The early season break is very definitely done. Croatia, Portugal, Spain, Italy and the Italian island of Sardinia have all been visited by the world’s fastest rally cars as WRC team gear-up for a hectic eight-week schedule.
With Vodafone Rally de Portugal and Rally Italia Sardegna split by just a single weekend, the teams have been busy slotting in pre-event tests as well as early development running for the game-changing 2022 season.
As has been the case in the early season, it’s back-to-back world champions Hyundai Motorsport who have and will be the busiest.
The week before Croatia Rally, the recently re-signed pairing of Thierry Neuville and Ott Tänak tackled the Sanremo Rally. They then headed to Portugal for a day each at the wheel of a gravel-specification i20 Coupe WRC in readiness for round four.
Days later, they were competing on round three.
Hyundai gave its drivers a week to recover. But that doesn’t mean there wasn’t WRC action directly after Croatia…Toyota was running the Yaris WRC in Portugal for its pre-event and M-Sport Ford’s 2022 next-generation hybrid car was running in full form down gravel roads just north of Barcelona.
This week, the i20 test car is back in action on Sardinia, with Neuville, Tänak and Dani Sordo running the pre-event test for round five. By the weekend (08-09 May), Craig Breen’s back in action, driving an i20 R5 at Targa Florio.
The following weekend it’s M-Sport’s turn to prepare for Portugal with Adrien Fourmaux and Gus Greensmith in the test Fiesta WRC. That test leads directly into Portugal week for the Matosinhos-based fourth round of the series.
A rapid turnaround takes the teams from Europe’s westernmost event to Olbia for Rally Italia Sardegna, where the recce starts nine days after the Portuguese podium.
After Sardinia, there could well be time for another Italian mainland outing at Rally di Alba, where Breen, Tänak, Neuville and Sordo starred last year.
A quick change of kit and it’s time to head south for Africa and a glorious WRC return to Safari Rally Kenya.