Winning Rally Italia Sardegna demands a perfect blend of speed and sensitivity. As well as finding the quickest way around the rocks, the fastest rally crews in the world must deal with some of the toughest conditions of the season.
Round eight of the WRC is all about the stunning Italian island of Sardinia. But inland from the beautiful beaches and the laid-back holiday atmosphere of host town Alghero, the WRC’s getting hard.
“Sardinia is a tough one,” said Toyota Gazoo Racing driver Jari-Matti Latvala. “No round of the WRC is ever going to be easy, but this one is really tough.”
The Finn knows what it takes to win here. He did just that in 2009.
“The roads have a really hard base and they’re generally narrower than the stages we competed on in Portugal two weeks ago. I like this rally, but you have to be really focused all the time. The second pass of the stages can make some surprises.
“Sometimes we have some quite sandy sections which can dig out and reveal big rocks underneath and at the side of the road. You have to be careful of those.”
And then there’s the heat.
“Sardinia is one of the hottest of the season,” said Latvala. “Sometimes we see temperatures of 30-plus degrees in places like Finland, when we have a very hot summer at home, but the difference is that this week the roads are quite twisty.
“In Finland, it’s hot outside, but in the car it’s not so bad. You are going so fast, the air flows well into the car. In Sardinia, it’s twisty and the air is not coming so much to the inside and then we have a lot of dust as well.
“All the drivers are fit and we all work on fitness, so this isn’t so much of a problem, but I did notice in Portugal the dust and the heat made my eyes quite tired."
Latvala does have one trick up his sleeve to deal with the heat.
He explains: “This is something OMP, the company making our racesuits, came up with a while ago. We have a menthol spray which we use on the flameproof underwear.
“It sounds strange, but when you start to get really hot and you start to sweat then the menthol works and makes you cooler. It’s really good.”