Fri 31 May 2024

WRC leader Neuville wins Italy shakedown

Thierry Neuville was the man to beat on Friday morning's Rally Italia Sardegna shakedown, but the Belgian feels the odds are stacked against him ahead of this sixth WRC round of the season.

Hyundai i20 N Rally1 star Neuville powered through thick dust on the 2.08km Ittiri warm-up test, clocking a time 0.5sec faster than Toyota Gazoo Racing rival Sébastien Ogier on his second run.

Despite leading the championship by 24 points coming into this rally, the 35-year-old is trying to manage his expectations — especially for this afternoon’s four-stage opening leg, where he will face the worst of the surface-cleaning conditions by running first on the road.

“To be honest, [this afternoon] is looking a little bit like a disaster,” Neuville said. “We know the stages and the roads around here, like Turgu and Castelsardo - they are always loose. There is always a lot of cleaning in these places, but we knew it was going to be like this. What can we do?”

“It will be tough to do this again,” he continued. “We can try to think about working a little bit with the tyres, maybe use some more sorts [compounds], but the road is abrasive and hard underneath. It will not be an easy one for us.”

Two-time Rally Italia Sardegna winner Dani Sordo completed the shakedown podium in another Hyundai. The Spaniard trailed Ogier by half a second, with his team-mate Ott Tänak just two-tenths of a second behind.

Fifth place went to Toyota GR Yaris Rally1 driver Takamoto Katsuta, who WRC2 pacesitter Pierre-Louis Loubet. Adrien Fourmaux and Elfyn Evans placed seventh and eighth respectively.

The rally officially starts from Alghero this afternoon. A pair of rough and tough gravel stages, each run twice, take the opening day’s total to 77.82km.

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