Italy countdown: The Challenge
There's lots of hazards lurking in Sardinia
About a third of the route is new compared to 2013, with a few extra kilometres used in the opposite direction, but much of that new distance has been used in previous editions of the rally, which celebrates its 10th anniversary on the Mediterranean island.
To celebrate that, the event visits the south coast capital, Cagliari, for the first time. The action begins there on Thursday night with a 1.30km asphalt test in the harbour area, after which cars are transported back to Alghero by truck.
Friday’s leg is the longest, with almost 160km of tests east of Alghero, including the well-known Terranova stages. It promises to be a demanding day with just a 15-minute remote service in Budduso, during which competitors can only fit spares carried in their cars.
Saturday is unlikely to be much easier. Based in the same area, it contains only four stages but features a double pass over the Monte Lerno test, which at more than 59km is likely to be the longest of the season.
The product of linking two stages, Monte Lerno also includes the famous Micky’s Jump, where the road falls away steeply beneath the car as it takes off over the crest.
The final day visits tests on the north coast, near Sassari. The Cala Flumini stage, which has this week been shortened from 12.49km to 8.98km, is entirely new and the second pass forms the live TV Power Stage, with bonus points available to the fastest three drivers.
The 17 stages cover 364.54km.