Thursday | 29 May 2014

Italy countdown: The Challenge

The sixth round of the FIA World Rally Championship is held on the tranquil island of Sardinia. But the profile of Rally Italia Sardegna doesn’t quite match its setting.

With potentially rally-ending hazards on every stage, next week's Rally Italia will be anything but tranquil for the WRC crews tackling it. The specific challenges are:

The roads

The competitive mileage in Sardinia is run on hard-packed roads that are covered with a deep layer of sand and gravel. This presents two problems for the crews. The presence of sand makes the roads extremely slippery for the first pass through each stage. Then once this is swept away, deep ruts are often exposed for the second passage. Concentration will be key.

Puncture alert

With rocks, trees and bushes lining the narrow roads in Sardinia, there is no room for error. The drivers will need to be on their best behaviour as a neat and precise driving style will be mandatory for crews that want to see the finish. Stray off line and the consequence is usually a puncture and some costly car damage if the tyre chooses to de-laminate.

'Micky’s Jump'

Finland is the traditional home of airborne rally cars. But Rally Italia has a jump that rivals anything the crews will encounter in Finland. ‘Micky’s Jump’ will feature twice on Saturday and is characterised by the fact that the road literally drops away on the side where the cars will land. Drivers will need to judge get their take off perfectly because a hard landing could spell disaster.

A stage to fear

With temperatures expected to be above 30 °c and engines and transmissions subjected to higher than normal stresses, the crews would prefer the stages to be short and sharp. But that’s not the case on Saturday. The ‘Monte Lerno’ stage clocks in at a massive 59.13km. If anyone hits trouble on this test, limping to the stage finish is unlikely to be a realistic option.

Dust clouds

To be fastest on Rally Italia, it’s imperative that you can see where you’re going. But that isn’t always possible on the sandy stages. Dust clouds can be a serious problem for the crews if they manage to reel in the car that’s tackling the stage ahead of them and get caught in its blinding trail of dust. The crews will be hoping there is a handy breeze to blow any potential hazards away.

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