Sardinia has hosted Italy’s WRC counter since its switch from the mainland in 2004 and the event remains one of the most demanding on the calendar.
Although the island’s gravel stages are predominantly fast and narrow, the terrain is a mixture of flat open areas and undulating tracks through woodland with water splashes and breath-taking jumps thrown in for good measure.
The stages are loose and sandy, meaning that the top layer is easily moved to uncover a hard or abrasive base underneath. Ruts in sandy sections will often form after the first pass.
Want to see what the roads looks like? Watch the wrc.com video preview here.
The rally undergoes major changes for 2013, switching from an October date into the heart of the Sardinian summer. Last year’s four-day competition has been reduced to just two long and arduous days, but the event still packs 304.40km of action into 16 stages before Saturday evening’s finish.
Mainly made up of tests of between 15 and 20 kilometres in length, the route features stages that are well known to the drivers. The major innovation for this year is the Gallura stage, which will be driven in darkness on Friday night.
Free practice and the Qualifying Stage are run on Thursday morning over the 3.86km Monte Pinu stage, west of the rally’s traditional base in Olbia. In the evening, the town of Sassari, close to the opening day’s tests, hosts the ceremonial start.
Friday’s opening day lasts a daunting 16 hours and begins with the Monte Lerno test, which includes the spectacular ‘Micky’s Jump’. It will be followed by the Castelsardo stage, used for the first time last year, and Tergu-Osilo, once a mainstay of Sardinia’s Costa Smeralda Rally.
After a remote service in Sassari, the three tests are repeated in a different order before another service at Olbia’s Isola Bianca port area. The day ends with two passes of the Gallura test, north-west of the town - with the second run in darkness.
Saturday brings another early start and takes competitors to the picturesque forest stages of the Monte Acuto and Gallura areas. The route includes the classic Coiluna - Loelle stage, and the Monte Olia and Terranova tests.
The four morning stages are repeated in the afternoon, with the penultimate Monti Di Ala’ forming the Power Stage. The finish ceremony has been switched from Porto Cervo to Olbia’s Molo Brin Archeological Museum shortly before 1900hrs
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