Wed 31 May 2023

From the archives: Rally Italia Sardegna 2004

Landing onto the Italian island for the first time in 2004, there were some dissenting voices. Some saw no reason to leave Sanremo. Others pointed to the narrow, rocky, technical and achingly hot roads outside Olbia as counterproductive to a sporting contest.

It took Petter Solberg one stage to prove them all wrong.

The then defending world champion, running his Subaru Impreza WRC second on the road to Sébastien Loeb’s Citroën Xsara WRC, was on outstanding form. Quickest by 16.8sec through the 28.69km opener, the Norwegian rarely looked troubled on his way to victory on the beautiful island of Sardinia.

It’s for that reason Solberg and his Subaru will be lauded as the series runs its Italian counter down those same rocky roads for the 20th time this week.

In fact, the only genuine threat to Solberg in 2004 was an overheating engine caused by a leaking header tank. But even when one of the famous flat-four cylinders failed to fire for a couple of stages, the Subaru ploughed on. Even sitting on a two-minute lead over Loeb, Solberg continued to run out the fastest times on the final day.

For his part, Loeb had suffered the brunt of the day one cleaning and that, allied to a Xsara he felt wasn’t universally and digitally dialled, diff-wise, meant the Frenchman took points and the podium’s second step the first time the champagne was sprayed in Olbia. Loeb’s team-mate Carlos Sainz made it a double podium for Citroën with third place.

Sardinia’s place was set. The world had fallen in love with the challenge the change of venue brought. Nothing’s changed since.  

Rally Route: Rally Italia Sardegna 2023
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