourmaux||Renaud Jamoul||Ford Fiesta Rally2|
|24||Enrico Brazzoli||Danilo Fappani||Škoda Fabia R5|
|26||Sean Johnston||Alex Kihurani||Citroën C3 Rally2|
|28||Martin Prokop||Viktor Chytka||Ford Fiesta Rally2|
|29||Georg Limmanäe||Volodymyr Korsia||Volkswagen Polo GTI R5|
|30||Jari Huttunen||Mikko Lukka||Hyundai i20 R5|
The return of Andreas Mikkelsen – after missing Portugal because he contracted COVID-19 – is the big talking point in WRC2, and the Toksport Škoda driver certainly has a point to prove. Despite plans to “dominate” every rally he starts this year, Mikkelsen is winless since January having been edged by Esapekka Lappi in the Arctic Circle and breaking his suspension in Croatia.
However the three-time WRC winner looks to be favorite for success this weekend, with his likeliest competition coming from reigning WRC2 Champion Mads Østberg, Adrien Fourmaux and reigning WRC3 champion Jari Huttunen.
Hyundai’s entry has been slimmed to one i20 R5 instead of the planned three as Ole Christian Veiby has been suspended for six months for a quarantine breach in Portugal, and therefore the entire RedGrey team – which runs Hyundai’s WRC2 concern – has been forced to quarantine. Andrea Crugnola was set to make his category debut. Huttunen can still compete as his entry is run by the Kowax 2B Rally Team.
Fourmaux’s readaption will be intriguing as he regresses back from the World Rally Car to the M-Sport Fiesta Rally2. Expect more eyes to be on his performances than usual given how well he’s driven on his WRC outings.
Elsewhere American driver Sean Johnston makes his return to action after last competing on Arctic Rally Finland.
“I’m absolutely stoked to get back behind the wheel,” Johnston told DirtFish. “We’re hoping third time’s the charm at this event as we’ve been there twice, been off the road twice and rolled three times!
“I think if we could get to the end of the rally and score a top-five performance, which we were on track for last year, that would be great. But the level of WRC2 this year is just insane having multiple ex-world championship guys competing there, so for sure we don’t have the experience but what we lack in experience we’re hoping to offset in hard work and doing what we can to prepare ourselves as well as we can for this rally.”
Co-driver Alex Kihurani added: “It’s finally the first time Sean and I can take notes from the previous year and roll them forwards to the next year to optimise them, and therefore make sure we’re getting the most out of every corner on roads that we know.
“We had such bad luck with changing our note system for 2019, thinking we’d have a good base for 2020 and then the whole schedule just went out the window. We’ll be looking to make the most of that and push for a good result.”
Leading WRC3 entries:
|32||Yohan Rossel||Alexandre Coria||Citroën C3 Rally2|
|34||Nicolas Ciamin||Yannich Roche||Citroën C3 Rally2|
|35||Kajetan Kajetanowicz||Maciej Szczepaniak||Škoda Fabia Rally2 evo|
|36||Egon Kaur||Silver Simm||Volkswagen Polo GTI R5|
|37||Emil Lindholm||Mikael Korhonen||Škoda Fabia Rally2 evo|
|38||Chris Ingram||Ross Whittock||Škoda Fabia Rally2 evo|
|39||Fabrizio Zaldivar||Carlos del Barrio||Škoda Fabia Rally2 evo|
|42||Jan Solans||Rodrigo Sanjuan de Eusebio||Citroën C3 Rally2|
|43||Pepe López||Diego Vallejo||Škoda Fabia Rally2 evo|
|45||Alberto Heller||Marc Martí||Citroën C3 Rally2|
Kajetan Kajetanowicz is the form man in WRC3 right now having won the last two rounds in Croatia and Portugal. But the triple European Rally Champion has not had it easy and was embroiled in a thrilling scrap for honors with Yohan Rossel on the latter.
The battle this weekend could be a restaging of Portugal, but a whole range of interlopers are expected to wade themselves into contention too. Emil Lindholm had a Rally Portugal to forget but has already displayed his strong hand of space this weekend, while 2019 ERC champion Chris Ingram can’t be discounted either given his podium last time out and growing confidence after an 18-month layoff.
It’s perhaps some of the lower seeds that will be causing the most headaches for their rivals however, at least if their Rally Portugal speed is anything to go by. Spaniards Pepe López and Jan Solans – the 2019 Junior WRC Champion – led the rally before their varying issues, and there’s nothing to suggest they can’t do it again either.
Write Nicolas Ciamin and Egon Kaur off at your peril too.