Thu 01 Jun 2023

Rossel bids to extend WRC2 lead in Sardinia

Yohan Rossel will aim to stretch his points buffer over title-chasing WRC2 rival Oliver Solberg at Rally Italia Sardegna this week (1 - 4 June), round six of the FIA World Rally Championship.

Just one point separates the two drivers ahead of the Mediterranean island event, both of whom have already nominated three points-scoring rounds each so far this season.

Rossel, who drives a Citroën C3 Rally2, finished fourth in the category at last month’s Vodafone Rally de Portugal after struggling for traction on the loose gravel stages. Navigating similar terrain this week, the Frenchman hopes to see a marked improvement despite the short transition time between rallies.

“I couldn't do more in Portugal, but now it's a different rally,” he said. “My team has worked very hard but the time [since Portugal] was a little too short to make any big steps. I am feeling confident."

Tyre strategy is what’s playing on Škoda Fabia RS Rally2 man Solberg’s mind after wet weather in the build-up to the event. WRC2 competitors may only use 12 soft compound Pirelli tyres, which are better suited to damp conditions, over the course of the rally.  

“The weather and tyre package doesn't really fit together now when you look at it, but it's going to be the same for everyone,” admitted the Swede. “Anyway - it's going to be great fun. The stages are really difficult but a cool challenge.”

Gus Greensmith, third in the points, is competing in Alghero but has decided not to register for championship points. The same can be said for his fellow Toksport Škoda driver Emil Lindholm, the reigning WRC2 champion.

It means that Andreas Mikkelsen, Nikolay Gryazin and Sami Pajari head up Toksport’s charge in identical Fabia cars - pitching themselves against the likes of Adrien Fourmaux and Grégoire Munster, who pilot Fiesta Rally2s for M-Sport Ford.

Hyundai Motorsport has entered a pair of i20 N Rally2s for Teemu Suninen and Fabrizio Zaldivar while Nicolas Ciamin, who displayed impressive speed in Croatia before a rollover, drives a Volkswagen Polo GTI R5.

Other stars to keep an eye on across the bumper 34-car field include Škoda hotshots Bruno Bulacia, Erik Cais and Lauri Joona plus Fiesta youngster Robert Virves.

With Zoltan László absent, a strong result could elevate Alexander Villanueva to the WRC Masters Cup lead. The Spaniard campaigns a Škoda in the category - which is open to drivers aged 50 and above - and is braced for a big battle with Armin Kremer and Mauro Miele.

“I hope we will make a nice battle with them,” he said. “I’ve never been to this one before, so it’s quite a difficult event for us to learn – but we will try to be fast.”

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