The narrow roads of Rally Sardegna, and the unforgiving rocks and trees that line them, favour drivers who can keep things neat and tidy.
Last year, that approach paid dividends for Mikko Hirvonen who claimed his first WRC win in the Citroën DS3 WRC, despite going fastest on just four of the event’s 16 stages.
Yes, he was helped by the early exit of Sebastien Loeb who crashed out due to a dodgy pace note, but as runner-up five times in a row, starting in 2006, there’s no denying that Hirvonen is a force to be reckoned with in Italy. For that reason Mikko is our wrc.com tip for victory, as he continues to chase his first win of 2013 on the surface he likes most.
Also right in contention will be Hirvonen’s team-mate Dani Sordo. Although he missed the event in 2012, Sordo has finished as runner-up in Sardinia on two occasions and the Spaniard returns to the event feeling motivated after a strong showing in Greece.
In the Volkswagen camp, Sebastien Ogier and Jari-Matti Latvala are the Citroen duo’s biggest threats. Last year, driving a Skoda Fabia, Ogier was one of the real heroes of Rally Italia. The Frenchman set the first-ever fastest stage time for a Super 2000 car and also secured the highest-ever overall placing for an S2000 with fifth overall.
Latvala is a past master in Sardinia having won there in 2009. And if he subscribes to the adage that you are only as good as your last result, then he’ll be feeling at the top of his game this week.
M-Sport Ford drivers also have good reason to feel confident. In 2012 Fiestas were at least first and second on every stage during Saturday and Sunday’s stages.
The majority of those stages were won by Mads Ostberg and Evgeny Novikov. Ostberg would have been in the fight for a podium had it not been for a differential problem and a puncture. And after Novikov’s rally leading performance in Greece, both youngsters are capable of worrying the experienced front-runners.
Three other Ford drivers worth watching are Per-Gunnar (P-G) Andersson, Elfyn Evans and Michal Kosciuszko.
Swede P-G will make the first of six WRC appearances in a Ford Fiesta RS World Rally Car for the AT Rally Team, while Evans is making his World Rally Car debut somewhat earlier than expected after Nasser Al-Attiyah offered his seat due to a clashing commitment.
This isn’t the first time that Al-Attiyah has withdrawn from the Sardinian round. Last year, when he was at Citroen, he gave his DS3 WRC to Thierry Neuville, who rolled it on Stage three. Fingers crossed Evans takes better care.
After a miserable first half of the season at the wheel of his Mini JCW, Kosciuszko returns for his first appearance in a Fiesta WRC.
One absentee from the entry list is Fiesta RS driver Daniel Oliveira. The Brazil World Rally Team driver says personal and professional issues have forced him to suspend his rally programme.
Elsewhere, the WRC2 winner at the Acropolis Rally, Robert Kubica, will continue his campaign in the Citroën DS3 RRC, while the WRC3 category is dominated by ten crews in Citroen DS3 R3Ts. We’ll bring you a breakdown of both support classes later this week on WRC.com.
For now, here’s the complete entry list for Rally Italia Sardegna.
Next page: On this rally last year, tyre facts