Monday | 06 Jul 2020

What to expect in Sardinia in October

Shorter days aside, what can we expect from an autumnal Rally Italia Sardgena this season?

It’s worth remembering, Italy’s round of the World Rally Championship regularly ran in an autumn date, with the Sardinian roads twice featuring on the WRC calendar in October.

The biggest difference will come with the weather. Actually, that’s not strictly accurate, the biggest difference will come in the temperature. It’s highly unlikely we’re going to see temperatures topping 30 degrees and potentially knocking on the door of 40.

The average through October is 23 degrees. That will come as a welcome relief to the crews, who regularly cite the Italian island in high summer as one of season’s toughest challenges. Physically, that won’t be the case this time around.

It’s not just the crews who’ll get a break from the heat, the cars will benefit too. We can probably expect to see less of a focus on cooling and heat extraction in the frontrunning cars – don’t forget, each of the teams has the ability to place or remove plates to open and close holes to let cool air in and hot air out.

For the first time in a while, there will be a question mark over which tyres to run. Ordinarily, the hardest compound is the order of the day. But while the average temperature is 23 degrees, the first loop in the morning could dip to 12 or 13 degrees and if it’s raining, rock-hard rubber is not going to be the easiest to work with.

One thing won’t change. The stunning roads and jaw-dropping landscapes the rally will pass through. Yes, it’ll get darker earlier, but the sunset will still be just as beautiful as a backdrop to Alghero’s harbour.

Do not forget: the fight will be coming nicely to the boil by October. Rally Italia-Sardegna will be the penultimate round this season, so success there will be more important than ever in deciding the direction of the title fight.

Rally Italia Sardegna 2019 highlights

Talking of that fight, we can probably expect the championship leader to be slightly less disadvantaged at the front of the field. Given that Sardinia is an island with mountains, rain and changeable weather is never far away at that time of the year. The road-cleaning effect is unlikely to be as bad as usual and, if the rain does come, then we can expect some degree of chaos. Remember 2018? Torrential rain hit the opening day and meant aquaplaning across water-filled ruts became more of an issue than sweeping the loose gravel aside.

But ultimately, 2018 will be remembered for one of the most astonishing finishes to a WRC round in years, when Thierry Neuville beat Sébastien Ogier by 1.5 seconds in the Wolf Power Stage, turning a deficit of eight-tenths of a second to the then M-Sport driver into victory by seven-tenths after a risk-all run to the beach-side finish.

It was brilliant. And we can expect plenty more of the same in October. Regardless of the weather, the welcome on the island will be as warm as ever.

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