Drivers in the FIA Junior World Rally Championship face the toughest round of the season in Italy next week.
Sardinia’s rocky and rutted roads, combined with temperatures expected to top 30°C, mean contenders must strike a balance between speed and protecting their two-wheel drive Ford Fiestas at this second round.
Although Rally Italia Sardegna (8 - 11 June) is only a short boat journey across the Strait of Bonifacio from April’s opening round in Corsica, the contrast is huge. Asphalt roads on the French island are replaced by conditions so tough that tyre supplier DMACK will use reinforced rubber.
More powerful four-wheel drive cars further up the order will rip out rocks and create ruts, and championship leader Nil Solans (above) is fearful of what to expect.
“It was fantastic to win the first round in Corsica but we’ve never been to Sardinia and have heard that the roads are very difficult there. The biggest challenge will be to find a good speed that still allows you to save the car,” said the Spaniard.
Solans holds a nine-point lead over Frenchman Nicolas Ciamin, who has a similar approach.
“We will definitely need to manage the car because it will be very rough and try to avoid punctures as best as possible. The winner will not be the fastest, but the person who can find a good balance between speed and saving the car,” he said.
Fellow countryman Terry Folb is just a point further back and eager to make up for lost ground after conceding second place on the final day in Corsica.
Ireland’s Rob Duggan (above) has enlisted new co-driver Tom Woodburn to boost his hopes, while Germany’s Julius Tannert is targeting a podium after finishing fourth in the opener. Estonia’s Miko Niinemäe is also out to prove his pace after a troubled outing in Corsica.
Nine crews line-up, including leading rookie Dennis Rådström and fellow newbies Sebastian Careaga from Bolivia and USA’s Dillon van Way.