Less than a week after the jubilation in Strasbourg, Loeb and his Citroen World Rally Team are hard at work preparing for Rally Italia Sardegna, the penultimate round of the 2012 WRC season from 18-21 October.
Sardinia has hosted Italy’s world championship 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 stages are predominantly fast and narrow, the terrain is a mixture of flat open areas and undulating tracks through woodland with water splashes and spectacular jumps thrown in for good measure. Ordinarily the surface is hard with rock-strewn sections commonplace, while ruts will often form after the first pass.
Following Free Practice and the Qualifying Stage in the Gallura region on Thursday 18 October, crews will tackle two runs of the 28.14-kilometre Terranova stage on Thursday afternoon south of the rally’s base in Olbia.
Friday’s action is centred around a remote service halt in Sassari and begins with the Monte Lerno test. Measuring 29.68 kilometres the stage includes the spectacular ‘Micky’s Jump’ and will be followed the new Castelsardo run. The third stage of the day, Tergu-Osilo, was once a mainstay of Sardinia’s Costa Smeralda Rally but is unused in the WRC until now.
The route on Saturday takes competitors to the forest stages of the Monte Acuto area, which include the classic Coiluna and the revised Monti di Ala tests.
Sunday’s itinerary was due to include the 50-kilomete Monte Olia-Terranova test but in an effort by event organisers to reduce costs, the final day will consist of two 8.24-kilometre stages north-west of Olbia only. The final 8.24-kilometre Gallura run will form the Power Stage ahead of a return to Porto Cervo for the traditional finish at 12:45hrs local time on Sunday 21 October.
In total the rally features 16 stages over a competitive distance of 306.04 kilometres.
Next page: So who’s going to win?