Italy countdown: one to watch
Mikko Hirvonen's record in Sardinia could stand him in good stead
A number of new sections have been added to the gravel event this year to accommodate the rally’s switch from its previous base in Olbia to new headquarters in the seaside town of Alghero – 136km further west.
Having looked at the new parts of the rally during the recce, some of the WRC drivers are predicting a tougher event than in previous years.
Citroen’s Kris Meeke said: “The traditional stages that have been used on the rally before have been repaired every year and are nice and normal.
“When we came to Sardinia for the very first time, it was like someone had taken a Caterpillar through the scrubland. The new sections for this year are like that. There are massive boulders left and right and it’s going to be very tricky in places.
“The conditions will definitely make the rally more of a challenge – we’ll need to be very careful.”
Hyundai’s Thierry Neuville predicted that some of the new stage sections will be even more slippery than normal because the traditional sandy road surface that is normally found in Sardinia has been replaced by a layer of dirt that is more akin to powder.
Reigning world champion Sebastien Ogier was more philosophical in his outlook, though. “The rally is now looking like it was two years ago – a bit slower, more twisty and more rough in some places,” he said.
“For me, the profile of the rally was nicer last year, but it’s the same for everyone.”