Wednesday | 08 Jun 2016

Recce Notes: Rally Italia Sardegna

Three weeks after Vodafone Rally de Portugal, the championship stays on gravel for this week's sixth round, contested on a selection of stunning roads in northern Sardinia.

Drivers had plenty to keep them occupied on the pre-event recce. Compared to last year, two stages are new and more than half of the competitive distance has changed, with some roads driven in the opposite direction and others returning from previous seasons.

We got an insight into this year's challenge when we joined the WRC TV crew for their camera location recce on Monday and Tuesday. Here’s what we saw:

New stage 1: Tula
Friday's 15km Tula stage (SS3/SS7) hasn't been used since Italy’s round of the WRC moved to Sardinia in 2004. It throws up a mixture of road conditions, from narrow and twisty to fast and flowing as it passes through a wind farm. There are some big compressions and jumps too. Most unusual however are the sections though fields where the road consists of two strips of dirt separated by grass [below]. Tidy driving is called for here as well as accurate pace notes. Junctions are not easy to spot and several drivers took wrong turns during the recce.

New stage 2: Sassari to Argentiera
The rally closes with this new 6.07km test which also counts as the live TV Power Stage (SS17/SS19). The surface is frequently sandy, especially the steep descent near the finish, no great surprise considering it runs through dunes and along the coastline [below]. The Power Stage podium is actually on the beach with the sea in the background [bottom picture]. Definitely a contender for most picturesque podium of the season.

Monte Lerno
Saturday's Monte Lerno (SS12/SS15) is the rally's signature stage. It's the longest test of the rally and the best opportunity for drivers to make a difference before the final day of competition. With no split times, these 44.26km have the potential to be a real game changer. As does the stomach churning Micky's Jump at 21.7km [below]. Hit it too hard and there's a good chance you'll collect the stone wall in the foreground. The stage is in great condition and this year there's a new super-smooth single-track sprint to the finish.

The rough
Rated as the roughest round of the championship it's a surprisingly mixed picture out on the stages. Yes there are very rough sections, but no one stage is like it from beginning to end. Instead, the really rocky stuff is concentrated in isolated sections up to a few hundred metres in length. The one below is lurking 7km into Monte Lerno. Pretty much every stage has a hazardous section to look out for. On the repeat pass it is likely to be a different story, as ruts appear in the softer sections and sharp rocks are dragged to the surface.

And the smooth
Friday's Tergu - Osilo (SS5/SS9) is a good example of Sardinia's more fast and flowing stages. It features a very hard surface, so won't cut up much, but the layer of gravel on top will mean a lot of road cleaning. If it stays dry, then expect this stage to clean more than any other.

Picture credit: Omar Avila @OmarWRC

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