Tue 07 Jun 2022

View from the service park: Italy

There’s hot and there’s round five of the FIA World Rally Championship. In every sense of the word, Rally Italia Sardegna was an absolute scorcher.

But the men and the machine mastering and managing the mid-40s better than anybody were Ott Tänak, Martin Järveoja and the Hyundai i20 N Rally1. After three baking days aboard their Alzenau-built motor, the Alghero harbour offered the perfect respite. 

Lying back on a lilo watching his team following him into the water, Tänak had the look of a man relaxing after a job very well done.

Sardinia is always a rally of absolute contradictions. Just a hundred metres from the thick of the fight for WRC supremacy, families were holidaying on the beach; children enjoying a Cornetto while their parents engage in an afternoon beer to cool the effects of the fierce Italian island sunshine.

After a season based in Olbia, Sardinia’s west coast welcomed the WRC back with open arms and there was no shortage of Su Porcheddu, basically pork roasted over hot coals for hours on end. 

Those venturing out of the service park and bound for the remote tyre zone in Buddusò were treated to a lunchtime version at the service station over the road from the football pitch where the world’s best drivers tinkered with their cars. 

A roast pork sandwich might have sounded slightly odd in the midday heat, but it was enormously welcome after a breakfast-less, pre-dawn departure from the hotel.

Long days are part and parcel of rallying on the island, but they’re a small price to pay for fans who returned for their annual pilgrimage to a mountain called Lerno and its jump called Micky.

Alessandro had travelled from Rome with a bunch of pals and slept in the car to make sure he bagged the perfect spot to see rally cars fly.

“I did not sleep long,” he smiled. “It was too ’ot to sleep. We had to turn on the car and make the AC (air conditioning) work. It went cold a little, then we slept. But then our neighbours were angry for waking them up with the engine! 

“We don’t care. I will sleep every day in the sun for this. This place… Mamma Mia! This place. I love it.”

And what’s not to love? The sunshine, the sea and the finest sport in the world. 

Winning for the second time in six years, Tänak agreed – and so did his fellow Hyundai podium dweller Dani Sordo. The Spaniard might not have managed a third win in four starts, but his appreciation of the island hasn’t dimmed.

“I think I am a little bit from Sardinia now,” he said. “This is a special place.”

Amen to that.

Starts: Thursday, July 18, 2024 at 4:31:00 AM
Starts: Friday, July 26, 2024 at 7:00:00 AM
Starts: Saturday, July 27, 2024 at 6:00:00 AM